Thursday, March 23, 2017

Urban Sketchers and #MetraManners

By Wesley E. Douglas, Urban Sketchers Chicago

Some people text or read, daydream, some meet with friends, while others eat or nap on the train. There is, however, a group of artists who sketch a wide range of passengers on various Metra routes. They represent a local group known as Urban Sketchers Chicago (USk Chicago) and they are part of a global community of artists that enjoy drawing on location in cities, towns, and villages in which they live, work, or have visited. Examples include but are not limited to cafes, street scenes, buildings, houses, shops, landscaping, people, domestic animals, transportation centers (i.e. airports, train stations and buses) as well as what you see while you are traveling.

Illustration: Brian Wright                              Illustration: Wes Douglas

Sketching people on public transportation is a favorite subject of these artists because they are always different and interesting. In our own way, Urban Sketchers are quietly doing our part to elevate the current Metra Rail “Ride Nice” campaign #metramanners. Who knows? Maybe the more smiles we can create with our sketches the less riders will be throwing digital jabs at one another about inappropriate behavior.

Urban Sketchers do not sketch from memory or photographs but by direct observation in person. This becomes particularly challenging because people on trains move around a lot. But it is also rewarding when those being sketched discover how their likeness is elevated to a fresh new perspective by these artists.

Wes Douglas remembered hearing one lucky passenger exclaim, “When someone snaps your photo on the train, it’s a little creepy. But when someone sketches you it is a relief.” These artists capture many different positions, colorful clothing and the expressions of commuters on paper.

Our urban sketchers are located all over the Chicagoland area and depend on public transportation for traveling between work and home as well as gatherings with fellow urban sketchers. And since a large portion of their day is spent on commuting, urban sketchers make the most of it by knocking out a few sketches to pass the time.

To learn more about Urban Sketchers Chicago and where they will be sketching next go to:

To learn more about Metra Rail’s Ride Nice campaign:        


  1. Fabulous post, Wes. The sketches are fantastic.

    1. Thank you Barbara. These sketches are mine to start this off, but I am guessing I will get more from other artists in the future and a broader audience will discover who Urban Sketchers are.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you Alex. I can feel great things will come out of this effort.

  3. I love all of these, especially boot rain! ;-) Fortunately we don't have double deckers in Seattle, or no one would sit on the lower level. Public transit is one of my favorite places for people sketching, too.

    - Tina

    1. Thank you Tina @MiataGrrl. There is enough people riding trains in Chicago that the upper deck does fill up first but it is more difficult to get in and out of your seat because of the narrow aisles. Therefore plenty of people still sit on the lower level. Sometimes they get a little selfish with their seat for two which has caused a lot of discourse between passengers. Interesting human dynamics.


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