Moriah James, a freshman anthropology major, started doing Etch-A-Sketch about four years ago.
Q: When did you start Etch-A-Sketching?
A: I started sketching about four years ago. I didn’t realize I was actually good at it until four years ago.
Q: What kinds of things do you sketch?
A: I do only landscape. I cannot draw or Etch-A-Sketch people or anything with too many squiggly or diagonal lines because it’s a little rough to do that.
Q: What was your first drawing?
A: My first major one was a boat, just sticking out the sides. I remember looking at it and being like, “Oh that’s not bad.” And then I tried another one of a cliff and a log cabin. It wasn’t that detailed, but it looked like an actual picture, so I was pretty happy with that.
Q: What’s the most difficult part of this sketch right now?
A: Definitely the proportions are kind of weird and the frills up at the top. I know I’m not going to be able to do the letters, at least not in this time frame.
Q: Do you think more people could be good at it?
A: I think more people could be good at it if they tried to because it’s not that hard to operate, you just have to have patience for it. It’s really calming. I don’t do too much here at college now just because I never have enough time anymore, but normally pictures take me maybe an hour or 45 minutes to do if I were just to sit down and do it.
Q: What’s the hardest part?
A: The hardest part about this is if you make a mistake and it’s really big then you can’t go back because it’s all one line technically, and you have to find little ways to get around creating space. I never know where to start. I know that I always use the edges as ways to get around. You kind of have to treat the lines as if they were roads or something, and you have to go back on them or make a new one.
Q: What is a life lesson you’ve learned from doing Etch-A-Sketch?
A: Something that this is teaching me is to pay attention to details, and you have to be patient to do this because the slower you go, the better it is going to look, which is like a life lesson. If you do make a mistake there are ways to fix it and cover them up.
Q: How do people react when they see these drawings?
A: Normally when I mention that I do Etch-A-Sketch, people are like, “Whoa! The Etch-A-Sketch, that’s so cool!” even before they see the picture, and then they’re really shocked once they see it and then they’ll say like, “I can’t even make stairs!” Or that kind of thing. They’ll ask me like how I did it or how long did it take me, and I don’t mind answering those questions just because it’s so random. You don’t really meet a lot of people who are good at Etch-A-Sketch, especially people that aren’t majoring in art.
Q: Do you know of anyone else that has this talent?
A: I posted one of my old pictures on a website called Reddit, and it got a lot of upvotes, but nothing ridiculous. There was one person who went on there and said, “Oh, your pictures are really good, you should come join the Facebook group. Message me back if you’re interested.” So I got into the group and posted the picture, and they started to give me tips. So I’m part of a circle of Etch-A-Sketch masters now, which is very cool. I’m definitely one of the youngest ones on there, too. I’m probably also one of the only black people in the group, so I add some diversity to the mix.
Q: Do you think you’ll continue this when you’re older? Do you think that if you have kids, you would want them to do it?
A: I’m definitely going to have Etch-A-Sketches around. I haven’t picked up an Etch-A-Sketch in a month or two, but I’m definitely going to keep going. I do art and violin, too, but it’s kind of like them where I don’t do it everyday, but I wouldn’t want to lose the skill of doing it.
Q: Are you usually happy with all your pictures?
A: I wasn’t happy with the earlier ones because, looking back on it, I know now there are things I could improve on, but once I step back and look at them, I’m like, “Wow, those were actually pretty good, so I’m happy.” I definitely want to continue practicing and get to the level of some of the people on that Facebook group. They’re making the Colosseum or the Mona Lisa, something ridiculous. There aren’t a lot of manuals on how to Etch-A-Sketch better, but the Facebook group and some online articles talk about things you can do to make it look better, but I think it’s just mostly practice.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: I’m very protective about it. If I have a picture on it, I’m always afraid someone is going to take it and shake it. I brought it into school once to show people and I almost slipped and almost dropped it. I know that I would’ve saved the Etch-A-Sketch instead of myself. I like it. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with it, but it’s something I’m protective about.
Julia Keane is a sophomore environmental science and policy major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.