We still frequent our local library quite often. At the Whitney Library, we enjoy and borrow everything from magazines to bestsellers to much anticipated DVDs, not to mention books on desert gardening, building decks, window treatments, local birds, butterflies … the list is endless. Beyond what you’d expect at a library, however, we always find something that amuses or enthralls and is totally unexpected … like a gallery display of Etch-a-Sketch art, for instance. Who knew this fun toy is a medium for an art form? We didn’t, but we do now.
We strolled through the gallery, amazed at the intricacy and detail of some of David Roberts’ lineographic artwork. Portraits, landscapes, architecture, cartoon characters … a little bit of everything ... and we struggled to figure out just how it was done … using only those two knobs which control the vertical and horizontal.
We wondered just how the artwork was preserved since we remember distinctly that turning the toy upside down erased our masterpieces. I found that ‘Most artists make their work permanent by removing the aluminum powder. This is done either by drilling holes in the bottom of the toy or by removing the entire plastic backing. It is then resealed as a semi-permanent, shake-resistant piece of art.’
I also discovered some history of this toy which I previously thought was an American invention … au contraire. Wikipedia set me straight … ‘The Etch A Sketch toy was invented in the late 1950s by André Cassagnes, an electrician with Lincrusta Co. In 1959, he took his drawing toy to the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. After a complex series of negotiations, The Ohio Art Company, launched the toy in the United States in time for the 1960 Christmas season with the name "Etch A Sketch"... and sold for $2.99. It went on to sell 600,000 units that year and is one of the best known toys of that era. In 1998, it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY. In 2003, the Toy Industry Assn named Etch A Sketch to its Century of Toys List, a roll call commemorating the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century.' I also found out exactly how the Etch-A-Sketch works.
I located the Etch-A-Sketch website and was amazed at the current offerings in the Etch-A-Sketch line. And then there’s an Etch-A-Thon page to showcase your own masterpiece with some pretty impressive artwork presented. The best discovery, however, was the Etch-A-Sketch phone app. Yup, a free app that let’s you take a picture and then automatically transforms it into line art while you watch. Awesome! Try it!