Kelsey Grondahl couldn’t stop thinking about the butt.
It popped onto her phone screen as she scrolled through Tinder about a month ago. A 30-year-old, who said he was a project manager, featured himself naked in his profile picture – chin in his hands and bare butt displayed prominently in the background.
Kelsey, 24, saved the photo to her phone for a good laugh and eventually decided to make a watercolor illustration. Soon she made another. And another.
Now the local artist has nearly 50 such drawings showcasing ridiculous photos of Tinder suitors. She only uses the first photo on each man’s profile and refuses to name them or show their actual profiles to curious friends.
Unravel caught up with Kelsey to talk about her project, “Illustrated Men of Tinder,” her dating life and her art:
Unravel: When did you first join Tinder?
Kelsey: I actually got it a couple of years ago, when it was coming out about two years ago. I had a couple months of figuring it out, I went on a couple of dates and then I met my boyfriend on Tinder. We dated for too long and I just got back on it in March. So this year it’s just been like a month, maybe two.
Unravel: Have you only been on Tinder in Sarasota?
Kelsey: Yeah. I’m really excited, I’m actually leaving Sarasota in June going to sell art on the road, hit up vending, try to fit into the festival mode but not completely. I’ll sell masks, prints, jewelry, a whole bunch of stuff. But I’m really excited to see Tinder in other places. Maybe I’ll do a holler out like holler New York and have people send me photos they think would be fun. There’s so much possibility in it.
Unravel: So how do you create the illustrations?
Kelsey: Probably my favorite medium to work in now, bamboo quills and water color. I like how fast it is, so all of these drawings take me only a few minutes. The point is to capture the image – what’s the initial thing about this picture that’s really funny and draw it out. I’m not trying to emphasize like making fun of their looks, I’m not trying to get too specific about it. It’s more like: What the hell is going on in this photo? The size, the medium of these illustrations is makes it much quicker and easier.
Unravel: Are these all real?
Kelsey: I feel like I really have to emphasize this: These are all real. I have not made a single fucking thing up. Nothing has been pushed, nothing has been exaggerated, it’s just what I see.
Unravel: Which are your favorites?
Kelsey: The butt one was my first, it will always stick with me. There’s a new one I did with a guy with two blow-up dolls, and I’m hoping this comes across, but he censored it with his iPhone, like with the paint brush. There’s another one I have where three guys have their faces crossed out and then there’s one guy in the corner. I have to figure out the right medium to really match what an iPhone paint would look like. I think my third favorite is this guy like pouting at a couch store and the best part about this one is his job description is rocket scientist at NASA.
Unravel: What has the reaction been?
Kelsey: They love it, everyone loves it. I’ll even tell the Tinder guys, not the guys I’m drawing, but the guys I’ve matched with. I’ll tell them oh I’m doing this thing, and some will get freaked out like what I’m doing with them is part of the whole art project. They’ll be like, “Art project, is that the only reason I’m here right now?” When I start describing it, before anyone had seen it, guys would be like you’re the devil. Like do you have a soul, why are you trying to make fun of these guys trying to get dates. But it’s very innocent, I’m really not trying to be cruel about it. Everyone just loves it. People ask me to make a game or cards with it.
Unravel: Have you been on a date with any of the guys you’ve illustrated?
Kelsey: There’s this one guy that I was going to meet up with, his photo was worthy of it. But I haven’t done his drawing and I haven’t matched with him. It’s sort of black and white for me, it’s easy to tell if I’m going to draw them or I’m going to date them. If they fall into that middle category it doesn’t become as clear so I just avoid those.
Unravel: Are there any reoccurring themes in your illustrations?
Kelsey: There’s the guy holding up a dead animal or dead fish theme. There’s the guy who you can’t see at all because his whole face is in a shadow or he’s turned around. You have the drunken bro group grabbing hugs and chaos. Then you have the fucking random ones where you’re like, where did that even come from?
Unravel: What would you do if one of the people you illustrated messaged you?
Kelsey: I would try to play it off very nonchalantly. I don’t know if I would respond if it was aggressive, because then they’d obviously be taking it out of context, but I would want to make sure no feelings were hurt I guess. It’s a cruel world, they can deal with it.
Unravel: What’s your Tinder advice, especially for young women in Sarasota/Manatee counties?
Kelsey: I don’t know, because I’m still figuring it out too. I mean just have fun, it’s a game. It asks you if you want to keep playing, I think that’s a really notable thing about it. Also watch out, because it is a game and it’s online, people like to fuck around and get real crazy. But someone could do a freakin tinder drawing of you or you see people posting about what this Tinder asshole said online.
Unravel: So what’s your ultimate goal with this project?
Kelsey: I do want to make a lot more, also have a habit getting bored with things quickly. I want to make a show out of it, like one big wall. The funny thing about them is seeing them in person, like not seeing them online, so to transpose that to bring that into the real world. And to have them next to each other is pretty funny, too.