⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ╭━┫⠀┳⠀╭━╮⠀┳ ╰━╮⠀┃⠀┃ ⠀┻⠀┣━╮ ┣━╯⠀┻⠀╰━┫⠀┻ ⠀┻ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀— ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ (@artonaline) February 9, 2014
If you follow Jonny Fox’s two Twitter accounts — @ArtOnALine and @C0NSTELLATI0NS — you’ll notice that, amidst the digital cacophony, his updates stand out, seemingly creating space and time in a world of endless feeds. The 21-year-old from Hertfordshire, England makes his living as an office administrator for a company that provides art instruction in local schools. He credits a sleepless night for the impetus behind the projects, which share symbol-based interpretations of star constellations and, for @ArtOnALine, pretty much whatever images pop into Fox’s mind.
He’s been surprised by the reception both have received. Between the two accounts, Fox now has more than 30,000 followers, with some of his works garnering thousands of retweets and favorites. He jokes that the accounts appeal mainly to “teenage girls and stargazers.”
⠀ ⠀ ╭╮⠀⠀⠀⠀ ╭╮ ┃┗━━━┛┃ ┃╭╮⠀ ╭╮┃ ┃⠀⠀⠀┳⠀⠀ ┃ ┃⠀⠀￣￣⠀╭╯ ┃╰━━╮┗━╮ ┃━━━╯┏━╯ ┃┏━━┓┃ ╰╯⠀⠀⠀╰╯ ⠀ ⠀— ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ (@artonaline) February 22, 2014
“I think there’s definitely a deeper reason for doing Twitter art than just for fun,” Fox writes in an email. “I think if I can make one person smile or provide them with a little bit of something different than all the celebrity nonsense and gossip and garbage on most people's Twitter feeds, then that makes it all worthwhile. It's good to see art.”
⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀• ----- • ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀╱/ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀•⠀• ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀/⠀/ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀•⠀• ⠀⠀⠀⠀╱⠀⠀⠀\ • -- •⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀• ⠀ ⠀|⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ | ⠀⠀•⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀• ⠀/ • | • --- • ⠀ ⠀— ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ (@C0NSTELLATl0NS) January 14, 2014
But stargazers, if they’re paying close enough attention, might take issue with some of Fox’s constellation tweets.
“Some are real, some aren’t and some are part real,” Fox explains. “So hopefully people aren’t looking up in the night sky for all these shapes I’ve made up.”
The process is fairly simple: Fox creates each image on the Notes app of his iPhone, comparing the images he’s drafting with photos online. Some take two minutes, others take up to 20. One of the challenges is staying within the 140-character limit, and some of the more complex constellations have proven difficult.
“Sometimes I start a constellation and it’s just impossible, so I change it,” he writes. “I use the word ‘constellation’ as inspiration — i.e. two points joining together.”
For @C0NSTELLATI0NS, Fox uses symbols found on any phone or computer keyboard, but for @ArtOnALine (don’t miss that middle “a” — Fox’s early tweets on the account only took up one line), the process is more complex, drawing on ASCII art. That form of “text-based digital art” is also the mode of expression for at least two more popular Twitter accounts — @Tw1tt3rArt and @ASCIIart — from which Fox originally drew his inspiration. Indeed, he’s just the latest in a long line of people turning text into art; The Atlantic recently traced typewriter art back to the 1890s. Others have also pushed the boundaries of ASCII art, creating animated pieces, like this slightly NSFW one.
In the era of digital publishing, Twitter has helped writers reach greater numbers of readers, and Fox is one of several budding artists using the platform to reach an audience wider than that of any watercolor he could paint.
“I definitely like the immediacy of Twitter,” Fox writes. “It’s just amazing that you can reach that many people so quickly.”
Fox may soon run out of real constellations to replicate and has considered starting a new project outlining countries. Beyond that, he has plenty left to his imagination.
⠀⠀⠀ ^^^^⠀⠀⠀⠀w h y ⠀⠀⠀(⠀⠀• • )⠀⠀r t h e r e ⠀⠀</⠀⠀▿▿|⠀⠀⠀ n o ⠀</⠀⠀\\⠀ |\\⠀d i n o s a u r </⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀|⠀⠀e m o j i s <(⠀(￣||￣|| <)⠀)⠀ ￣ ￣ <\/ ⠀— ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ (@artonaline) November 29, 2013
“I like the phrase ‘digital graffiti.’ Imagine scrolling down your Twitter feed in the same way you would walk down the street and look at the walls. There’s lots of scribbles and mess taking up most of it, but maybe between that, there’s a little something that might make people stop and stare for a moment. That’s what I want to be,” Fox writes. Fittingly, he adds, “:)”