The Canvas

Think broadly about the idea of a "canvas", something you would do art on. IT could be an actual canvas, a board, a piece of paper, the side of a building, a boxcar in a rail yard, any blank slate. I have this theory that sometimes the canvas matters more than others. For example, I was invited recently to contribute to a project--a creative collaboration. It is a book that will pass from artist to artist, creative to creative, and each person will make an entry of sorts. This canvas matters. I didn't want to make a mess of it. I thought about trying a sketch, or maybe a watercolor, but decided to write something. This is what I wrote:

DOES THE CANVAS MATTER? Maybe it shouldn't but it does. When I was handed this book, this "creative collaboration", I thought, "I'm not worthy", especially for page two, right behind one of Molly Hennesy's wonder-full drawings. This canvas matters; for some reason.

There was a day when we got our coffee at diners in heavy porcelain mugs. Maybe we would have a piece of pie from the lighted display case. We occupied our hands and minds (at some semi-conscious level) by doodling on a napkin. Now we get it at Starbucks® in a paper cup while diddling on a smart phone.

Photo by nano/iStock / Getty Images

Were those paper napkins potentially a valuable canvas: where dreams were sketched, where a poem was written, where a song lyric was begun, where a young girl tried out the surname of her current boyfriend paired with her first name?

Not long ago, my Amazing-Missus was visiting with a sister-in-law of Woody Guthrie. YES, that Woody Guthrie. We were in Tulsa for the grand opening of the Woody Guthrie Center. Woody's sister-in-law was telling how Woody would come to visit and was constantly writing on little scraps of paper, like the backs of envelopes. She said that when he would leave, she would gather them all up and throw them in the trash. She had no idea that at some time people would buy tickets to come to a museum to see scraps of paper like the one where he wrote the lyrics to "This Land Is Your Land."

Writing in my own journals can be cathartic for me, but the paper in that journal, the pen and ink used to write the entry, and even the words themselves don't have much value to anyone else. But sometimes, if I'm writing for something like this book, I'm more careful of the choice of words, my penmanship, and the message. It's because, to me at least, the canvas matters; sometimes.

Think about this: if I asked you to write a word on a napkin while we were sitting in a diner having coffee and pie, what word would you write? Now if I said, if you'll choose a word to have tattooed on your body, I'll pay for the tattoo. What word would you choose.

Diner napkin. Your own human flesh. Does the canvas matter?

If you would like to keep up with this project, there is a page on Facebook® SKETCHBOOK CREATIVE COLLAB.