Arts·Video

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 continuous roll of toilet paper.

When Nethmie Hetti found herself without a sketchbook, she illustrated all 37 feet of a roll of toilet paper

In quarantine she drew faraway places on a roll of toilet paper and it was 'like art therapy at its finest'

3 months ago
0:47
When Nethmie Hetti found herself without a sketchbook, she illustrated all 37 feet of a continuous roll of toilet paper. 0:47

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."

Nethmie Hetti: "Some of the architecture was more difficult to feature than others. For example, drawing the Sagrada Família in Barcelona — that took me like a really long time to nail down because you go to these places and you see it and you remember how stunning it is, and then to translate that into a drawing on a toilet paper roll is a bit of a hard translation." (Nethmie Hetti)

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."

Why Nethmie Hetti started to draw Europe and places she wanted to visit on a roll of toilet paper

3 months ago
0:23
"I started to draw Europe by instinct." 0:23

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."

Nethmie Hetti with all 37 feet of her illustrated toilet roll, "The Escape Roll." (Nethmie Hetti)
Nethmie Hetti: "When you look up close, it almost just looks like scribbles and then from far it starts to create like the macro image." (Nethmie Hetti)
Nethmie Hetti: "When you reach the cardboard, that's the end. But it was so frustrating at some points because I'm doing this day after day after day and it's like, 'OK, there's still so much left to go.' It was definitely a challenge." (Nethmie Hetti)

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