News / Toronto

Secret subway sketcher captures TTC riders’ candid moments

You might be her next model.

Jennifer Fryer sketches Torstar reporter Chris Reynolds on the Yonge subway.

Torstar News Service

Jennifer Fryer sketches Torstar reporter Chris Reynolds on the Yonge subway.

Jennifer Fryer, a fourth-year student majoring in illustration at OCAD University, surreptitiously sketches out the faces of underground Toronto — the tubular rail-riders who serve as her unknowing muse.

Don’t close your eyes; you might be her next model.

 “You look with your eye, then you move with your hand,” says Fryer. Using a Muji 0.5 pen, she aims to translate what she sees directly into an ink-and-paper image, rather than stylizing it or “thinking critically or strategically.”

Subway cars don’t just channel people; they propel “bizarre trains of thought,” which Fryer duly notes in her sketchbook.

 “I will never get bored of drawing faces,” says Fryer. “It’s the diversity in Toronto that I find so engaging.”

When cars get crowded, all that affords a clear view are small items “like shoes, coat cuffs or, in this case, very striking thumbs holding a newspaper,” Fryer says.

Usually Fryers’ unwitting models give her no more than 10 minutes of sketch time. When they linger it’s a treat. “This guy took an excellent nap all the way from Warden to Yonge,” she says. “We’re gonna crosshatch the heck out of this.”

Hangin’ with the bones

Courtesy Jennifer Fryer

No, it’s not a dude with a skeleton on the Yonge line. It’s a dude with a skeleton at the University of Toronto’s U.C.B. Grant Museum on a field trip with the OCAD anatomy class. Fryers’ professor posed as the subject.

Of pen strokes and barley

Courtesy Jennifer Fryer

The patrons at the downtown Imperial Pub, there since the Second World War, make up the muse for Fryer — “camping out for a few hours with a beer — after a long evening commute.

Grassroots art


Courtesy Jennifer Fryer


Melding meadows and Google Maps, Fryer’s thesis work at OCAD illustrates how people can cultivate a love of nature right underfoot, rather than glazing over their immediate surroundings.

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