Typewriter artist from London impresses Sharjah audiences with intricate drawings made up of letters, numbers and symbols
Keira Rathbone’s live art demonstrations using her old manual typewriter a big hit at the 14th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival
Sharjah, May 14, 2023
Artists and creatives of all ilk flocked to the 14th edition of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival as it offered a host of creative works and impressive displays. Among the talented exhibitors was Keira Rathbone, a London-based artist renowned for her remarkable typewriter art.
Rathbone utilises an ancient manual typewriter that she discovered in a charity store to create intricate drawings by arranging letters, numbers, and symbols, rather than using traditional paint or brush strokes. When the typewritten characters are placed closely together, the resulting artwork appears like pen-and-ink drawings from a distance, with the typewritten characters becoming visible to the viewer when observed up close. Her portfolio includes cityscapes and skylines, street views, portraits, including those of celebrities, nature, and even typewriters themselves, the very tool she employs.
During the Sharjah festival, Rathbone exhibited her works, which included depictions of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai skyline views, and the Al Wasl Dome in Expo City. Her rendition of the world’s tallest tower required ten hours to complete. “I use an old manual typewriter, using the characters and visualising them as shapes and textures. When I’m studying a subject, I plan which characters to use. For example, for drawing an eye, I use brackets, underscores, and hyphens,” the artist explained.
“Typewriter art allows me another way of expression, of freedom from words, while using letters at the same time, when I first started seeing them as shapes and textures 20 years ago. The limitations of using this form of art also helped me push against it.”
The artist, who conducted live art demonstrations at the festival, noted that her creative process is highly spontaneous. “I just go with the flow. If it’s a street scene, for instance, I’ll find the angle, sit down in the street on a chair and start typing the buildings. Then I look for the transient elements; the people, vehicles, anything that’s entering the scene, the changing lights and shadows, the clouds etc,” she said.
The most complex piece she has created is a myriad of wrist-watch mechanics in an exploded view, with every individual part presented in its intricate beauty. “Portraits can also be quite challenging to get right, but I also feel that it doesn’t need to be as perfect as a photo.
“At the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, I’ve been capturing the general scenes, the people and a collection of moments in one-hour sessions, and it’s been quite a novel experience,” Rathbone revealed.
Rathbone’s typewriter art is available on her website and Instagram page @krtypewriterart.