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Brooklyn artist Matt Held paints Facebook portraits
The project to build a large collection of paintings which mirror individual self-portraits
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Brooklyn artist Matt Held is not famous, and his biggest art show to date was in a tattoo parlor. Yet strangers around the world are clamoring to be painted by him.

Held, 37, who lives in Windsor Terrace, was lacking ideas for his latest creative venture when he found inspiration on Facebook.

It began when he painted a portrait of his wife using her profile picture, then he turned to a couple of friends.

Now more than 2,000 people have asked to be his pal on the social networking site after he set up a group called: 'I'll have my Facebook portrait painted by Matt Held.'

'I was hoping to get about 40 people,' a bemused Held said.

'Now it's all over the world, I've had requests from people in South Africa, Singapore, China, Germany, Jerusalem,' he added.

Held has a target of 200 portraits and hopes to find space to display the best, or ideally all, of them when the project is complete.

He has just finished his 31st and says the creative juices are undoubtedly flowing.

'Yes, it has cured the painter's block,' joked the dad of two.

'I have had absolutely no success before this ... Now it's just this insane amount of people wanting portraits from me.

'I've had three independent commissions now, too.'

Held asks all his wannabe subjects to join the group and befriend him, so he can look at their full profile and photos to get a better sense of their personality.

He chooses randomly but has a few rules: no children and no pets. The occasional small prop will do.

Held also promises to email everyone a jpeg of his finished product, and they have first dibs on buying the original.

But as for why his group has generated so much interest, he has no clue.

'I guess there's not many laymen out there that can afford to get their portrait painted,' he said.

'Portraiture was always for the elite, for the rich ... I'm offering to give people the photo for free and to be part of this larger project.'

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