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An Itch to Etch

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THINK YOU CAN DRAW A FACE ON AN Etch-A-Sketch? A face that looks like a face? Well, George Vlosich III can—and much, much more. Patiently manipulating those little white plastic knobs, he can capture Cleveland Indian catcher Sandy Alomar’s big, round eyes, the young Muhammad Ali’s corrugated muscles and Michael Jordan’s soaring grace. The Etch-A-Sketch may be a kid’s toy, but in the hands of Vlosich, 18, it’s an instrument of art.

So masterful are Vlosich’s sketches of his sports heroes that his detail-rich originals, which can take up to 50 hours to complete, fetch as much as $3,000, and the Topps baseball card company is paying him to portray 10 major leaguers for its 1998 line.

Vlosich, who lives in Lakewood, Ohio, isn’t the kind of artist who broods over his work. “It kind of comes naturally,” says the first-year Cleveland Institute of Art student, who preserves his creations by opening the toy, removing the excess aluminum powder and gluing the back on, thus fixing the image on the screen.

Vlosich originally etched just to get to meet his favorite athletes; now, some of them are his biggest fans. “I can’t even make four squares [with an Etch-A-Sketch],” says Alomar, whose signed Vlosich sits alongside his 1990 Rookie of the Year award.

The son of an advertising executive and a grade school teacher, Vlosich discovered his medium at age 9 when he brought along an Etch-A-Sketch to occupy him on a car trip to Washington. After George rendered the U.S. Capitol true-to-life, says his mother, Gloria, “We pulled into a gas station and took a picture.”

The artist doesn’t expect his drawings to end up in museums, but he can dream. “It would be neat,” he admits, “to hear people say, ‘That’s a George Vlosich.’ ”