Monday, June 14, 2010

Mr Sketch Scented Markers

There was nothing quite like fruit-scented marker sniffing to get the creative coloring time juices flowing. Sure, many of us ended up with an array of multicolored dots on the underside of our noses, but it was a minor price to pay for the sweet, sweet smell of cherries, lemons, and grapes. Our once neutral-smelling drawings were impressively transformed by Mr. Sketch, allowing us to create great aromatic works of art that bore olfactory resemblance to our supermarket produce sections. If you wanted to outline something in black, though, you had to be prepared to sniff at your own risk. Black licorice. Yech.

For a generation facing increasing concerns of huffing and household chemical abuse, it seems strange in retrospect that our parents and teachers once actively encouraged good old fashioned marker sniffing. Rubber cement and Sharpies were still no-nos, yet somehow these odoriferous drawing implements managed to fly quietly under the anxious anti-drug authority radar. Perhaps their non-toxicity played a role in their ubiquitous position on the parent-approved school supply list, but their addictive nature certainly likened them to the verboten.

There remains something sweetly (yes, sweetly--also pungently) naughty about inhaling these fruity marker smells. The markers held major kid appeal of color vibrancy alone, so the addition of a novel sensory stimulus was almost too much to handle. Imagine, you could now draw a lemon that smelled like a lemon. Was there no end to these incredible and undoubtedly necessary technological advances in school supplies? Forget pertinent socially conscious research on health and diseases--one sniff of these markers and I vowed to become a marker lab scientist.

The process of smellifying these markers remains a mystery to many of us former (excuse me, recovering) Mr. Sketch users. How exactly did this innovative marker producer squeeze that tantalizing aroma into this convenient tubular marker form? Is there some sort of fruit condensing machine? A scent extractor? While I still like to imagine a whimsical marker factory a la Dr. Seuss where colorfully-dressed workers load grapes and mangoes into shiny chrome machinery, from whose other end pops out perfectly apportioned scented markers.

In reality, the scentsational (scentsational! I'm on a roll!) smells of Mr. Sketch markers were purely chemical in nature. The giveaway? These art supplies smelled more strongly of fruit than actual fruit itself. It may not seem possible to get a more watermelony smell than that emanating from the fruit in the flesh (Flesh! Fruit! Puns!) but Mr. Sketch achieved the olfactorily impossible. Kudos, Mr. Sketch. You've out-fruited fruit.

Though not directly related to the quality of the fruity scents or ink quality, the name "Mr. Sketch" seems worth flagging as mildly suspicious. While it's clear the "Sketch" in "Mr. Sketch" refers to the art of drawing, the addition of the formal "Mr." title adds dubious implications about Mr. Sketch's credentials for spending long stretches of time with unsupervised children. Perhaps I'm just a cynic, but the name brings to mind images of disheveled trench-coat wearing men in windowless vans luring children from their playground activities with lollipops and Three Musketeers. While the unsavory (unsavory! These scent puns are out of control!) connotation is obviously not the intention of the Sanford company, it remains a bit troubling nonetheless. I don't have any children so perhaps I am not a reliable judge of caretaker quality, but I doubt I would let someone named "Mr. Sketch" interact with my children in their spare time. Just saying.


Fun-poking at the undeniably sketchy name aside, Mr. Sketch markers deserve recognition as a legitimate childhood phenomenon. These sets' ubiquitous presence in cubbies, art classrooms, backpacks, and playrooms made them a staple for the coloring-minded 90s child. Our parents and teachers knew these markers as veritable weapons in the war on our wavering attention spans; Mr. Sketch's deliciously fruity aroma could always occupy an otherwise cranky child in a pinch. Watermelon, lemon, cherries, and yes, even the ominously scented black licorice markers sufficiently won our limited juvenile focus.

