Wax Crayolas and the Scent of Art

who Crayola-64 crop 482
Original photo by Kurt Baty

Crayola crayons helped start me on the path to being an artist.

When I was 5 had the chunky box of 48 Crayola crayons. I recall the feel of the paper under my fingers, the drag against the tooth of the manila paper as the crayon left it’s indelible trail, and the wonderful smell of the wax. (If I could, I’d put a scratch and sniff patch here so you could appreciate what I mean!)

I had my favorites. Periwinkle was one. The name was almost yummier than the color.

My friends would peel off the paper right away and break them, but I never did that until the crayon was worn down so far that the paper begged for peeling. By then you were no longer using the original box and had all the pieces in a cigar box instead.

The year I started first grade Binney & Smith came out with the big box of 64 with the built-in sharpener in back. It was so exciting. I developed Crayola envy as I watched the student next to me who had the big box. I begged my mother to get me one. They were structured on platforms in four boxes like people standing on football bleachers, so it was easy to pick the colors you wanted.

1st box of 64 released in 1958. Photo by Kurt Baty
1st box of 64 released in 1958. Photo by Kurt Baty

I remember at the age of 5 it was already important to my friends and me to “get” your colors. That is, to understand the differences between colors. I always sorted mine by color family and chroma.  I knew all the names, which helped – Blue-Green, Green, Green-Yellow… It gave me a basic understanding of the color wheel – kinda.

Plastic Crayola markers are just not as romantic. Sure they have a smell – but it’s probably not good for you! It’s just not the same.  They may have their own romance, but not for me. In fact 14 million wax crayons are still produced daily (3 billion annually), so someone at least, agrees with me.

Photo used with permission from Que Interesante!

Now you can get labels to put on your crayons which have the actual name of the chemical constituents. Perhaps if I’d had these as a child I would have done better in chemistry. You can buy them online for your kid’s (or your own) crayon sets here – Que interesante!

The scientist part of me thinks it’s interesting to know the components of pigments, especially of my preferred oil paints; to know what the minerals are, where they come from, and how they’re formulated into wax or paint. But my artist-self is still much more interested in names like Apricot, Dandelion, Melon and Periwinkle.

What are your favorite crayon memories and which were your favorite colors? Please add your voice to the comments.

If you’re a hard-core crayon addict, check out the Crayon Collecting site.


One Reply to “Wax Crayolas and the Scent of Art”

  1. jenni higginbotham says:

    That. Is. So. Cool.

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