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Local artist creates masterpieces, then erases them

Local artist creates masterpieces, then erases them

(Courtesy of Madeline Skillings)

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HIGHLAND — If you’ve ever seen that infamous YouTube video of the reporter who knocked over a giant Jenga tower, you know the pain that comes from watching someone’s hard work disintegrate before their eyes.

One local artist, however, embraces it.

Highland resident Madeline Skillings was nine years old when her parents gave her an Etch A Sketch in an attempt to entertain her on a long flight to Hawaii. Unlike most of us, Skillings made more than just a haphazard attempt to scribble her name before abandoning the toy for something that required less dexterity.

“I just started practicing and drawing, and I was surprised when people were impressed by what I could draw, so I just kind of kept it as a hobby and started getting better as I grew up,” Skillings said. “There’s this learning curve … because both of your hands are working at the same time. Your one hand is turning a knob that brings the stylus right and left and the other hand brings the stylus up and down, so your two hands have to work together to create shapes.”

As Skillings continued drawing, she would share pictures and videos of her work on Facebook and Instagram, though some commenters assumed her work was fake, unable to believe she had drawn it all on an Etch A Sketch.

It wasn’t until Skillings was featured on a popular YouTube show called “What’s Inside” that she decided to start her own YouTube channel where she now posts videos of her creating masterpieces on an Etch A Sketch. After the genesis of her show, it wasn’t long before Skillings was discovered by Spin Master (Etch A Sketch's current owner) and was introduced to a whole community of Etch A Sketch artists.

“I can do it pretty fast now just because my hands have a feel for how it works, so it only takes me about an hour to do a picture on a normal-sized Etch A Sketch," Skillings said. “I always tell people it looks so much harder when you see the finished project. … Once you practice, even just for a short amount of time, you get used to how the white knobs work and it truly becomes second nature, almost like drawing.”

When she finishes a piece, Skillings will take a picture, then shake her canvas clean, ready for the next drawing.

“One thing I love particularly about the Etch A Sketch toy is that the pictures don’t last, that you have to enjoy it in the moment. People become horrified when they learn that after I create something, I shake it,” Skillings said.

With so much vying for our attention these days, Skillings loves the plain and unassuming nature of the Etch A Sketch, just brimming with imaginative potential. She loves drawing nature, especially since it’s easy to mask mistakes, but human faces are the hardest. Skillings also loves drawing inspiration from religious images or special life moments.

["A New Father and His Baby" Thanks @aarondoria for being my model. #fathersday #newfather #etchasketch #father #love #newbaby #baby #happyfathersday #father @theellenshow]( A post shared by Madeline @madskillings (@etch.a.skillz) on

Spin Master is celebrating National Etch A Sketch Day and the toy’s 57th anniversary Wednesday by launching the Etch A Sketch Freestyle as well as the Etch A Sketch app, though neither require quite as much skill to use as the Etch A Sketch itself.

Skillings, who has been busy finishing her nursing degree at Brigham Young University and prepping for a wedding, is excited to get back into the art and expand her skills.

“I am just a firm believer that it’s fun and creative,” Skillings said. “I love it because it’s hard. You really do feel accomplished after creating something. There are so many avenues for art and this one is unique.”

Skillings' work can be found on her Instagram etch.a.skillz.

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