Think DrawSomething meets Facebook meets weird blind date and you’ll have a vague idea of what Selfless Portratits are. I say vague, as it’s hard to define- the app is still in its infancy so what you see now might evolve into something completely different. The basic premise is that you login via Facebook and agree to draw a picture of someone else.
They could be anywhere in the world, and you get a glimpse of their Facebook Profile photo and need to create an artistic replica within 48 hours. In return, someone, somewhere will do the same for you- but likely not the person you’re sketching. It’s a pass it forward system – if you fail to upload your Dali-esque stylings, then your subject gets assigned another artists and you lose out on seeing someone else interpret that cheesy selfie you’re currently so proud of.
I wasn’t very keen that I had to give the app permission to post on my behalf – when I opted out of that during sign in it refused to let me play. Once I’d sulkily agreed (this is a constant problem with ALL Facebook apps, I’m not singling out Selfless Portraits) I got to choose which of my profile photos I wanted a picture of, and then I got to see my ‘match’, a girl named Kaiya. They let me download her image , and informed me that I needed upload a drawing of her within 48 hours to receive my portrait. I am allowed to do anything though- pencils, paints, sequins, and they’ll accept a cellphone photo upload as a submission.
It’s a pretty surreal concept, and it’s interesting to browse through the galley of created works on the Selfless Portraits site. Portraits range from stunning watercolors and multimedia mashups to pencil drawings and ones that look like the artist was ten years old/ drunk. You can narrow down the gallery selection by country participants and artists are from as well.
I submitted on Saturday, and impatiently waited around three weeks to get my image back. I was so frustrated I even submitted TWO portraits to up my chances, and contacted the help desk. Their help desk says that it can take a couple of days to get it- if one artists flakes out, you get assigned another one, so that explains the wait, though three weeks seemed pretty excessive.
Here was my portrait.
Hmm, not so worth waiting for. Oh well.
Selfless Portraits is crated by Jeff Greenspan and Ivan Cash (who both have impressive portfolios of equally cool and quirky projects). They describe it as ‘ a collaborative art project aiming to bridge the gap between technology and humanity by encouraging small, creative gestures between strangers across the globe.’ That’s not a bad summation – if a little wordy, and I do love the idea that by doing something nice for a stranger, you then get some karma back. OK, maybe I should have spent a little more time on my drawing, but there’s always next time – they let you submit and play as many times as you like.