Where Science Meets Muse

Art + Innovation + Typewriter = Inspiration

Posted by Plish on November 13, 2009

Paul Smiths oldmill

Paul Smith's "Old Mill"

Paul Smith.

The name is simple, common.

A google search of the name yields 69 million hits (mine yields 417,000). 

There is one Paul Smith that was anything but common. 

Born September 21, 1921, Paul had spastic cerebral palsy.   He wasn’t able to attend school but his love of life propelled him into becoming a self-taught master in two things: chess and art.

It’ s the art that truly is amazing.  You see, Paul taught himself to use his typewriter as an easel.  But he didn’t use brushes.

… just one finger…

….of one hand…

… while the other hand held the typing hand steady.

The typewriter was a pretty basic and common writing tool of the time, yet Paul didn’t use it to simply string letters into words.  Actually he usually didn’t even use the letters of the typewriter, but instead used the @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ characters. 

As he became more familiar with the typewriter he experimented with colored ribbons and a technique whereby he created smudged shading on the paper by pushing against the ribbon with his thumb.  What is even more amazing, is that unlike other paintings where things are painted over and changed as the painting evolves, Paul had to see the final work in his mind’s eye before he even started… and work one character at a time.

Today we open Photoshop or some other graphic arts program, and occasionally even use pencil and paper.

He placed a piece of paper in a typewriter, hit a character, readjusted the paper orientation, hit another character….

…and Beauty emerged…

He didn’t complain about not having the most high-tech tool.  In fact, the manual, no frills typewriter was perfectly suited to him.  It didn’t matter that he would hit a key and stay on the key.  After all, he used the typewriter in a way it wasn’t really designed for.  Add to the mix that he experimented with it and created techniques for embellishing his images and it’s clear that Paul Smith was an innovator, and a testimony to what we’re all capable of doing if we embrace who we are as humans,


and share

 from the overflowing well of inspiration that bubbles and dances in each of us.

Paul Smith died on June 25, 2007, but the lessons we can learn from him are timeless.


3 Responses to “Art + Innovation + Typewriter = Inspiration”

  1. what a great story! the circumstances of one’s life need not be what one’s life is about. thank you.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Plishka and Michael Plishka, Michael Plishka. Michael Plishka said: Art + Innovation + Typewriter = Inspiration: http://wp.me/pkQcg-qm The amazing, inspiring story of Paul Smith […]

  3. Plish said

    I’m glad you were inspired – thank you for your words of wisdom!

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