In quarantine she drew faraway places on a roll of toilet paper and it was 'like art therapy at its finest'
When Nethmie Hetti found herself without a sketchbook, she illustrated all 37 feet of a roll of toilet paper
In May of 2020, Montreal-based art director Nethmie Hetti was stuck inside for a mandatory 14-day quarantine after returning home from Australia. She realized that she didn't have a sketchbook or any canvases with her for making art. What she did have, though, was something she brought along from Australia that she heard was in short supply in Canada: a roll of toilet paper.
"I kind of turned toward the toilet paper roll and I was like, 'OK, I used to draw on napkins — maybe I can try this out.'
Hetti picked up her micron pen and started to draw on the toilet paper. "Something about the texture on (it) just really made the ink sit well where I didn't have to add too much pressure from my pen," she says. "It was like the perfect kind of interaction."
Unable to go anywhere, she drew intricate landscapes and cityscapes of the places she had visited when she was backpacking through Europe in 2017 and faraway places that she dreamed of visiting one day.
"I just remember drawing on one of the tiles and almost four or five hours passed and I had already done an entire strip, like three or four tiles," she says. "I just assumed like, 'Oh, maybe I could just do this and it'll be done within a month or two.' But basically it ended up becoming my entire pandemic project because it took so long."
Hetti filled the entire 37 foot roll with drawings. It took her over 300 days to complete — and ended up being an "extremely therapeutic" process.
"It just helped me take my mind off of a lot of things that I probably would have just kept over-thinking without having that distraction" she says. "There is that constant feeling of, 'OK, I'm accomplishing something here, even if it's just for me, right?' It just feels like you're doing it for yourself. And it was definitely like art therapy at its finest."
With the entire roll illustrated, Hetti calls the project "The Escape Roll," and has created an Instagram account dedicated to sharing the work. She's posted over 900 photos of the roll to the account giving Instagram users a bird's eye view of the entire 37 feet of unspooled drawings. She also shared the story behind the project in a YouTube video.
She's received positive feedback and heartfelt messages from people who have seen the project. But for her, the biggest takeaway is how much she can accomplish when she exercises self-discipline.
"When you actually let yourself create, and create it without the distractions around you, it's incredible what you can actually get done."