Fox Island boy wins art show with ‘Tacoma Etched’

Lifestyles: Judges impressed with teenager’s ability to draw landmarks with Etch A Sketch
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A classic Etch A Sketch was the winning medium at a recent art show for incoming Gig Harbor High School senior Noah Johnson.
Noah, a Fox Island resident, entered his piece, “Tacoma Etched,” in the City of Tacoma Art Show, which was sponsored by the National Arts Program and helps to support art.
The contest was open to all city employees and their families. Johnson submitted his entry in May, and the awards ceremony was held last month.
Johnson used the mechanical drawing toy to create six illustrations of prominent Tacoma landmarks. The top half was segmented into three icons, including the Narrows bridge. The bottom consisted of three others, most notably the curved pagoda in Chinese Park.
His effort earned him the top prize from the judges for Best in Show, as well as a $300 purse in the seventh annual contest.
The Etch A Sketch has been a popular toy since it was created in 1960. A stylus moves horizontally and vertically over the slate to create pictures.
“I started drawing with one in the third grade, learning through practice, trial and error,” Johnson said.
Throughout the years, Johnson has sporadically picked up the drawing toy as a creative outlet.
When he learned about the contest Johnson said he did some research to narrow down his vision.
“I chose photographs from the Internet that I felt best represented Tacoma to use as inspiration,” he said.
Johnson began his project while he flew back East to look at colleges. He spent the five in-flight hours working on the entry.
“Keeping the picture from erasing on a six-day driving trip was my biggest challenge,” he said. “The other was making sure each of the illustrations had enough contrast to stand out.”
Part of the novelty of the Etch A Sketch is the ability to shake away a picture after it’s been drawn and start over again. In this case, it’s the last thing Johnson wanted to do. He kept the Etch A Sketch level to prevent it from erasing.
On the flight home, he took a few more hours to finish up his entry.
It was another effort entirely to make the art permanent.
“I drilled a hole in the back and poured out the aluminum powder,” he said. “The pewter substance is used to erase images. After removing it, I plugged the hole and glued down the knobs.”
The modified Etch A Sketch keeps the picture series preserved.
Using only linear lines and strictly black and white to get the intricate details of each illustration of Tacoma coming to life, the judges said it was a medium worthy of notice.
Noah said one judge was “intrigued at seeing such a unique medium being used to create a detailed entry in limited space.”
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