The Artist and His Subject

I stepped into a surprisingly uncrowded subway car and took a seat near the back.  There was a slightly build, young Asian guy (Filipino I think) sitting diagonally across from me to my right.  He was facing the front of the train while I sat almost 90 degrees to his left looking towards him. He rested his feet up on the seat in front of him with a large notebook propped on his raised knees.  He wasn’t writing as I originally had assumed but sketching.  He looked up periodically and then back to his sketchbook. I casually looked to my left and saw his subject.  It was another man, in his late 20’s, perhaps Indian, a few seats down. He looked bored and I wondered if he knew his likeness was being slowly captured a few feet away.

Then I saw the man looking back at the artist while he was sketching. When the artist looked up, I slowly glanced at the subject while pretending to read the posters.  The subject was looking away.  Every time the artist looked down to sketch, the man would glance over at the artist.  When the artist was looking at the man, the man was always looking elsewhere. Their eyes never met during this artistic courtship.

After a few stops, the young artist started to pack things up. He stuffed his sketchbook into a large brown leather bag and walked towards the door.  A few seconds later, the man also walked towards the door and stood beside the artist. Neither acknowledged each other. I guess it was appropriate that they left the train together.


15 thoughts on “The Artist and His Subject

  1. This actually happened to me before. During my art school days, I would just sketch strangers on the train. I didn’t want to be a creep or anything by doing it. There was something therapeutic about riding the train and drawing people.

  2. I love your take on this, Matt…how the artist and and the subject were alternately viewing each other and you were viewing both of them. How you shared this scene was interesting and intriguing. I would have been so curious to see the sketch. 🙂
    If I sketched anyone…they would be a stick figure with a HUGE smile! 🙂
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  3. This happened to me and my husband in NYC, though a bit differently. An artist sat in front of us and said “I’m going to draw you.” NYC is not known for discretion, and many people on trains do ‘performance art’ for money. I was fine with it, but my husband was uncomfortable. The artist continued to draw and talk (mostly talk) … saying he didn’t want money, that he just wanted to hone his craft … In the end, he showed us what he drew (not very good). We gave him some money anyway. When in NYC, you just have to go with the flow ….

  4. people watching never been my forte. as i always felt uncomfortable to be the subject of an observation, i try not to do the same to others, especially in a close approximate. that said, it is very interesting that you noticed what was going on and followed on it ’till the end. i wonder if the indian man noticed he was being sketched and would later say something to the filipino guy once they go off the train.

    • I glanced out the door but I think both went their separate ways. The secret to people watching is doing it from a distance or if you’re close, don’t look directly or stare. (call me if you need more tips on stalking… lol)

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