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TikTok is obsessed with Boston’s ‘$1 portrait guy’

Every day Nick Shea takes his spot in Boston Common, puts up his sign, and gets to work.

Nick Shea drawing a portrait in the Boston Common as the line builds behind him. Gwen Egan/Boston.com

The latest Boston-based TikTok trend is racking up millions of views on the viral video app.

Nick Shea, known on TikTok as the “$1 portrait guy,” spends his free time drawing simple sketches of people in the Boston Common. On March 21 a TikTok was posted showing the process of getting a portrait drawn by Shea in the park. That video received almost 1 million views.

Most days Shea arrives at the Boston Common, sits down at his usual spot on a long green bench, and puts up his cardboard “$1 drawing of you” sign. As each subject lines up for their own personal portrait he asks them their name, where they’re from, and what their plans are for the day as he draws another cardstock creation.

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Shea doesn’t go home until the line — where locals and tourists alike will wait up to 3 hours for a portrait — is gone. He said he has been coming to the park to draw $1 portraits since June of 2021, but has been creating $1 portraits since 2017.

“At the very least I get to share a drawing with someone, a little bit more than that I get a dollar, a little bit more than that I have a conversation with somebody,” he said.

Shea, who is from East Boston but now resides in Dorchester, said he has been collecting sketchbooks for 12 years, and has been drawing since he was two.

“The basis of starting this was to see what could happen,” he said.

Now, videos showcasing Shea’s portraits are going viral.

One video, which received around 2 million views, showed a young woman going “on a hunt” to find Shea, waiting in line, and receiving a hand-drawn $1 portrait in return.

“I am now complete,” her caption read.

Shea can usually be found in the Boston Common or via Instagram.

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