When recently asked how his political candidate would explain certain positions taken during the
nomination process with contrary positions to be taken during the general election, the campaign chief
replied that stated political positions were “like an Etch A Sketch,”—meaning they could simply be
flipped over, erased and begun over from scratch.
Were it that adult life were as simple as a happy Etch A Sketch memory from childhood.
(The campaign chief took heavy heat for his flippant, if truthful, statement.) The incident made
me wonder how many of us had early experiences as “sketch artists” with that incredible red toy that
has become almost standard issue for so many children still to this day.
For those unfamiliar with the magical plastic slate, an Etch A Sketch is filled with aluminum powder
which scraped off a glass screen with a simple stylus operated by the artist (one knob controls horizontal,
one vertical—the true artistry comes in the dual knob operation required for curved lines). The art itself is
fleeting, a simple flipping over of the tablet makes polystrene beads re-coat the glass “canvas” surface
with the aluminum powder. Like so many, I spent many an hour engrossed in trying to produce
ever more evocative works from that simple art machine, forever trying to learn that perfect touch to get
the curved lines right.
We house an incredible array of line art drawings on deviantART that are pure amazement of detail and
meticulous design. There is a natural thread that flows through the first workings of an Etch a Sketch beginner
through to the mastery of beautiful sketch or line drawing by a skilled artist.
Line Art Drawings (on deviantART)
An Interview withJane Labowitch
I thought it would be best to have a friend of one of our most skilled Etch a Sketch enthusiasts handle this introduction.
It’s with greatest pleasure that I introduce Jane (~pikajane), one of deviantART's most talented Etch A Sketch artists. She
creates masterful portraits and stunningly accurate fan art, all by deftly turning those two knobs on that small plastic box that
frustrated so many of our childhoods. Her efforts have earned her a
deviantART Creative Grant
-- a program providing a source of funding to allow artists to make their creative dreams a reality. Jane plans to use her deviantART Creative
Grant to create two installations to be displayed in galleries. The first installation will be a life-size rendition of a skeleton,
using multiple Etch A Sketches mounted to a wall. The second installation will be a 3-dimensional piece using a skeleton as a base
for several mounted Etch A Sketches, which will act as a sort of "reverse x-ray." She's already hard at work on this project,
purchasing Etch A Sketches and depicting various parts of the skeleton. In this interview, she talks about working with her chosen
medium, her plans for future projects, and gives tips to aspiring Etch A Sketch artists.
Why Etch A Sketch? Is this a purely artistic aesthetic fascination or something deeply meaningful to you? How long have you worked with Etch A Sketches?
I started playing with an etch a sketch when I was about 4, and as a child I didn't realize there was anything special about being able to create anything more than rudimentary shapes. It started as a toy I loved to tinker with, but throughout my life it has grown into a passion. I love painting and drawing and working digitally, but there is something truly special about creating art on an etch a sketch for me.
Can you sense who is going to immediately “get” your art and who will be less receptive; i.e., does the medium being viewed first as a child’s toy block some people’s ability to appreciate the quality of the art?
Yes! There are definitely some that are more receptive to my art than others. Sometimes I feel as though people will respond the same to my etch a sketch art no matter what I etch. I have to keep myself in check so that I don't get complacent--I always want to keep improving!
Beyond your Etch A Sketch-Skeleton project, do you have an ultimate Etch A Sketch installation idea?
I have a few project ideas I'd love to pursue. Lately I've been wanting to create images using multiple etch a sketches, so that when you set them next to each other, the individual screens comprise the full image. I am doing this with a few etch a sketches for the skeleton project, but I'd also love to try this with some famous paintings. I also have a few series ideas running in my mind, but nothing has been fully planned yet. If I could work on an ultimate etch a sketch instillation, I think it would be a mural made entirely out of etch a sketches.
What are your best tips for an EtchaSketch artist?
First and foremost, practice practice practice! Everyone has to start at the basics. Even I did when I first started playing with an etch a sketch. The only reason I got where I am today as an etch a sketch artist is because I have put a lot of practice into my passion. And the more you play with an etch a sketch, the easier it gets.
To everyone that would love to start etching, here's a few tips for how to improve your skills:
Practice basic shapes, starting with the square. When you turn both knobs at once at the same speed, you get a diagonal line. When you turn them both at varying speeds, you get a curve. A circle is the hardest basic shape to etch because it is made up of 4 curves. If you learn to make a circle, you're doing very well, but don't stop there! Once you master the basic shapes, try out drawing your favorite cartoon character. I started with cartoons, and moved to realism.
If you ever get frustrated, remember that like any form of art, etch a sketching takes time and patience. It took me years to get where I am today, but I believe that with determination and passion, you too can master the knobs.
QuestionsFor the Reader
- Do you think there have there been other toys that have sparked and encouraged as much childhood creativity as Etch A Sketch?
- If you ever created with an Etch A Sketch did the frustration you experienced trying to draw on Etch A Sketch teach you discipline and practice are important in creating art … or just made you wonder if you had what it takes to be a dedicated artist?
- Do you detect a natural evolution from Etch A Sketch to something like Muro?
- Do you still own an Etch A Sketch, or was it long ago consigned its fate to that of Citizen Kane’s beloved sled?