Featured Artist Chad Reynolds loves language—but not quite in the way you'd expect.
Chad Reynolds explores the aesthetic possibilities of language via its symbols and marks. Throughout his practice, Reynolds has discovered that while language is primarily a tool used to communicate, if taken out of its utilitarian context, a language’s letters, numbers, signs, and marks have graphic qualities that can serve as building blocks for visual art.
Using manual typewriters with various ink colors, he creates works on paper and fabric that focus on the pictorial aspects of a language. Sometimes, there's a focus on a single letter through patterns, other times words or phrases are repeated until new shapes emerge.
Artwork Archive got the chance to chat with Chad Reynolds about his creative process, how he came to use language as an art form, and his idea of success. You can see more of his work on Discovery and learn more about his art practice below.
Chad Reynolds, 'so much depends upon', 10 x 8 in, 2022
Has your work changed over time—do you find yourself understanding your art career through different periods of expression?
My artistic identity has changed a lot in the past three years. It was somewhere in this span that I began to think of myself as an artist and not just a hobbyist or a doodler.
I've been making little patterns on the typewriter since about 2015 or so, but it wasn't until the shutdowns in March 2020 that I really started to dig in and see what a concerted and intentional effort could bring me.
Since then, my approach to typing art has grown and evolved. I've picked up or developed new techniques to achieve what I'm going for. I'd say I began by just trying to create interesting patterns, then trying to draw inspiration from interesting pieces of art and artists, and then exploring different inks and media (ie., typing on canvas and incorporating paints and pencils).
Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your creative process?
My work involves playing with and pushing against the many boundaries and obstacles that working on a typewriter presents.
A typewriter can only do so much and it can only work on certain widths and weights of paper.
It only has so many marks it's capable of making. And yet despite these strictures, with some imagination, it can create works that to me feel boundless.
How did you discover your fascination with the “graphic qualities” of any given language’s marks? When did you start consistently exploring these “aesthetic possibilities” in your own artwork?
It was in 2015 or so that I started making patterns on my typewriter. I was involved in this performance group I had cofounded called Short Order Poems, where we wrote poems for strangers, on whatever topic/subject they wanted, on typewriters in public, and for money.
In between poems, in slow times I would just kinda doodle on the typewriter. Type letters over and over; spread them around the page; type over letters with other letters or marks. It seems like I was working in code or creating a new alphabet or something. I started to feel like words and letters had distinct sounds when you typed them, and that the possibilities of a letter or word's meaning were in part determined by the way it looked on the page.
Take the letter "s" for example. It sounds slippery, slithy, or sneaky, and it is used to onomatopoetically create words that sound this way, too (such as "snake," "slurp," or "swish"). And, the curves of the letter, the two little swoops, the way it goes back and forth like it's changing its mind about something, only serves to underscore this sense I get from the letter "s."
You mention you also use typewriters in other languages with Arabic, Cyrillic, and Greek alphabets. What is it like pursuing artwork with an alphabet that is (seemingly) so different from your native language?
It's amazing. It's like getting a new box of crayons with colors you've never heard of before.
Just so many new shapes and twists and turns to put down and explore on the page. I love not exactly knowing what something means. I look up the letters, of course—but of course, I misuse them. To me, it's liberating to remove the sense from a letter—to reduce it to a purely aesthetic mark. That's what creating art on a foreign typewriter is to me.
Chad Reynolds, 'field in Cyrillic 1', 8.5 x 5.5 in, 2021
What has your artistic education consisted of (formal or not)? If you did receive a formal education like an MFA, did you find it necessary for your artistic growth, or did you find that elsewhere?
I received my MFA in poetry from Emerson College, and I studied English and Renaissance art in college, so I was always around art, ideas, and expression. I never have trained in the art of typewriter art, but I have collected a lot of books from people who make this art. I also follow a lot of people on social media who have that type of training, and I am constantly going to museums and listening to art podcasts and such.
Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to inventory/manage your artwork?
My wife, the owner of Anonyma Fine Art, recommended I use it. She is a gallerist and uses Artwork Archive for her business. She loves how she can create Private Viewing Rooms for her clients to consider.
Chad Reynolds, 'my heart (site plan) (rose rocks) 3', 12 x 8.5 in, 2022
How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?
I don't use it on a daily basis—but that's really because it's so easy to use, that I don't need to use it daily. I use it when I want to upload artwork I've made, send an invoice, record a sale, or run a report. Otherwise, it does its main job of pushing my inventory to my website so people can discover me.
What does being a successful artist mean to you and your life right now?
Being a successful artist to me meant making art, even if you don't sell it—and despite all the noise. Just keep making the art. To me, that's being a successful artist.
What advice would you give an emerging artist during this time?
I kind of hate the term "emerging artist," because all you need to do to be an artist is to make art.
The "emerging" part seems to refer to one trying to gain an audience or a following (ie, emerging artists still are gaining theirs).
My advice is not to worry about that and to just make art. It's of course very hard not to worry about gaining fans and followers and selling art—especially with today's social media focus on making video content.
People can get famous for making effective videos that go viral, or they can make art they love and believe in, that they'd want to hang on their own wall It's hard enough to do that.
Artwork Archive fits well into this philosophy of mine because it gives me a web presence that's untethered to social media platforms. I like this platform because I'm always on the verge of quitting all of social media, and knowing that I have Artwork Archive is a comfort to me.
My advice to emerging artists is to create art you love and ignore the trends, then put your work on Artwork Archive, and don't let yourself be suckered into becoming famous on social media.
If you make art you love but never sell a piece, who cares? Unless you're trying to make a living out of this (and there are WAY EASIER ways to make a living), then just paint or type or whatever, document it with something like Artwork Archive, and then go live your life.
Chad Reynolds, 'Kenji M.', 12 x 9 in, 2022
Chad Reynolds uses Artwork Archive to track his artwork, keep track of his sales, and generate professional reports.
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