Here’s something special, not because it’s much of a drawing but because it’s a first for me: a sketch from life on the subway in New York. The surreptitious sketch is something I liked to do when living around D.C. years ago, especially when I had to go somewhere by Metro. But though I still always have a little blank-page book in my back pocket, it’s taken two years in NYC to finally break it out and let go on the train here.

This was on the E in Queens, coming back from Newark Airport around 2 in the morning after Thanksgiving travel. The train kept stopping between stops, as happens at night and on weekends. I could have read, but I’d been reading on the plane and the bus to Manhattan. The fellow was one of the million small-statured working men of indeterminate ethnicity who in this city are largely societal background texture for a college-educated white guy like me (though our personal economies are perhaps not so very different, at least by the numbers).

I elongate his nose and lose a good deal of the finer features that tell his age and weariness here, unhappily; so much going on in that face, even in sleep. His head kept dropping to his chest, though. In any case, you have to not stare too much — for which my drawing eye is hardly up to the demand, these days. That’s how it goes with these things.

4 Replies to “Milestone”

  1. very nice! i love the personality of a sketch. these few lines really capture the feeling of the moment. more, please! : )

  2. My daughter did some of this on her recent trip to Africa (Tanzania, chiefly). Alas for me at home, she followed the local protocol and gave the portraits to the subjects.

  3. Dave, me too, and I wish I had too many little things like this going for it to warrant a post titled ‘Milestone’ — haha.

    Chris, thanks, though should say that it feels less brave than sneaky & self-serving.

    Darrell, alas indeed! I’ve never heard of a custom of giving away one’s sketches — seems like asking for trouble if the subject was unaware you were studying her/him — but can imagine how this might emerge in a place like Toronto. (If I were giving more to this, I’d maybe hook up with Urban Sketchers and try to feel out the culture here for that sort of thing.)

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