Doodling on TP for a Good Cause: or Why I Shouldn’t Drink While Drawing

Answering the Call: Art for a Good Cause

So last week, browsing the interwebs, I saw a call for artists to donate art for an upcoming auction to support Buncombe County Schools. (That’s the county that Asheville is in, for all my far-flung friends.) I donate art to several auctions each year, and when I clicked on this one, I saw “CALL TO DOODLE” and “TOILET PAPER ART” and thought, Okay, this is interesting. I read the description: draw on up to 3 squares of toilet paper, name your pieces, drop in the mail to donate. I thought: “Oh, cool. Doodle on toilet paper. I can doodle! I like to doodle. Done!”

I wasn’t sure how all of these squares of toilet paper would be auctioned, and part of me thought that maybe all of them would be sold in a bundle, the way some print portfolios are sold. I imagined someone making an enclosure for all of these little squares of art, and wondered: how would the buyer display them? In a quilt-like fashion on the wall? Would this end up in a special collections library? How long would these survive?

Because this auction would benefit local school art programs, this was a no-brainer. I had no idea what I would draw on toilet paper, but I figured I’d think of something as the deadline approached. A couple of nights later, I sat down with my pens and sharpies and three squares of toilet paper, and started doodling. I’ve been trying to keep up my practice of drawing every day, even if it’s just for an hour. Sometimes that drawing time is for a cartoon for a friend, or a freelance project, but sometimes it’s just to calm down and relax and do something that isn’t “work”— you know, with high stakes and a deadline.

I sat down that night to doodle and relax, and draw whatever popped into my mind first. I drew some cute-ish animals, like I generally do by default, and thought, “Done! That was fun. I’ve never drawn on TP before. Experimentation with new medium achieved.” I snapped some photos for the entry form, put my squares in a protective plastic sleeve, and dropped then in the mail to Asheville.

Sidebar: it’s kinda hard to draw on TP. I figured it would be, and chose my pens with the softest tips. Still, it wasn’t easy. But I thought: DOODLE. Low stakes. Have fun. The drawings were cute, and I had some lighthearted activity time, and just went with the flow of what my pens would do. I didn’t even think about paint, or charcoal, or any other media (WHY NOT, LAUREN??), and just thought “Doodle. They said doodle.”

Girl, Put Your Glasses On

They did not say “Doodle.”

The day the auction went live (May 15), I got an email from Laura Mitchell, the wonderful lady who organized this event, and there was a link to the live auction (you can bid online until May 23, so go check it out!). I clicked on the link to see everyone’s doodle drawings, and y’all there are some gorgeous pieces of TP on that page. There are legit painted squares, and mixed media pieces, and charcoal. There are tiny portraits, landscapes, and even some 3-D collage. As I scrolled through them, I thought, “Dang, these people doodle like rock stars.” Mine look like something I drew on a cocktail napkin while I was bored and somewhat hammered at a party.

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And then I saw the headline, in a bigger, bolder font. It did not say “Call to DOODLE.” The auction was titled “CALL TO DOODIE.” Which is really, so much funnier, because who doesn’t love a good art / TP / toilet humor pun. But somehow I missed that when I found the initial call. Maybe it was the font. Maybe it was because it was after 10 p.m. and I was drinking a big glass of shiraz. Maybe it was because I didn’t have my glasses on.

The point is, I felt a little crummy because I would have spent more time on these if I’d read a little closer. I wouldn’t have doodled goofy cats. I might have tried a little harder, and made something that didn’t feel so ephemeral. But then, how long will a square of TP last? (When you see some of these, believe me, you’ll want to devise a way to make them last, like sandwich them between sheets of plexiglas in an airtight frame, or preserve them in amber or glass.)

What Does Last

I know the point here is the AUCTION part of all this. It’s that there are over 120 little squares of art in this auction, and it’s that a whole bunch of artists came together to draw and paint and create for a good cause, and it’s that a whole passel of gracious people have already placed their bids and will be helping kids in Buncombe County. The point is not what you draw on these little squares, but why you draw on them, and why you bid on them, and why you dream up an idea like this auction anyway: because you want to do something kind and meaningful that benefits someone else. And heaven knows we need all of that we can get right now.

Still, I’m a little embarrassed. As I was writing this post, my fella peeked over my shoulder and glimpsed the photo of my cat on the TP square and emitted a very masculine squeal of joy and called it “adorable.” To which I said, “Wait, wait. There’s more. Let me tell you about this auction and why I shouldn’t be allowed to drink and draw.”

By the end of the story, he was crying with laughter. An hour later, he’s still chuckling, mumbling “Call to Doodie” to himself. So maybe someone else out there will get a little kick out of this kitty, too. More importantly, it’ll do a little good for the kids in Buncombe County.

Want to check out the auction? Of course you do! There really are some amazing pieces in there, and the wide variety is something to see. Place your bids online until May 23. And to everyone who organized this auction, drew on squares, catalogued our TP and placed their bids: y’all are all rock stars, and you’re going to make a bunch of kids really happy.