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Social Portraits: Where social media meets artistry

By Vanessa Rotondo on March 9, 2016

A face can tell a thousand words – an old adage that captures the panoramic landscape of portraiture, expression, personality and mood.

For Ottawa artist and graphic designer Mark Stephenson, merging the two worlds of portraits and online communication to build community forms the heart of his newest project, Social Portraits.

His Kickstarter campaign launched in February 2016 and has already raised more than his expected goal. The funds will go towards creating 100 custom 11in x 11in paneled, oil-based portraits of individuals who back the project. Mark will get to know his subjects by exploring the pictures on their social media platforms and selecting one particular picture that most speaks to the overall sense of persona that is being portrayed.

“The series is now starting to extend past my own social network,” Mark explains. “This is great news and I’m so excited to get to know these people and the new dimension they will bring into the series. I’ll be looking for patterns to seek out that image that best represents their carefully crafted online persona.”  A process that significantly strays from traditional in-studio painting from life.

His setup is easy: an easel, oil paint, ipad and a parallel palette. Armed with a brush and his free flowing artistry, Mark can paint a unique piece of portraiture from anywhere between two to six hours using his lens as the only filter necessary. As each portrait is completed he will be posting it on his Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Ello platforms using the #socialportraits hashtag. Whether an “epic selfie, perfect angle, big moment or the morning after” pic, Mark is all over it.

Mark painting Social Portrait 014 Justy at the Art Studio Fair. Photo from his Kickstarter campaign page.

Mark painting Social Portrait 014 Justy at the Art Studio Fair. Photo from his Kickstarter campaign page.

The real beauty behind this project lies in its ability to bring people together from online to in person communities. Once Mark has painted the last of his projected 100 head counts, he plans on hosting a show that will display a community of social portraits in a space where all his backers can engage in real-time space, conversation and digital fun.

You can be part of this project too! Check out the Kickstarter campaign and see which one of the reward options works best for you. By signing up you can select exactly how you would like to contribute to the series. The perks start from as low as $10 and can serve as a great gifting idea for the special artist in your life.

For more information, check out Mark’s website and social media feeds. The Kickstarter campaign ends on March 21, 2016 so don’t wait too long to get painted!