Choosing a favorite childhood toy was incredibly difficult, since I absolutely loved all my toys as a kid and still love the ones I’ve acquired as an adult. But thinking back, I just kept remembering how a single marble used to provide me with hours of entertainment. I know this sounds weird, but it wasn’t just the marble. It was the elaborate contraptions I used to build out of anything I could find so I could watch the marble spin, roll, and whoosh its way through gutters, holes and tunnels. This type of rolling ball sculpture is also referring to as a marble run, or the even cooler name of gravitram. Though people are making rather elegant sculptures, little Charlie would make them out of bizarre mix of duct tape, Lincoln Logs, old board game pieces, and empty toliet paper rolls. In a word, hideous. But aesthetic was not the primary goal.
Today, the beautiful solutions many serious enthusiasts create are called kinetic art. The tallest rolling ball sculpture in the world is said to be Energy Machine, located in the Hong Kong Science Museum, which measures 22 meters tall (72 ft). I’ve never seen it, but I’m sure I would be mesmerized for hours. While other kids were playing with race car tracks, I was content with my little marble. Cars always seemed too advantaged with their four wheels to propel them. It always felt more magical to me seeing what a tiny little orb of glass could do. Shooting and rolling down chutes and jumping tracks to land safely at the bottom of whatever weird thing I built to make it happen.
I’ve never lost this fascination with perpetual motion and things that spin. Equally, I’ve never lost the need to create something out of whatever is sitting in front of me. I didn’t consider myself an artist back then. It wasn’t a word that ever came up in reference to me. Likely because toilet paper tubes and duct tape are not particularly beautiful. But what they made happen was beautiful to me. And it was the first time I experienced what I would later define as passion. That strong will to do something that overtakes you to the point that you get lost in the doing. Nothing matters in that wondrous time. Whether you’re holding a paint brush or you’re just a little boy with nothing more than a dream of a wonderful invention, built around the simple love of one tiny little marble.
About the Doodlewash
M. Graham Watercolors: Azo Orange, Pyrrol Red, Permanent Green Pale, Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Teal, and Ultramarine Blue. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon blue ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal.
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Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!