Joachim Sputnik Paints Facebook One Profile at a Time [Gallery]

By Nilina Mason-Campbell

Since 2011, Swiss artist Joachim Sputnik (otherwise known as Jonas Baumann) has been creating hyper colorful renderings of people’s Facebook default photos. How does he cull such subjects? Originally by way of friend requests sent to his profile and now via likes on his project’s official page In Your Face Book. From a fabled beginning on the streets of Tel Aviv, Sputnik’s paintings have evolved to include an algorithmic high-tech method for selecting his subjects. The Basel-based artist spends eight hours per day painting and enjoys portraying subjects such as laser cats in addition to his Facebook themed portraits. He recently published a physical book of his paintings including not only his Facebook depictions as well as other original works of art created by him. Now the 28-year-old pulls back the curtain, giving us the details on his ongoing venture and shares where it has taken him.

How did you initially come up with the idea?
Joachim Sputnik: In the streets of Tel Aviv suddenly an old man came up to me. He told me that he wished that there was some kind of analog Facebook for people like him to connect with others. I was very intrigued by the idea of an analog Facebook where pictures are actual handcrafted paintings. That’s how it all started.

What attracts you to the profile pics that you choose to paint?
Nothing. It’s completely random. A friend of mine who’s a computer scientist made me a little app which I can feed with the names of people who like my page. So every time I want to paint a portrait I just push a button and it tells me who to paint next. Amazing!

How many friend requests do you get per day?
It depends. Not many after a bad painting.

How do you think most people find out about you? Seeing their friend’s profile get painted? Hearing about you online?
I think it’s a viral thing. You see your buddy being painted and want to find out why and who did it, so eventually you’ll land on my Facebook page.

How often do you paint a profile picture? Do you try to be on a certain schedule?
Now I do like one to five pieces a week. In the early days I did up to five a day.

What’s your painting/artistic background?
After I served two years in the Icelandic Coast Guard I quit and wanted to do something completely different. So I ended up with a major in visual arts.

What are some opportunities that have come your way via this project?
Facebook got in touch with me and ordered 14 paintings. Also some celebrities like America’s Next Top Model Allison Harvard wanted a painting. Best thing so far though is the guy who made a video on YouTube with him doing 100 pushups for getting painted. Oh and someone wanted me to design her gravestone… Seriously.

Tell us about the book.
Those guys from the publisher Hafenpiraten (Harbor Pirates) asked me if they could do a small book with some of my work. Now the book has 288 pages and not only containing Facebook paintings but also some of my earlier work from 2009 – 2012.