b_1Daily, we lay our fingers on our QWERTY keyboards. But while we type out words, German artist Robert Dörfler conjures portraits, buildings, animals, and landscapes. An artist with a mechanical easel and alphabetic brushes, his Instagram is both fascinating and unexpected. I was delighted to catch up with Robert to chat about his amazing process…

How did this interesting art form develop for you?

As a child I played around with my sister’s electric typewriter, doodling little stickmen in tiny landscapes while laying out make-believe newspaper pages. As time marched on I forgot about doing things like that and began to learn programming and playing different musical instruments. Back in the old pre-Windows days of widespread text-based home computer use, people might occasionally encounter illustrations up on the screen made out of text characters — called ASCII art! — and I thought that it looked like fun. I made several pictures in that style, some of which even won art competitions!
d_1But one day I came across other specimens of the older typewriter art again and realised that there might be some logical connection between the two styles, figuring that some ASCII art techniques could be applied to the typewriter, and I could apply what I had learned from the newer style to the older… with mixed success. Of course, the paper page isn’t limited to columns and rows the way a fixed-width screen of text is on a computer, so you can still manage to go outside of the box and push boundaries outside a strict grid even typing with straight lines.
n_1Typewriter drawing can feel like you’re using some analogue Photoshop with layers and a wide range of colours, except of course without any “undo” function for erasing mistakes that might come up.
i_1How do you translate landscapes and buildings to typewriter keys?
There are a number of ways to adapt an image, depending on the aesthetic style you’re hoping to achieve. You could make a picture simply by typing a single key over and over again, but an easy technique for building up an illustration is to sketch it out like an artist might do with a pencil in their notebook: every building has edges that could first be translated into lines by typing exclamation marks for vertical or dashes for horizontal lines. Slanted edges such as rooftops could be typed with a slash or, if it is available, the backslash.
k_1What is the most difficult thing about creating a piece?
Maybe the most difficult part is simply getting a new picture started without knowing how much further work — sometimes weeks’ worth! — remains ahead until it is completed. To be honest it all depends on what the typist is aspiring to achieve in terms of the look of the piece. For instance, I like to type portraits to look as realistic as possible, and that just might be the most difficult thing for me… because if it doesn’t look the way I’m hoping for, I just start over again and again and again. I’ve learned to begin with the eyes, because I always want them to look perfect, and many times I’ve almost finished lovely portraits and then ruined everything typing in the eyes wrong.
a_1What brands of typewriters do you use?
My favourite typewriter is a Brother Deluxe 1300 that is actually already so broken that it can’t even be used to compose a letter, as every capital letter is out of place. Usually I like to stick to the typewriters of my homeland like those made by Continental or the so-called “Erika” typewriters from Saxony in Germany. It may not be obvious, but every typewriter has its own distinct typeface and so they aren’t all just interchangeable for different applications. I also enjoy using my Olympia Traveller with its Cyrillic typeface — the Russian alphabet has dense letters that can turn a lot of blank space black just by typing a single letter!
h_1Name your top 5 typewriter keys to use, and tell us why!
I can’t quite get it down to five, but here are seven of the keys I use the most: _ . – ! and ` for drawing outlines, and % and m fill space like nobody’s business. Ding!


Images courtesy of Robert Dörfler

In accordance with State and Princeton University measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, the gallery of the Cotsen Children’s Library is closed until further notice, and our children’s programming as been suspended during this closure. Until our library reopens, the blog will post once a week. So every Tuesday, please check in to see what we’re up to…from story time projects to awesome interviews!

Pop’s Top 10: Famous Movie Libraries

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Screenshot from Ghostbusters; 1984, Columbia Pictures

Katie and I work in a library (allbeit a unique library), visit libraries (like here, here, here, here, and here), and even craft libraries (herehere, or with flying books!). So when a library shows up in a movie, we of course get all giddy. Recently, we put together a list of our Top 10 famous movie libraries. Number two was a bit of a surprise, and number one? TOTAL CLASSIC.


National Treasure is a campy hoot, packed with forefather name drops and American-ish history. Eventually, our adventurers find themselves in Washington DC in the Library of Congress. They discover a secret hatch in the shelving with a journal inside it, but…total pet peeve here…Nicolas Cage doesn’t shut the hatch after he removes the book. If you’re trying to be all secretive and cover your tracks, SHUT THE SECRET HATCH SO NO ONE ELSE CAN FIND IT! Geez!

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Image courtesy of the Library of Congress


Based on the true story of a botched rare books heist, American Animals centers around the Transylvania University Library in Lexington, Kentucky. The movie is fascinating, featuring both actor portrayals and interviews with the real life culprits (who all did jail time for the crime). The library featured in the movie, however, was not in Kentucky. It was the E.H. Little Library at Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


The multiple Academy Award-winning movie Philadelphia stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington as two lawyers fighting AIDS discrimination. A major turning point takes place in the gorgeous Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania. Awwww. We love you Philly!

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


What better way to win back an ex-boyfriend then attending Harvard Law School. And what better place to studying for those LSATs then the Pasadena Central Library in Pasadena, California. It’s got palm trees in front, ya’ll!

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


While technically not a movie, we had to include Stranger Things on this list. Interestingly, the exterior of the library is the Butts County Courthouse in Jackson, Georgia. The interior scenes were shot in a library in East Point, Georgia. Why did a NOT movie make this movie list? This awesome quote from Dustin: ““I am on a curiosity voyage. And I need my paddles to travel. These books… these books are my paddles.”

Photo from Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


Since we’re stretching the movie list a bit with Stranger Things, we’ll stretch just a BIT further with a library that inspired a movie library. Yes, we’re talking about Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast, Katie’s favorite, favorite FAVORITE. Belle’s literary wonderland was modeled after the Admont Abbey Library in Admont, Austria.

Admont Abbey Library, Austria

Image courtesy of the Admont Abbey Library, Austria


The exterior of the Chiesa di San Barnaba Library in Venice, Italy was used during filming of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But no, the library does not have stained glass window maps, secret in-floor compartments, or catacombs underneath it. Darn it.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Of course a Harry Potter movie is on this list! Where else would Hermoine go to find all the answers (or overstudy)? Hogwart’s adopted the Duke Humfrey’s Library, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, England as its sanctum of knowledge.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


The 1980s classic The Breakfast Club basically takes place in a library, so it’s close to the top of our list. They movie was filmed in the Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois. But they didn’t use the school library OR shoot scenes in an alternate library. Surprisingly, they built an entire library set inside the high school’s gymnasium! So no, the library was not real. And no, you can’t go and recreate the famed “Detention Dance” scene. Bogus.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


And the number one spot goes to the New York Public Library in New York City! Woooo!

While this iconic library has appeared in several films (Breakfast at Tiffany’s,13 Going on 30, Spiderman) we would argue that Ghostbusters leads the pack in sheer supernatural awesomeness. And while the NYPL was used for exterior and early scene shots (including the beautiful NYPL reading room photo that started this post), it must be said that the encounter with the fabled “Library Ghost” was actually filmed in the stacks of the Los Angeles Central Library. Life lesson learned: don’t mess with library ghosts. Just don’t.

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Image courtesy of Public Domain

The Search for Gold: A Treasure Island Virtual Escape Room

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Avast mateys! The Dread Pirate Katie has developed a new virtual escape room. It begins with a discovery in the attic, and where does it lead? TREASURE me hearties!

Adventures awaits! Click here!