Mr. Sketch allowed us to fixate on an unusual multitude of sensory stimuli: Sight, touch, smell, and for the not conventionally bright among us, taste. Thank goodness for non-toxicity. If our teachers, parents, and babysitters each had a nickel for every child who attempted to taste the fruity flavors of the rainbow by imprinting their tongues with the multi-hued slant tips of these markers, they would all be exceptionally rich individuals in their middle age. Instead, they will have to settle for the comforting knowledge that we at least did not poison ourselves with our curiosity. Not nickel per taste comforting, but it will have to do.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

First of all, I love black licorice, smell and taste! Secondly, light blue was, by far, the best smelling marker in the Mr. Sketch collection. And thirdly, every time I see these markers I'm reminded of a friend who had her own set. She drew a line down each slot in the styrofoam holder for each corresponding color and marker. You didn't dare put the wrong marker in the wrong color spot! Who knew 8 year olds could be so afflicted with OCD.

Hope Chella said...

oh yes!!!! amazing :)

Melanie's Randomness said...

One upon a time there was a time where every pre-school was high because of these markers. They were the best!!! I remember the Lemon one smelled the best!!

Sadako said...

I remember these! They were awesome.

Ken Kocses said...

Oh man, I rememebr the day I got these from Staples in '92 or '93, sometime around then. Black licorice sucked! Amazing that we all agree on that. So according to that picture, they make 18 colors? Wow what are the extra flavors? Personally, my favorite markers were the Pentel marker books: http://tinyurl.com/36bdw9q
I brought these to school, and they made me sooooo popular

Amanda said...

I was totally addicted to Mr. Sketch markers. They smelled just so darn good! I also did the same thing as Anonymous' friend with the styrofoam holder.

coulrophobic agnostic said...

I swear while I was reading this, I COULD SMELL THEM. Man, first grade was awesome - the first reading group called got to pick the first basket of markers, and the "smellies" were always the first gone. It helped that the scented ones were also the only fine-tipped markers in the place.

Breanne at Bella Vita said...

I had a box of them!! My art class had a surplus, so I was able to take a box home!! I loved it.

How are you so absolutely right on with your posts everyday? You amaze me! I love this blog. I usually post a link to at least one of your posts in my weekly round up "Things I Like" every Sunday.

Jenny said...

I loved the watermelon ones. =]

Jay Amabile said...

Fantastic post. I love Mr. Sketch! A while back I wrote a post about my love for the smelly markers as well. If you get a moment please check it out! http://thesexyarmpit.blogspot.com/2007/11/getting-high-with-mr-sketch.html

Mrs. B said...

Thank you for this post, it brings back a lot of memories of sniffing these in art class! Great blog :)

faster pussycat said...

Oh my gosh...as soon as I saw the first picture I immediately started smelling the watermelon scent!

Abhi said...

I remember the black licorice marker being the worst and how everyone tried to avoid them, brings back memories.

Janna said...

Ah, I forgot about these! We used to have them at summer camp and they smelled awesome.

vesperbeauty said...

The best part was when they used to come in the styrofoam container, and you drew a line on the foam so you knew where each color went.

Deathycat said...

Those were the coolest markers ever! And I agree with anonymouse, the light blue one smelled the best. I remember getting into a fight with someone back in third grade over these markers.

Michelle said...

As a teacher now, I still use these, though I try to prevent my students from sniffing them. I had 4th graders last year who would hold the paper up to their faces. They looked as ridiculous as we probably did.

David Vigil said...

We recently received a re-stocking inventory of Mr. Sketch Scented markers at School Supplies 365. Talk about a trip down memory lane.

Wolfgang said...

If you wanted to outline something in black, though, you had to be prepared to ... blackvanskids.blogspot.com

Unknown said...

No art class has a surplus. Teachers, especially art, have little to no budget. You jacked your teacher's markers. You need to donate to your school.

Kid Geek said...

No art class has a surplus. Teachers, especially art, have little to no budget. You jacked your teacher's markers. You need to donate to your school.

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