The Subway Artist’s Work is Never Finished

by - September 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm -


Is a man who draws the 72nd Street subway station 400 times obsessed or devoted? Enrico Miguel Thomas, a New York artist, has felt compelled to draw and redraw the two Seventh-Avenue-line stations on 72nd Street hundreds of times in the past two years.

Thomas, dubbed “The Subway Artist of New York,” has drawn dozens of New York subways, propping his easel up outside the station or on the platforms themselves. He began drawing subway stations about two years ago after graduating from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, using regular white drawing paper. But one day he decided to try to draw on the subway maps themselves. Despite their tendency to rip and blow away when a train rushes by, he continues to use the maps. It’s now become one of his signatures. He works in fits of motion, slashing his Sharpies across the pages of the maps, moving quickly from one color to the next. In his left hand he grips about 10 pens.


"The Commuters" by Enrico Miguel Thomas

“I have to have all of the colors with me at all times,” Thomas said. “I can’t wait around for colors. Once I start a drawing, I feel I have to complete it.”

That could explain why he was drawing in Verdi Square on 72nd after 10 p.m. on a cool Saturday night, as people streamed out of the subway station on their way to bars and parties. Some stop to look, but most walk quickly by.

“I really don’t let anything deter me,” he said. “I just keep going. It’s all about my passion and devotion to art. I’ve stayed out all night. I’ve seen the sun come up. Ever since I was little I could never leave a project until it was completed.”

Thomas said he likes to draw architecture, and the area around 72nd Street subway has lots of interesting buildings. He also likes the juxtaposition between the original 72nd Street station on the south side of the block and its mirror image, which was completed in 2002. He sees drawing — particularly drawing the straight orderly lines of buildings — as a response to his chaotic and abusive childhood. Thomas grew up in Texas and then moved to Staten Island. He now lives in Red Hook.

Sometimes Thomas also sells his work to people who walk by, usually for between $300 and $500, though he’s been selling them lately for “a little less, because of the economy.” His work has been shown at the Adam Clayton Powell building in Harlem and is going up at the Indian Road Cafe on 218th Street at the tip of Manhattan. (photo by Avi)

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  1. Out walking the dog says...

    Great story, Avi! Love his work & his passion.

  2. Cathy Grier says...

    I met Enrico one evening on my way to a gig and we had a great chat about the importance of art in public spaces. As a subway musician, I can relate to the affect having art and music in the public places has on a city and aociety. We thrive and so does the city. It’s a wonderful story Avi!
    Cathy aka nycsubwaygirl