Interlude: an Elegy to Microsoft Paint


No recipe this week, but an important update.

Microsoft took its standard-issue drawing program, Paint, off life support this week, indicating the program would be removed in a forthcoming Windows Creators update.

We took this news especially hard, as we depend on Paint to bring you lazily meme-ified editions of our terrible food photography. Liz wrote this short elegy in response.


I loved everything creative as a kid—writing, singing, acting, dancing, playing the Harry Potter theme song on my sixth-grade saxophone. I pursued them with the ruthless ambition of a Pokemon trainer. 

But art class was more frustrating than fun. I had all these weird ideas tumbling around in my head, but nothing came out on paper the way I'd pictured.


I tried. Believe me, I tried. But I didn't get much better over the years. 

My ineptitude—and attendant insecurity—followed me to college. The drafting assignments in my Stagecraft: Scenery and Lights class took me hours longer than my classmates and frustrated me to tears.

Even when I had rules to follow and straight edges to use, I still couldn't make my hands do what my brain wanted them to. 


But when memes became ubiquitous, I found MS Paint.

And fell in love.jpg.

Paint was perfect for the kind of charming, childish images that made the front page of the internet. Which turned out to be perfect for the crude, noodle-y glyphs I'd been churning out all along.

The more low-effort something looked—the more artifacting or .jpg rot an image had—the funnier it seemed.


In grad school, I had access to a free version of Adobe Photoshop and tried to teach myself to use it.

I was excited at first. For the first time, I wouldn't have to go through a needless chain of work-arounds for basic image manipulation. There was a designated tool for everything!

...but after a while, the insecurity came back. I started to feel like a thin-necked kid driving a Ferrari to the grocery store. I wasn't making anything complicated enough to merit all the custom features and bells and whistles—they just got in the way. 

Plus, I got twice as frustrated when tools didn't work the way I wanted them to. 


So when we started this blog, I went back to Paint. Even though it took three times as long to do simple things like tilt an image on its axis ("skew image," anyone?). Even though my drawings looked as though they had been created by a feral child with detached retinas. 

 With Paint, there seemed to be an understanding: none of this was to be taken seriously. If the image looked crappy, who cared? That was the point.

Plus, all I really needed to do was add toony cans of Hamm's to a murky iPhone photo backdrop. 


I know a lot of folks aren't fans of irony in art, and I get that. 

But Paint has always been less about irony for me and more about clumsy nostalgia—for that benighted, pre-internet age when digital drawing was just something you did on your dad's phonebook-thick laptop to break up the monotony of bloatware pinball. 

I guess what I'm saying is: thanks for never judging me, Paint. Thanks for teaching me to listen to Sheryl Sandberg and lean into being a big sack of crap. 


All panels created in MS Paint (obviously). 

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