I've spent a good amount of time looking at typewriters over the past couple weeks and it's all because of the rough sketch above. Back in December Steppenwolf began the process of creating the images for the second half of the season. True West by Sam Shepard seemed to be asking for something more iconic than the others and I turned to the work of Ed Ruscha for inspiration. Although the creative director was dubious about seeing a typewriter on the poster because it was such a common image in past production posters, it kept coming up. So rather quickly I sketched one up for an approval meeting and everyone seemed to love it. It was in fact the first to be approved, however other illustration projects took priority so it wasn't until a couple weeks ago that the time came to draw this.
The problem—you might say—is that I drew the idea of a typewriter, there was no reference. That is probably what made the sketch intriguing… it feels right, but in reality it's an impossible perspective. As I began the process of creating the final illustration I started with photographing my old Royal typewriter, but found that I couldn't get it to work. So I started sketching and then photo-collaging in order to get the angles I laid out in the rough. After a few iterations of this I realized it still wasn't working and put it aside to focus on another project.
I was sifting through my file cabinet of collage fodder looking for material (for this other project) when I came across a typewriter ad I cut out years ago from a 1950s issue of TIME (below). It was exactly what I was looking for! I scanned it and started to manipulate the image in order to get the angles I wanted and I finally got it to a point after some more sketching/photo collaging. But now I ran into an issue, being a small ad the print job didn't have the detail I needed to understand the real mechanics of the machine. At this point I remembered that there is an answer for everything on the internet and started searching for a Smith Corona "executive use typewriter."
To my great relief I found a blog called "The Typewriter Revolution" and couldn't believe my luck to find a post in which the author takes detailed pictures of every angle of this very same typewriter (well damn close at least)! I finally understood what those little black dots where showing allowing me to begin the final inking. The True West poster is now a paradigm of my most favored work process: think/research/work yourself into a wall, then block it out and work on something unrelated… find the solution. Fatalists might call it serendipity and the religious might call it an epiphany. If ever I were to write a book or give a lecture I believe I would call it "The Tangent is Key" or perhaps "The Epiphany Moment." For now though, I am a typewriter.