Our Back Pages: Color Your World Conway

With full-blown fall coming on, nature will again be ablaze in its otherworldly vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges. As Doll, my sun-worshipping great aunt by marriage, says about fall (and spring and winter), “I’ll see ya. You can have it, man. No way. That ain’t for me. I don’t need it.”

Why? Because thanks to Microsoft—and their decision this past summer not to kill its practical and beloved little application after all—I’ll always have plenty of super-vibrant hues, tones, and shades to get down with all year long in the trusty little MS Paint box inside my desktop Dell.

As a fan of no-frills everything, from automobiles and media players to condiments and clothing, I don’t hesitate to say I fell in love with lo-fi little MS Paint at first use. From the moment I realized that a digital version of Scotch tape, scissors, and construction paper existed, I was in love.

Now I’m not what you might call, um, an early adopter. MS Paint is as old as VH-1 and Motley Crue’s Theatre of Pain album—that is to say it’s been around since 1985. My introduction came about one crisp and bright autumn morning in 2014. (For me, computers have mostly just been word processors.)

While clacking away at my Dell at my copywriting post, I stumbled upon the intuitive, ingenious, and humble computer application—thanks to what I can describe only as a sheer atavistic urge to express myself. Or more likely that morning, I just needed a way to crudely paint an imaginary quote about fried food on a borrowed digital image of a man whose mama called him Harold Lloyd Jenkins.

Check it out.


For reasons I cannot recall from that beautiful September morning, I was going on about cheeseball country singers while the millennial art and design staffers looked at me like I was a Golden Buckeye geezer alien. My soliloquy about cornball country naturally led to the king of permed country cornballs, Conway Twitty. “Who?” my millennial pals asked. “Who? By God, I’ll show you who.” I Googled “Conway Twitty album covers” to prove to said millennials that a man named Conway actually did at one time not so long ago run the mic and ransack the buffets from Biloxi to Branson.

“See,” I said to coworkers who deigned to look at image of Twitty in a sleazy V-neck sweater on the cover of 1980’s Heart & Soul, “I’m not lying. Look at that gut. Does he care that he has a gut made of pork sausage and buttermilk biscuits? He does not. Is he singing love songs to a summer sausage or a woman? Who knows? Who cares? Doesn’t this album cover look like it took about five minutes to dream up and execute? You people could learn a thing or two about that, you sticklers for kerning and whatnot. Is Conway Twitty not the most magnificent specimen thine eyes have ever seen? Would you like to hear I Can’t See Me Without You or Tight Fittin’ Jeans or I’ve Already Loved You in My Mind now?”

Undeterred in my attempt to impress these young professional artists, I spent the next few days paying tribute to Twitty my way—the MS Paint way. I filled their email inboxes with my digital cut-and-paste outsider artwork, laughing all the while as I imagined Twitty singing I See The Want To In Your Eyes not to a woman, but a heaping pile of sloppy-ass baked steak, gravy, and mashed spuds.

Working with those so-easy-a-baby-could-do-it brushes, pencils, and calligraphy pens from my MS Paint tool kit, I painted backgrounds and scrawled imaginary Southern comfort food banter faster than Twitty probably ever said, “Gimme another chicken fried steak, darlin.’” (Actually, probably much faster. Twitty’s pulse didn’t run too fast because they say he actually had a chicken fried steak for a heart.)

As I plied my craft, I realized that MS Paint not only provided me an outlet for my passion of spreading the Twitty gospel, but it also gave me a means of meditation and brain calisthenics. Like doodling to let your mind go, which can let those creative ideas right in, MS Painting Twitty backgrounds with the intuitive Microsoft application’s tools became my means of stoking the ol’ creative fires every morning before I settled into the copywriting that I was paid to do.

So this fall, budding outsider artists, if you’re hankering for some new inspiration, look in the most likely place: your MS Paint tool box.