A Very Large Collection of Very Small Portraits, a gallery show by Molly Steinmetz, opens at Pinecone + Chickadee tonight (it’s First Friday!) and will hang there throughout the month. Steinmetz, a Portland-based illustrator, drew portraits of over 300 of her Facebook and Instagram friends. The endeavor began as an extension of the #100daysproject (Steinmetz calling her iteration #100daysoffriends), which she details further below. You can check out her progress, and her other art, on her website.
I know that you were studying at MECA… Is that still the case?
No, I graduated in 2014.
Yes, I’ve transcended to the land of student loan debt.
Tell me about how this show came about.
I follow so many different artists on Instagram and someone had posted this Hundred Days Project (100daysproject). You pick something to do for 100 days and then you post it every day with that hashtag and one for the name of your project. My boyfriend had suggested that I draw my friends, doing a face every day. So I put all of my Facebook friends into a spreadsheet and giving them all a number and then I used a random number generator to pick a number and then I’d draw them. Afterwards, [Designer] Kris Johnsen had approached me and asked if I wanted to show my work [at Pinecone + Chickadee] and so I decided to be a crazy person and draw everybody else. It’s going to be 320 portraits.
It actually gave me a really good excuse to clean out my Facebook friends—people I don’t care about enough to draw.
That strikes as a monumental endeavor.
It’s actually the kind of project I’ve wanted to do for a long time and you can see pieces of it in my old sketchbooks. It seemed like a good excuse to fulfill that.
While you were drawing all of these people and then posting them online, how did people respond?
It’s crazy. It’s so much bigger than I expected it to be. Just yesterday I was in Starbucks downtown. It was toward closing time and one of the baristas was sweeping. She came up and was like, “I’m sorry to totally creep on you but I’ve been watching you draw these and they’re totally cute. I think I saw you had drawn this person three months ago and that’s totally cool.” You know, I’ll draw them and put them online and the person I’ve drawn will tag them and so all of these people I don’t know see it. People that I’ve drawn will say they feel so honored, and even though it’s totally random it’s nice they feel that way.
I feel like in this age where easy photography is ubiquitous, the way that photographs used to feel like a treat because they used to be labor and cost intensive, drawings are really nice. It’s nice to have another medium focus on you that’s not a passing experience. And they’re tangible. Tangibility seems to carry a lot of extra weight in the digital age.
I think that’s true.
Do you notice stuff about people you didn’t notice about them before?
Yes. [Laughs] I posted on Facebook the other day that I am sorry for all of the times I’ve thought, “Wow! You have a really weird face!” I’ve never before paid so much attention to the nose shapes of my friends.
NOTE: Here, by the way, is a picture of my shapely nose + weird face.
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Kris Johnsen