We spoke to *that* TikTok artist who draws people on the subway every day

‘I try not to get caught but sometimes I do’


If you’ve been TikToking hard over the last month, there’s a likeliness you will have seen one particular creator whose content all takes place on a subway train. Sneakily filming strangers over the cusp of his notebook, he starts by sketching their rough dimensions in circles, and in literal seconds a masterpiece lies on the piece of paper. Sometimes he gives the art to them, other times he doesn’t. This is the guy who draws people on the subway. This is 23-year-old Devon Rodriguez.

Devon has amassed an incredible eight million followers on the app from drawing strangers on the subway, but why does he do it? Does he go on the subway simply to draw people or is he headed somewhere? Well, we spoke to Devon Rodriguez and, as it turns out, he’s been doing this a lot longer than you’d expect.

@devonrodriguezartDrawing is life, new idea coming soon ##tiktokart ##nycsubway ##wearyourmask ##viral♬ Capatilize Off Pain – Big $tunt

From being profiled in The New York Times to getting the attention of over one million people on his Instagram, it’s fair to say that Devon Rodriguez is the top in his field when it comes to artists on TikTok. Starting in 2010, his work led him to oil painting subway photos in 2013 before rediscovering this through TikTok years later: “On August 10th, 2020 I decided to go back to my roots to drawing on the subway. The main motivation was to capture the pandemic and mask-wearing commuters on the subway.

“I was already on TikTok for a month so that day I also made my first subway drawing video for TikTok and it went viral at five million views.”

@devonrodriguezartHe had no idea! 🤪 ##drawing ##tiktokart ##nyc ##fyp ##foryoupage♬ Up Beat (Married Life) – Kenyi

Is he on his way somewhere when drawing people on the subway? Not all the time: “I used to draw on commutes, but now sometimes if I feel inspired I’ll just get on the subway just to draw.”

Most people would naturally be scared that filming people on the subway could lead to some pretty freaked out and potentially aggressive interactions (especially Brits who struggle to look people in the eye on the tube let alone draw them), but Devon is as casual about it as you’d expect a young New Yorker to be: “I really try to not get caught but sometimes I still do. People usually just ignore me.”

@devonrodriguezartAdding the highlights was sooo fun!!! ##artistoftiktok ##artober ##nycsubway ##trending ##viral♬ Put Your Records On – Ritt Momney

When asked which video of his is his all-time favourite, Devon pointed us towards the above video: “It’s probably the one of me drawing this girl sleeping and holding a coffee. Within two hours she saw it and reached out to me on Instagram. She was so excited about it and a few of her friends had sent it to her. That’s when I realized how big this was becoming.”

Devon has eight million followers on TikTok and over one million followers on Instagram, so what could possibly be next?

“I would’ve never expected to reach these milestones within my lifetime so I’m super excited about that. I’m going to take things day by day and continue making art. Lots of big opportunities have been coming my way and I know more will come but I’m not sure what they’ll turn out to be.”

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