Ancient St. Laurence’s Priory has served the people of Blackmore, Hook End and Wyatts Green since the 12th Century. The oak bell tower added in 1400 is acclaimed as the ‘finest in the whole country’ and so naturally the Grade-1 listed church attracts many artists to the village intent on capturing its sublime architecture.
Not all succeed but one recent visitor has produced a masterpiece – on a portable typewriter.
Essex-based James Cook spent three hours on a camping chair in the churchyard on a cold day during the winter of 2019/20 clattering away at the keys of the typewriter perched on his lap. Back in the warmth of his Braintree studio, he completed the work over several more days on the keyboard.
James, now aged 24, made a chance second-hand purchase of a battered 1956 Oliver portable as a teenager and, discovering a unique artistic talent, has become a successful professional with international commissions and sales of his work. He sometimes uses different machines (selecting from his collection of 35 old typewriters) to achieve the final result for a single piece of work.
St. Laurence’s was one of a set of three well-known ‘picturesque’ Essex scenes. The others being the Mill with Steeple at Thaxted and Finchingfield’s village green. They are featured in a video titled Typewriter Art for Essex and which led to television stations at home and abroad taking an interest. St. Laurence’s was featured along with other works including portraits broadcast during networked interviews with the artist in Australia and the USA.
How does he do it? James explains, “Each drawing is assembled from a variety of characters, letters and punctuation marks using the forty-five keys of a typical typewriter. Information is overlaid and the keys are tapped at variable pressures to achieve tonal shading.”
His output varies from postcard sizes up to much larger works where several sheets are heat-pressed together. You can find out more about James – and view the video – at https://jamescookartwork.com as well as options to commission or purchase from the Essex gallery where his art is on display www.wonky-wheel.co.uk/james-cook-art