Subway Sketches

'Traveling for Care' Copyright Kate Forman 2003

'Traveling for Care' Copyright Kate Forman 2003

Today I took a nice ride out to Flushing, Queens on the 7 Train. The 7 Train, in case anyone was wondering, is NYC’s best train line — and I stand by that argument based on the following:

1. By the third stop in Queens it’s elevated & affords gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline & the passing queens neighborhoods below, and

 2. It’s a little like taking a train ride around the world, or, at least, the world’s cuisine: in a matter of minutes the 7 Train passes over fantastic Irish pubs, Turkish Restaurants & classic neighborhood Italian joints (Sunnyside,) wraps around a bend and becomes “little Ireland” — dozen or so real-deal Irish and Irish-American pubs (beginning of Woodside,) keeps heading East & passes over Columbian, Mexican, Ecuadorean and Phillipino bakeries & restaurants (end of Woodside,) chugs on over Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani and several Argentinian bakeries & restaurants (Jackson Heights,) glides past the Met’s CitiField & ends in Flushing: home to hundreds of Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese BBQs, restaurants, noodle shops, bakeries, street vendors, etc. How many other modes of transportation can claim all that culinary divergence?
 
But I digress: I was on my way out to Flushing to pick up two paintings I had hanging in a group show, curated by the fantastic Cyn McClean, at the Flushing YMCA. It’s a pretty lengthy subway ride, and I like to pass the time by drawing
my fellow passengers.

'Subway Sketch Guy with the paper bag' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

'Subway Sketch Guy with the paper bag' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

I’m always nervous at first, but by the time I was finished sketching the guy with the paper bag I was warmed up and enjoying the process.

 
'Subway Sketch Young Girl with her i-pod' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

'Subway Sketch Young Girl with her i-pod' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

I’ve been busted plenty of times (the young girl with the i-pod totally knew I was drawing her) but I usually find that people don’t seem to mind. A long time ago I was drawing a man and when my view of him was obstructed the elderly lady sitting next to me made the people standing in front of us move so I could keep drawing (talk about pressure,) and the man I was drawing graciously pretended not to notice…so I kept drawing.

 
This might sound creepy, but in my opinion the summer time is the best time for subway sketching due to two facts: 1. I can wear sunglasses (the 7 is elevated & flooded with sunshine) which obscures my obvious gaze and

'Subway Sketch Sleeping Lady with Glittery Shirt' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

'Subway Sketch Sleeping Lady with Glittery Shirt' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

2. People tend to be sleepy and not as aware of being drawn. Wow…that does sound creepy…and true. 

 
I noticed that by the time I got back home I was very relaxed, and not that concerned about the heat — one of the benefits of devoting all that attention to detail.
 
It made me remember the first editorial illustration assignment I ever got (up at the top of this post.) When the call came in I was elated, and terrified. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how to start, so instead I went out and drew on the 7 train. As a result, almost everyone in that painting is someone I sketched that day — just another gift from NYC.
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