Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow fall

I love waking up to snow. It, I don't know, makes me feel nostalgic for my childhood and certainly brings a huge smile to my face when I see my kids enjoying it. Too bad the rain came and I am back inside, cleaning the house, trying to take a bit of a break from studio time to focus on the business end of this project.
I have reached a point where I would like to start connecting with people who would be interested in helping get this project into an exhibition space. It feels a bit foreign for me to talk about figurative painting in the conceptual sense; however, this is a conceptual project and talk about it I must.
Over the past few months, I feel a bit transformed as an artist/painter. Whereas in the past I felt each painting in a series should follow a cohesive theme, now, I feel being that kind of figurative painter can almost be a hindrance in today's art market (is there a market right now?). The world we live in is faced with a throng of activity - social, economical, cultural, technological, industrial, environmental. Throughout history, artists have always, consciously or unconsciously, made statements that are representative of their time. And so, to incorporate my artistic medium into this idea of an easily accessible community of people is quite a turn. For me, I think the most important thing is this concept of accessibility. The Internet and technology in general have made so many more things accessible to the general public that used to be limited to people who existed in higher economic classes. Considering I bend towards socialism, this project allows me to embrace the idea that everyone should be painted and memorialized. I can't necessarily paint everyone, but in the end, as a whole the collection will be more than the sum of its parts.
I will be uploading a few new paintings this weekend and working hard on getting them out of the studio and into the public space. I certainly hope that will be soon!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Last week was a bit challenging. I was able to finish two paintings but found myself a bit limited in being able to get into the studio. As a full-time artist and full-time dad, sometimes I have to be a bit flexible on either end. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do both with 110% gusto. When I am not in the studio or playing with a rattle, I am going through member profiles to see if anything new jumps out at me.
The group is now nearing 300 members, which is awesome! Having such a wealth of source material, for any artist, I think is more than what you could ask for. And the fact that the source - the internet - is constantly changing creates an interesting "living" aspect to it.
Someone asked me the other day why I would choose one person over another, given that I don't know most of these people, and I had to stop and think about. I guess, simply put, there are aspects of these people that I may or may not connect with. It would be difficult for me to paint someone - knowing just a few things about them from their info page and other things I can glean from their profile - who is completely opposite of me, voluntarily.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Good Things to Come

For those of you local to Brooklyn - stay tuned. I'll be doing a speaking engagement in early March. I'll release the details in early February, but I plan to bring a few paintings with me. It'll be pretty informal, and my first speaking engagement to date. Hopefully I don't throw up on anyone!
Also, I'll be posting two new pieces tomorrow if the clouds cooperate.
Hope the New Year is treating all of you well!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What do Morse Code and Twitter have in common?

Artist An Xiao gave Matt and this project a shot out on her blog the other day, and I just wanted to reciprocate. Check out her blog and recent project involving morse code, twitter, and the Brooklyn Art Museum when you get a chance.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Holy Moses!

I must say - the group hit 165 members today - I am stunned, and maybe a bit stressed. If I do my math right - I'll be busy into 2010. Amazing! I haven't set a goal for how many paintings I can/will actually complete. Is 100 a good number? 200?
I sat down last night and picked out the next 20 paintings. I could tell you each one of them, but it wouldn't make for much suspense and I gather from a few of you that you are watching closely. You'll just have to wait!

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Portraits

I was able to shoot two portraits today and post them up. What's interesting to me is - here I am painting people, some of whom I've never met before and painting them directly from a photograph that has popped out at me as being "the one" I want to paint. However, I tend to go through the individuals other posted photographs to get an idea of their true skin tone and other details that this particular photograph may miss, color of their eyes, hair color, etc. It becomes especially difficult if the photograph is low resolution or if it's from a camera phone (which typically distorts most colors). The challenge is fun to work through and while I may not get it right, there is a reason why I am drawn to the quirkiness of the pose or the inanimate prop or the washed out skin tone or the expression of the person at that moment in time. The finished portrait is part mirror image, part interpretation and judgment and I wonder, right or not, will they like it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I am almost finished with three new portraits. I am hoping to get a greyish day so that I can shoot them and post to the group and my website. Joelle is looking around for artists grants and work space grants that I could possibly qualify for - my little 10' X 6' studio is slowly becoming smaller and smaller. I might have to start giving away some of my old paintings...

If any of you have any ideas, please let me know!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

In the qeue

In less than a week, over 100 members have joined the Facebook group "I'll have my Facebook portrait painted by Matt Held". I have been going through each member's profile shots to see what may work for the project. I've also had some questions as to what I look for and while it's hard to formulate specific details as to why one gets chosen over another, you can look through the finished ones to get an idea of what I like. Essentially, clarity and quality of the photo are the most important, but on the basic content level, it is just the individual (no dogs, no kids). I have quite a few in qeue right now and will post the finished ones as they are completed.

10,000 hours

I started this project Thanksgiving weekend of 2008. I have painted the figure for years using old family photos or taking my own photos for source material. My wife had been playing around with our computer and took a picture of herself in iPhoto - her interpretation of what she looked like when she was angry - and posted it to her Facebook page. I loved the shot, decided to paint it and it hit me - what a wealth of source material Facebook could be.
Going through the profile shots of some of my friends I started thinking about what the posters' intent is with some of their photos. Choosing a certain photo to post is a form of control and self-preservation. However, whether it's a conscious or subconscious choice to choose a photo as a representation of your "self" is not something I intend to answer with this project. I do hope, though, that an examination of the subjects' character and moral quality will be part of the dialogue.
There is another piece to this project - the origin of how these people come into connection with me, the artist. Conceptually, the collection as a whole becomes a community of individual's that have opted to be memorialized, much in the same way the original commissioners of portrait painting - the rich and powerful - chose to. The why here is maybe a bit more obvious. As one new member put it so eloquently - "we are all just a little bit vain."

Most of the posts from here out will be posted by my wife - Joelle. Now that the group has hit over 100 members, and I have just finished the 14th portrait, I will be focusing solely on building the collection. Plus, she's better at formulating my thoughts than I am!