The Etch A SketchIconic Drawing Toy as Fine Art?

Etch A Sketch artist Jeff Gagliardi

Etch A Sketch artist Jeff Gagliardi

The original Etch A Sketch was invented Frenchman André Cassagnes and introduced to the public in 1960 by the Ohio Art company. Retailing for only $2.99 it went on to sell well over ½ million units in its first year of production.

The toy features knobs which move a stylus. The stylus in turn scrapes off aluminum powder from the back of the screen creating dark lines . The resultant drawings were more often than not incredibly crude. The user could then shake the toy to “erase” the image and redistribute the powder. This was usually desireable.

However, there are a handful of artists who use the Etch A Sketch professionally. Their lineographic illustrations are made permanent by removing the aluminum powder. After removing the powder, the toy is then resealed and shake-resistant to change.

Here is a link to an Etch A Sketch version of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica created by Jeff Gagliardi. Jeff was one of history’s most famous Etch A Sketch artists until he broke both of his wrists in an accident. Unfortunately the physical dexterity he lost forced him to hang up his toy art for good.

Bryan Lee Madden is another of these Etch A Sketch artists. In the short time lapse video featured below, Bryan creates a detailed portrait.

The Illustration used as the featured image in this post was created by yours truly. I call it Take That Spirograph! I used several references to create it. With these references I recreated the logos in Adobe Illustrator and placed them in Photoshop where I composed the bulk of the illustration. For a little more “behind-the-scenes” on this piece visit my blog post.

Now grab yourself an Etch A Sketch, and get out there and shake it up, Baby!


About The Author

Graphic Design & Artist

I’m Ed Ward of Mental Ward Design, and I’m a graphic designer, art director, and production artist. I specialize in image manipulation and graphic design using Photoshop, but I don't stop there. I hold a BFA degree from Rutgers University and have years of experience as a Graphic Designer, Marketing Manager, Art Director and Director of Advertising for companies in the Entertainment, Motorcycle, and Wholesale Travel industries. Since 1998 I’ve devoted my professional efforts to full-time independent graphic design.