As children, it seems like making a job out of youthful passions will be easy. Thoughts like, "I could be a famous LEGO architect, or I could go pro with my yo-yo skills," were not uncommon, at least not for me. However, growing up and actually making that somewhat outlandish dream a reality is quite rare. East Coast artist Bryan Madden combines a classic childhood toy, Etch A Sketch, with natural talent and unnatural amounts of patience to find success with his unique approach to art. Although Bryan's passion for Etch A Sketch Art only began about five years ago, I would say that he has mastered the medium, considering most other Etch A Sketch users fancy themselves gods if they can draw one decent diagonal line.
NYC (First Serious Etch)
Madden grew up in Tarrytown, New York, and also lived in Spanish Harlem for a time. The Big Apple is a common theme in his "Etches", as it is with many artists. This image (above) was the artist's first serious attempt at a full, completed piece, and this image was based on the view one gets from heading into or out of the city, looking north as the river cuts through Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. Most amazingly, this image was done without any source material, meaning Madden designed and executed this Etch purely from memory!
Empire State Building
His most ambitious work to date was a complete rendering of Times Square in New York City. It is important to remember that every centimeter of exact detail was made by spinning those two small knobs. There is no way to cheat, cut corners, or erase a mistake. One slip of his finger and the entire image could be ruined, and hours (if not days) of his time would be wasted. The next three images show the progression of his Time Square piece, giving you some insight into his astonishing skill as a draftsman, which rivals that of many other mainstream artists.
Times Square (Beginning Stages)
Times Square (Middle Stages)
And finally....He included more than twenty actual signs or Times Square ads in this Etch, which may be difficult to see unless you are looking at an enlarged view. How many can you spot?
Since his tool of choice is an Etch A Sketch, the question must be asked...how does he make them permanent? It would be quite inconvenient if he had to re-do thirty Etches every time he went to an exhibition across town on a bumpy road. When I asked him this key question, he explained that he drills small holes in the Etch A Sketch so the aluminum powder can be removed. Without the powder, shaking/erasing can't happen, and his Etches are saved for posterity. Due to the trial and error nature of the work, and the permanence of any mistake, some of these Etches take weeks to perfect. But when he finishes, Sydney, Chicago, or any other city he chooses has rarely looked so cool, or so small.
Sydney Opera House
Madden began his art with cityscapes, perhaps because the up/down, left/right style of Etch A Sketch lent itself to the natural lines of buildings, but he has gone far beyond that now. His most complex works may be of cities, but Madden has moved on to new challenges, like speed portraits on Facebook, recreations of famous masterpieces, scenes from nature, and even homages to Pop Art. His mastery of line, curvature, shading, and depth would be respected even if he was using a pencil and paper, but the fact that he creates such staggering work with such a limited instrument further highlights his artistic gifts.
Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus"
He started the business side of his art in Union Square doing portrait work or sketches for passers-by. Now, Madden has moved into the life of a full-time artist, and he is actively sought for commissioned pieces, as well as for entertainment at parties and various events. Last week, he also began an East Coast Tour in Connecticut and New York where fans can see his work up close, and even purchase some commissioned portraits or merchandise from this Etch A Sketch master. See the full schedule of his tour here.
Check out all of Bryan Madden's Extraordinary Etchings at Etch City Art!
Do you dig the weirder side of the art world? Follow me for every update on Art Outside The Lines.
All images are subject to copyright by the artist.