A typewriter artist created intricate drawings using letters, numbers and symbols, becoming an instant hit at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. Keira Rathbone used her manual typewriter for staging live art demonstrations at the festival that ended on Sunday.

At the festival, Rathbone exhibited works that 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 10 hours to complete.

In an Instagram post, she detailed the story of how she created the Al Wasl Dome work.

“I typed this 20x20cm piece for including in my exhibition at @dubaiwatchweek and sold the original to the marketing manager of Expo2020 after he met and saw me typing at DWW,” she said.

The London-based artist uses an ancient manual typewriter that she discovered in a charity store to create her art. When the typewritten characters are placed closely together, the resulting work appears to be pen-and-ink drawings from a distance. It’s only when you observe the work closely that you spot the typewritten characters.

Her portfolio includes cityscapes and skylines, street views, portraits, including those of celebrities, nature, and even typewriters themselves, the very tool she employs.

“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 said that her creative process is 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.”

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