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When Federico Portalupi started posting to TikTok in May, he never imagined he would go viral. But his artwork—composed of acrylics, powders, glass, inks and other materials—has since been viewed and liked by millions on the app.
It took one particular video for Portalupi's art to really take off on the video sharing platform. A time lapse of him working on an ocean shore art piece has since been viewed over 2 million times.
Portalupi, 36, didn't always know he was an artist. He moved with his family to Florida from Argentina in 2004 and often walked into an art gallery next door to his family's gelato shop. Eventually, a local artist who taught classes at the gallery told him, "Dude, I see you every single week. You obviously like art. Buy a damn canvas."
These were words he would never forget.
Portalupi bought paints and a canvas shortly after and started painting for the first time—but not for long. He was poised for a business career and stopped painting for about 10 years, during which time he ended up in Austin working in a sales position.
In 2018, he decided to start painting again. He found a passion for resin art. A lot of his pieces showcase oceans, galaxies or abstract art with bold colors.
As part of this "turnaround" process, Portalupi also made his social media debuts—previously not having any social media accounts—on Instagram and Facebook. While he showcased his work in art shows, it was TikTok that launched his business to new, unexpected heights earlier this year.
"I have two passions in life—deep sea fishing and painting. And to be able to think about the possibility of one of those things being my livelihood, while I share what I do and getting the response that I'm currently getting from people without marketing myself, putting myself out there on just one app, it's overwhelming," Portalupi said.
After only four months on the platform, Portalupi has accumulated 1.7 million likes and almost 180,000 followers. He attributes 90% of his art sales to TikTok now. His customers come from all over the globe, including the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
TikTok has grown increasingly popular since the pandemic began, in part because of the platform's community of users. Portalupi said the TikTok world has become like a family to him. There's a lot of support and interaction with users on the app; Portalupi has actually met and become friends with some of his followers.
After posting a heart design he created, inspired by his friend, he began receiving requests for similar designs from people who shared their own heartfelt stories, including one about suicide.
It's a level of trust Portalupi doesn't take lightly. Next month, he will be working on a piece made from the ashes of a client's family member.
Because of Portalupi's growing platform on TikTok, he soon needed to source more materials. The search that led him to meet a fellow fluid artist, Victorian Wynn, who runs Wynn Modern Art out of Utah. Their working relationship has since blossomed into a friendship, another perk of his newfound TikTok fame.
Portalupi is now a brand ambassador for Wynn Modern Art, meaning he mentions when he uses Wynn Modern Art products in his videos and is sent products to try.
The two have found a safe space with each other to talk about their art and encourage one another. They understand each other's "flow state," where nothing else matters but painting.
"At this point, I'm sending product because I like [him] as a human. We're way beyond brand ambassador," Wynn said. "Both he and I, we have a lot of trust and mutual respect for one another."
Meeting in the shadow of a pandemic and living in different states, the two have never met face to face. But they perform business meetings over Zoom and check up on each other over the phone.
Federico Portalupi meets with Victoria Wynn over video.(Courtesy of Victoria Wynn)
Portalupi hopes to build on his career as an artist, one that he believes can grow even more thanks to TikTok and its community of users.
"I feel like I've identified an opportunity, one that I'm willing to take a risk on and go after," he said.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."