Utah Artist Finding Success with Etch A Sketch

Jul 11, 2018, 6:30 PM | Updated: Sep 22, 2018, 12:25 am

TOOELE, Utah – Dave Roberts hunches over his canvas. He barely moves. Barely breathes.

“Intense focus,” Roberts says, “Very intense focus.”

Roberts is a fine artist at work – at an Etch A Sketch. That’s right, an Etch A Sketch drawing toy.

Dave Roberts is an artist. His chosen medium is an Etch A Sketch.

Roberts, who grew up in Tooele, Utah and now lives in Las Vegas, got his first Etch A Sketch for Christmas when he was 14. He played with it, got hooked, and started taking it to school and drawing during class.

Roberts says “everybody’s tried it, got frustrated, put it down.” But not Dave Roberts.

While on his LDS mission in Honduras he attempted his first portrait of then- president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B Hinkley.

After that, Roberts started drawing family members and taking commissions.

He figured out how to preserve his work by removing the aluminum powder inside the frame.

The toy wasn’t a toy anymore.

Sketch of the Utah State Capitol by Dave Roberts

“For everybody else it’s a toy except for the handful of Etch A Sketch artists and so for me it’s not a toy,” he says.

Two years ago, Roberts, who earns his living as a maintenance carpenter, decided he wanted to build up a body of work and try to get his drawings into a fine art gallery.

He sketched the Utah State Capitol, a favorite Hawaiian cafe, and palm trees. He spent a year sketching the Bellagio casino.

A few months ago, Roberts was accepted into Skye pop art gallery on the Las Vegas strip.

“I cried,” he says. “Honestly, I cried. It was amazing.”

“It’s one of those things where you have daydreams about, ‘oh one day this’ll happen,” he says. “My dreams came true. I know it sounds cheesy but that’s really what’s happening now.”

Roberts is one of just a handful of professional Etch A Sketch artists – George Vlosich, Christoph Brown, Jane Labowitch, AKA, “Princess Etch.”

Britt West is an Etch A Sketch artist.

The very short list also includes “Sketchy Britt,” Britt West of Salt Lake City.

“I’ve tried to do something different, art mediums like painting, watercolor, just any type of medium, just drawing and I can’t do anything else,” West says.

“You don’t have to stick within the bounds of what people believe is art,” Roberts says. “You can create your own path.”

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Utah Artist Finding Success with Etch A Sketch