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Etch-a-Sketch FAQ

How are these drawings made?
You turn the left knob for horizontal lines, the right knob for vertical lines, and you turn them together for curves and designs.

No, really. How do you do it?
I have a sweatshop of nimble-fingered kids.
Actually, a lot of practice and a good imagination. If you come see me at an artwalk or hire me for a party, you can watch me in action.

What happens if I shake one?
You shake it, you buy it.
No, seriously, the ones you see in the "Eternal" category and the ones that are for sale are actually permanent!

How are they permanent?
I drill a hole in the back and drain out the powder inside so the drawing can't be erased. Then I superglue the knobs so you can't add to the drawing. [Note: I have a new technique, explained here, which I've been using since July of 2007.]

Wow, how did you figure that out?
I confess: I heard about other folks doing this, and decided to give it a shot myself. I started experimenting with it in January 2004 and have come up with a method that I'm happy with.

How did you get started doing Etch-a-Sketch art? Were you great with an Etch-a-Sketch as a kid?
Actually, I'm not sure if I actually owned an Etch-a-Sketch myself. I certainly had played with them, but I remember just making straight-line spirals and mazes with them, nothing fancy. It wasn't until one year in college I decided to get one just as something fun to have in the dorm room, and discovered I had a knack for it. My college roommates, Doug and Nate, encouraged me to do an art installation on campus using Etch-a-Sketches, which I finally did during my senior year.
After that, I kept practicing and sketching mostly just for fun, and then more recently took to making permanent Etch-a-Sketchings and putting more time into each drawing.

How long does each drawing take to do?
Anywhere from five minutes to five or six hours. Most of my permanent drawings (in the "Eternal" category) take about two hours of actual drawing time, not counting the process of making them permanent. I also do quick sketches (in the "Ephemeral" category) which aren't as detailed, but I don't make them permanent. I just take a picture to document the good ones. Occasionally I've taken quick sketch and made it permanent, if somebody really likes the drawing and wants to buy it.

Where do you find Etch-a-Sketches these days?
I have powerful connections with Santa's elves, who manufacture them by hand and deliver them to key drop-off points for me. These drop-off locations include: toy stores, department stores, Fred Meyer, etc. Apparently Ohio Arts doesn't do a good job with their marketing, because a lot of people aren't aware that you can still buy Etch-a-Sketches, exactly the same as the ones you grew up with, just about anywhere. I also sometimes buy them in cases directly from Ohio Arts, which gets me a slight discount.

Speaking of Ohio Arts, why don't they pay you to do this?
Believe me, I've tried. They tell me they don't really need any help selling Etch-a-Sketches. They're happy to sell them to me, but I haven't managed to convince them to give them to me for free, let alone pay me to make my artwork.

What's with these grainy pictures in the "Ephemeral" category?
I've included some of my older Etch-a-sketchings from my college days, back when I did mostly 10-15 minute drawings and then erased them after a while. It was also before I had a digital camera, so these are scanned from not-so-great photographs, the only record I have of these particular drawings.

[last updated 3.13.06, pre-dated for archiving reasons]

April 01, 1998


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