Son Posts Mom’s Painting on Reddit, Setting off a ‘Crazy Trend’ Within Hours

May 16, 2019 Updated: May 24, 2019

When this amateur painter did her second painting, her proud son posted it online, unaware that a crazy phenomenon was about to begin.

Cindi Decker, 55, from Jacksonville, Florida, is a schoolteacher, and as a hobby she painted an egret on canvas at an art class she had begun taking. It was only her second attempt at an art piece, so when she showed her teenage son, she commented that she didn’t think anyone would admire it.

©Reddit | Gaddafo

Matthew Decker, Cindi’s son, then took a photo of it and decided to post her painting onto Reddit with the caption: “My mom painted this and said no one would like it. It’s her 2nd painting.” That was mid-January, and 24,000 people “upvoted” it that night. The pair had no idea the painting mayhem they were about to create.

Second son was so impressed he put it on Reddit. I'm up to 24,600 likes. Lol!! Now off to the highest bidder!

Posted by Cindi Davis Decker on Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The following day, Swedish artist Kristoffer Zetterstrand, a renowned painter, saw the post Matthew had put up on Reddit, and being a creative person, he decided to paint a picture of Matthew’s photo of his mom holding her egret painting.

I painted somebody’s mom from r/pics

He then posted onto Reddit a photo of himself holding his painting, with the caption: “I painted somebody’s mom.” That was a pretty cool idea, and it gave other artists food for thought, or inspiration.

Next, Laila Amer, who studies journalism in Canada joined in and painted a picture of Zetterstrand holding his own painting. Amer then also posted her painting onto Reddit with the captions: “Took a while and not perfect, but I painted the guy who painted the other guy’s mom.”

Took a while and not perfect, but i painted the guy who painted the other guy’s mom from r/pics

Just like a freight train without brakes, it had taken off. Just imagine the rush these painters were getting themselves into just to be the first to finish the painting and post it onto Reddit.

Then came the work of an artist from Chicago: Seamus Wray with his painting of—you guessed it—Amer holding Zetterstrand’s painting holding Decker’s painting.

I painted the girl who painted the guy who painted the other guy’s mom who painted an egret from r/pics

To add the trail, Traci Sethre painted Wray and uploaded the photo. It didn’t end there though. One after another, they were inspired to paint, almost like the Never Ending Story.

I painted the guy who painted the girl who painted the guy who painted the mom who painted a bird from r/pics

Then along came Travis Simpson, who spent most of the night painting his picture. Simpson then posted it onto Reddit with the caption: “When it sinks in that I stayed up most of the night to paint a meme for internet points…

When it sinks in that I stayed up most of the night to paint a meme for internet points… from r/pics

They kept on painting until the original artwork became so tiny, tinier than a cell it seems, with over 1 million viewers never having seen the egret.

I haven’t painted in two years and I’m glad for the inspiration!! from r/pics

Who knows where this will all end—perhaps it never will!

A painting of the guy who hasn’t painted in years painting the guy who painted the girl who painted the guy who painted the girl who painted the other girl who painted the guy who painted the other guys mom from r/pics

So how did it all begin?

Zetterstrand was on the way to work when he saw on Reddit posts of people showing their mother’s paintings.

“So this day I decided to do that photo, just for fun,” Zetterstrand told The Washington Post.

“It took a couple of hours. Then I thought it might be entertaining to post a picture of me holding it—at the same place on Reddit I got it from,” he said. His social media has run wild, with millions having viewed his painting. “Many have contacted me and told me that it made them genuinely happy,” he said. “It’s touching, really.”

Tonight I was lucky enough to get the first painting from this crazy painting phenomenon that is happening. I'm posting the video of when I opened it since you all have been on this journey with me since day one. I say amazing more times than I should, but it's pretty much my raw emotions captured. Again, I don't know why the universe grabbed me and took me on this crazy ride, but it has been amazing. Haha. Thanks for all the kind words through it all and I appreciate all of your friendships. (And by the way the painting is extraordinary, something you need to see in real life. I can't even put into words how beautiful it actually is.)

Posted by Cindi Davis Decker on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

For a professional artist such as Zetterstrand, the sudden interest in something he did for fun can be hard to comprehend. “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,” he said. “I’m not complaining, and it IS funny—but it makes me scratch my head.”

Journalism student Amer picked up the thread from there. “I just thought it would be a really fun thing to do, albeit kind of stressful,” she said. “I knew people would get a kick out of it, so I thought ‘why not?’”

Zetterstrand has been in contact with Decker, and she has received the painting he did of her. “So many people have been so kind,” Decker said. “They say, ‘Keep us updated and post your next painting.’ But I’m not going to. I don’t want to wear out my welcome.”

It was a whirlwind trip for the budding artist. Just how many others did she inspire?

A painting, in a painting, in a painting…

What's it like being part of an internet meme?

Posted by BBC World Service on Saturday, February 9, 2019