Maker Faire: Still Life on Etch-a-Sketch


Jonathan Liu making an Etch-a-Sketch drawingJonathan Liu making an Etch-a-Sketch drawing

Jonathan Liu starts on Timmy's portrait. Photo: Matt Blum

This past weekend a bunch of us from GeekDad attended the Bay Area Maker Faire. It was my first time, and I had a great time. I thought it would be a good place to demonstrate my Etch-a-Sketch art (particularly how I make them permanent), so I brought supplies. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten a few things: a bottle of Goo Gone, which I use to clean up the aluminum powder, and reference materials! For my quick sketches, I can work out of my imagination or just whatever happens to be around, but generally when I’m going to work on a permanent piece, I make sure I have it a little more planned out. So on Saturday, sans Goo Gone, I just did some quick sketches during the day, and talked a little about my process during the GeekDad panel.

LEGO Brick and Robot on Etch-a-SketchesLEGO Brick and Robot on Etch-a-Sketches

Quick sketches: LEGO brick and Robot. Photos: Jonathan Liu

The second day, having procured some Goo Gone, I decided it was time to work on a permanent Etch-a-Sketch piece. I was casting about for a suitable subject, when somebody suggested I draw Timmy The ThinkGeek Monkey, since we had a couple of them for giveaways at the booth. I sat him up on the table next to me and got to work. What I’m using is actually an Etch-a-Sketch “kit” which I purchased directly from Ohio Arts. Basically it’s just an Etch-a-Sketch that hasn’t been glued together yet. I pour in some powder, coat the glass, and then put it back together to do the drawing. (That’s why there’s powder all over the frame and I’ve got the paper underneath it.)

Timmy drawing in progressTimmy drawing in progress

The drawing takes shape. Photos: Matt Blum

I spent about an hour making the drawing (while fielding questions and saying hello to people). Once I was finished, I took the frame off and carefully removed the glass with the drawing on it. I transferred this to a clean Etch-a-Sketch frame, one which had never had any powder in it and from which I’d removed the drawing mechanism. Once in place, I cleaned it up and then glued it all together. The final product: an Etch-a-Sketch portrait of Timmy which won’t erase. (Click the image for a larger version.)

Timmy The ThinkGeek MonkeyTimmy The ThinkGeek Monkey

The finished portrait of Timmy. Photo: Jonathan Liu

I did one other permanent Etch-a-Sketch, a neater version of the GeekDad logo, but I think Timmy turned out best. After Maker Faire, Matt Blum delivered my Etch-a-Sketch to ThinkGeek headquarters, where you can now see it on the TimmyCam. (Though only during their business hours—at night, they shut off the lights.)

Visit RainyBayArt for a more detailed description of my process, or just to check out my other Etch-a-Sketch drawings. You can also read Jenny Williams’ account of Maker Faire. The atmosphere reminded me a little of the Last Thursday Artwalks in Portland, where I used to sit on the sidewalk and do Etch-a-Sketches. Maybe next year I’ll need to bring the Art-o-matic.

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