Subway Portrait


On the R train (en route to Matchupcamp) a man across the way was sketching with a brush-tip marker. Last week I’d been chastised by One Leg Chuck for filming his performance in the Bedford L station: “These are my songs, man! It’s rude to just film someone without asking!”

We haven’t fully developed social norms of public and networked art-making, artifact-making, or being involved in another’s art. Older notions of privacy and an artists control of the distribution of their work are running headlong into a society full of cheap capture devices and cheap distribution networks. I don’t begrudge One Leg Chuck’s frustration, but I think its misguided–he has more to gain than to lose from strangers, impressed with his music, spreading the word. It’s free press. And he is quite good; he plays mournful, mellow, rocksteady-influenced reggae that channels the pre-electric delta blues of the American South.

Anyway, when I noticed the man across the way sketching me, I was careful not to spook him. I planned to sidle over and ask if to photograph the drawing, but before I could, he took the sheet off his clipboard and handed it to me across the aisle. Written on the side: “Please tip if you like it”. I did, and I do. There’s a good likeness to the drawing, and a good business model in the practice, and a greatly refreshing and humble idea of the role of art and distribution in modern life.


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