THE BLOG

When Selfies and Draw Something Meet, It Can Get UGLY

28/07/2014 11:02 BST | Updated 24/09/2014 10:59 BST

I shove three frankfurters in my mouth and look bizarrely into my iPad's camera. Two taps later and my pork-filled selfie is at the mercy of a global band of artists. Come on then, do your wurst.

It sounds like I'm setting myself up for blackmail, but no. I'm an addict, and I'm addicted to French Girls. Before you come to your own debauched conclusions about that statement, let me clarify: French Girls is an iPhone app created by a team in Philadelphia. I spoke with Adam Ceresko, co-creator of the app about how the idea was conceived:

"The story behind how French Girls came to be is actually pretty interesting, and it happened in just 48 hours. Over a weekend hack-a-thon, my team and I wanted to build a brand-new app and submit it to the App Store. We loved the idea of building an app that was artistic-based, and it was a time when selfies were just starting to get hot. 48 hours later, we pushed the first version of French Girls to the App Store and it was born!"

The premise is simple. You take a selfie, it gets uploaded to the app, then other users paint you. Sometimes you'll get a lovely artist who lovingly spends over half an hour rendering your visage as a digital masterpiece. Other times you'll get a crudely drawn sketch of your hapless mug mutated into some sort of alien, a hideous caricature or (with fair regularity) a vague approximation of human genitalia. If you're lucky, you'll get all three.

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Source: French Girls

I've found myself become one of the latter artists, I take great pleasure in reducing men and women of all ages into disturbing, surreal and far from flattering portraits. Your eyes will be enlarged to three times the size, your mouth turned into the gaping maw of an excited walrus, and if you're lucky I might just throw you and your family into space.

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Source: French Girls

Adam has a particular fondness for the humorous portraits on his app, and has had the honour of being immortalised on digital canvas on a number of occasions. His favourite so far was the slapdash replication of his classic duckface.

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Source: French Girls

At the other end of the spectrum is James Garza, who goes by the moniker Jazgar. His meticulously reproduced portraits can regularly be found within the popular list, and it is clear from a single glance that these are no quick sketch. I reached out to him on his Instagram for a few words on what it is about French Girls that keeps him drawing strangers.

"The first thing I remember liking about the app was the social aspect of it - that the picture went back to its creator. It seemed to me early on that the expectations for the quality of the art were not extremely high, so I figured it might be fun to surprise someone expecting maybe a stick figure or a smiley face with an image where I had actually put in a significant amount of effort to recreate their selfie."

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Source: French Girls

His efforts definitely don't go unnoticed. He has received many messages over Instagram and Twitter thanking him for taking the time, and this new platform has allowed him to connect with several other artists.

While having a degree in art, James is no professional artist. He paints to relax, and enjoys using the app to have the opportunity to work with "folk who have never thought themselves to be the subject of the art-making process", making ordinary internet users the subject of their very own masterpiece.

James is by no means alone in using the app to bring unexpected happiness to complete strangers. Adam cites a recent top post as being particularly memorable: "Today there was a selfie of a young girl holding up a piece of paper that read: 'My dog died, can you draw me being with him for one last time?' The artist draw an amazing portrait of the girl in a field holding her dog licking her face. It immediately shot to the top of the ranked feed and was liked by thousands."

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Source: French Girls

Whether you're artistically gifted, or produce drawings of cats that look more like boats, there is something in the app for you. You don't even have to draw a thing to enjoy it; the Top Ranked feed is all it takes to set me off on five minutes of teary-eyed laughter. Adam is keeping hush-hush about what's to come next for French Girls, but the focus is very much on increasing the social aspects of the app, and making it more accessible to those of all skill levels.

Download it, laugh at the sometimes horrific creations, and if you do come across a selfie of me, please be gentle.