Friday, February 20, 2009

Narcissist? Nah!

I read an interesting article in The New York Times yesterday by Laura M. Holson. All about painted portraits in Hollywood-land and the movie stars that don't like to admit they have them. The timing of this article is a bit ironic since the group just hit 2,000 members willing (some clammering, some along for the ride) to have their portrait painted!
Matt was talking to someone in the MSM yesterday about the project asking why he chooses certain pictures over others to paint and then asked if Angelina Jolie joined the group, would he paint her? He promptly replied, "NO!" (at least not for free, and not for part of this project). If you read the statement about the project, the point of it is, in part, to erase the idea that a classic style of portraiture be made available only to the social elite - those who can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a painting.
Holson says that the artists she spoke to say "even in this economic downturn...people's interest in having their portraits painted has not waned." Should this surprise us? "Yet like many things in Hollywood, the choice of painter is often dictated by social connections." Hmmm, social connections? Facebook? Nah, probably not! It happens in social elite circles, highly unlikely to occur online. However, it's occurred to me as I was reading, that this project mirrors that same process - only in cyberspace.
The big difference is, I totally disagree that having a self-portrait done, whether paid for or not, is a sign of ones' self-importance. I don't think a little vanity is a bad thing. We take pictures constantly of our kids, ourselves, our family, our friends as a way to capture memories, to reflect on times past. If there is some time in your life that is so special, so important, so fun, why not capture it on canvas and hang it in your living room? Why not have an artist render his own interpretation of the "who" of you? Why not love that?
In this modern age, we are constantly barraged with visions of what women and men should look like, that we spend less and less time appreciating what we do look like. I think practicing a little more vanity would be good for all of us!

Friday, February 13, 2009


Just less than three months ago, my wife and I were going through profile pictures of our friends asking them if they would let me paint certain photos. My wife had the idea of putting up the facebook group so our friends could join, and then hopefully to expand the group via friends of friends, a larger base of images to paint. I never thought it would catch on in such a way, and for this project to have received the attention it has, is a dream come true.
What's been really interesting is watching, with each new piece of press, the different kinds of people join in. Hipsters, socialite's, arty-types, moms, artists, techy's, etc. It's certainly fun to go through the profiles and experience a bit of each of their lives to a certain extent. It's been nice chatting with those that are brave enough to start up a chat with me, and while I can't spend to much with them, I certainly appreciate the kind words.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


1) How do you choose which picture to paint as a portrait?
This is a very good question, but certainly not the easiest or most straight forward one to answer. Please take a look at the gallery and you will get a general idea of what I look for. As a rule, though, no cats, no dogs, no kids. Just the individual and maybe a prop - like a banana, or hat, or cigarette. Also, as this group grows larger and larger, I will probably only be going in depth to those profile pictures currently up that catch my eye and make me want to take a closer look.

2) Are these paintings for sale?
Of course! Baby needs diapers and we all need to eat, right? If you are seriously interested, contact me via email at and we can discuss details. I would just ask that you be open to loaning the piece for exhibition when the time comes.

3) If you paint my painting, can I use the image for the back of my self-published book?

This is the general Copyright disclaimer for all the pieces of the collection:
Copyright 2009 Matt Held and Held Studios. All rights reserved. Image recipients have been granted a non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use the copyrighted image for personal use only. Any other use of the image or derivations thereof, including any commercial use, without explicit written consent from the copyright owner is strictly prohibited.

Can you use it as your profile image for facebook, twitter, tumblr, flickr, myspace? Absolutely! If you want to use if for something else, we can talk, thanks!

4) I just joined your group, when will my portrait be done?
I can't make any guarantees as to when/if I will get your painting done. At this point, we have an intern to help with admin stuff. And, if I get to the point where I can hire an assistant, it will go faster. The more time I can spend in the studio, the better chances of me getting to yours. We’ve yet to make any money on the portraits and the only income coming in to this house is enough to pay the rent and put food in the cupboards for a family of four. That said, if you are just dying to have a family photo painted, I am happy to talk with you about arranging a commission outside the scope of this project.

5) You haven't added me as a friend yet. Why not?
My wife and I usually try to spend about an hour or so in the evening, getting caught up on admin stuff that I haven't been able to get to during the day, so my apologies if I haven't added you. She works full-time and I also have two kids to chase after when I am not in the studio. If I haven't gotten to you yet, please save me the time and add me after you join the group. That way I can just confirm you and that part is taken care of.

You can read about project announcements, thoughts, and general direction of the project on this blog.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Approval Matrix

I did a happy dance today...maybe a more nervous dance and then shit myself backwards after seeing "Angie" on New York Magazine's Approval Matrix February 16, 2009 edition.
And thanks to Caroline for this on the Daily Marauder.
Now for my next act...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Good Press

Yesterday was a really great day for this project! Sharon Butler had posted a nice piece on Two Coats of Paint about a week ago and yesterday, Tyler Green gave it first mention on his blog, Modern Art Notes, and New Curator (Mr/Mrs? anonymous) plugged the project in a post on New Curator! We saw a huge bump in member numbers and then Paddy Johnson did a nice little feature on Art Fag City this morning with Shawn Zieger's painting front and center. I couldn't be more pleased with the attention this project is getting and as such have another announcement:
I'll be speaking at the Brooklyn Art Museum on Saturday, March 7th, as part of 1stFans. It's a fun new membership program, check it out and join. $20 a year for a membership that gives exclusive artist content to it's members via twitter, Target 1st Saturdays, facebook and Flickr is a screaming deal I think. I am just a huge fan of supporting the arts in any way possible.
The group is nearing 500 members and I think I need an intern. Any takers?