This woman has unwittingly sparked a social media craze of “paintception” after her son affectionately posted a picture of her work to the internet.
Following her second night of evening art classes, 55-year-old Cindi Decker sent her son a picture of herself proudly posing with her oil painting of an egret.
“This is only the second painting I have done,” said Decker. “I have gone to two art classes in my area designed to walk us through a painting and teach us while having fun.”
Decker’s son was so tickled by the photo, he posted it onto Reddit. Shortly after he published the picture, another user, Kristoffer Zetterstrand from Sweden, decided to paint his own picture depicting Decker holding the artwork as a joke.
Another Reddit user then painted a picture of Zetterstrand holding his image of Decker holding her image – and the craze kind of snowballed from there.
It has since proliferated into a global challenge, with an estimated 50 paintings of paintings within paintings that all originated from Decker’s egret.
Reddit users have even created diagrams and “family tree” of all the associated images and how they are related.
Decker, who is from Jacksonville, Florida, said she had no idea her son had even shared the picture online – let alone that her painting had become a viral sensation.
“I really had no idea what Reddit was. In fact, I am still learning. I thought my son was just showing his friends on Snapchat and later learned he posted it to Reddit.
“I’m not a big social media person, so I did not know what to expect – but it exceeded my expectations, in a good way.”
Decker says that people have been contacting her daily to say they’ve loved watching the paintings develop. Some people have even said that she has inspired them to start painting again.
“I have had a lot of thank-yous to all those that took the time to paint and draw themselves,” said Decker, who recently created a Reddit account in order to properly send her thank-you messages. “I am glad a little old bird from Florida brought some fun to others for a few days.
“I do have to give all the craziness to the first artist, Kristoffer Zetterstrand, for creating the movement. I do not know him, but boy did he start something fun!”
45-year-old Zetterstrand says that he only decided to paint Decker as practice doodle after he saw her photo on Reddit.
“I usually do a small ‘warmup’ painting when I get to the studio – and the motif usually isn’t that important,” says Zetterstrand. “I pick some photo off the internet or the paper. So this day I decided to do that photo just for fun [because] I thought it was cute.”
After he finished the painting a few hours later, he posted a picture of himself back on Reddit with the caption reading: “I painted somebody’s mom”.
His post took off shortly afterwards, getting hundreds of upvotes per minute – and he now estimates his picture has been seen by over a million people.
“When the first paintings of me dropped in, I realized I might have started something. I had no idea how big it would be,” he explained. “It’s a bit absurd to see a quick oil sketch that I did for fun completely blow all my serious work out of the water in terms of views – [but] I’m not complaining, it’s funny. Many have contacted me and told me that it made them genuinely happy.
“It’s touching, really,” he added. “I never intended this, but it’s really fun.”
19-year-old Canadian artist Laila Amer was the first to paint Zetterstrand holding his painting of Decker and her egret.
“Kristoffer’s painting was amazing, and the gesture was super cute, and I thought I could just join in on the fun and take it further,” she said. “It took about a whole day. I knew it was going to get attention cause it’s kinda funny, but I was surprised at the amount of paintings that came out of it!”
Didi, a 20-year-old graphic designer and animator from Sydney, then painted Amer holding her painting of Zetterstrand holding Decker’s – and her painting earned her much more than a few upvotes.
“I meant to spend my day applying for commission work but I felt like painting and I’m a bit of a procrastinator, so I spent my time caught up in this Reddit thread,” said Didi. “I was feeling like I kind of wasted my day, until I got a direct message on Reddit from someone who saw my post and needed graphic design work done.”
As a final cherry on top to the sweet story, Zetterstrand says that he has since spoken to Decker, and she loved his painting – which is why he says he will be sending it to her in Florida the second that the paint is dry.
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