Eric Meister may experiment with your face on the L.
A nose extension, perhaps. Or maybe a lantern jaw.
He tries not to stare. Just a sly glance and the image is inconspicuously transferred via his pencil to a notebook the size of a paperback in his lap.
All eye-catching faces are fair game. His unwitting CTA subjects never see his work.
The portraits are simply a fun way for Meister, 29, an animator from Rogers Park, to relax and exercise his drawing muscles during his 30-minute Purple Line ride into the Loop.
“I’m not intending to celebrate these people so much,” Meister said. “So I’ll exaggerate. I may play up a larger nose, or shrink the eyes or make the rest of the face smaller.”
They’re also a nice change of pace from the floppy-ear bunnies and Leprechauns he draws at the office — Calabash Animation — many of which appear in breakfast cereal advertisements.
Occasionally he wonders what his subjects would think, but he never interacts with them.
“I worry they might be like ‘What’d you do with my nose there?’ Or “I’m not that bald?! Am I?’”
Meister, who also teaches cinema art at Columbia College Chicago, offers a throwback approach to what many Chicagoans routinely do to capture oddities aboard CTA buses and trains.
“I just print them out myself rather than take a picture with a phone,” he said.
One of his most memorable sketches barely features a face.
“It was this guy wearing a ski mask in the winter over the top of his glasses. He had a very stoic, matter-of-fact expression. He looked so silly, but so serious at the same time.”
Meister posts some of his work to Instagram and meistermash.tumblr.com.