Art professor sketches portraits on his daily BART commute


Art professor sketches portraits on his daily BART commute

BART Contributing Writer

For most people, a ride home on BART is just that—a short trip back from a long day of work or school. For local artist Hamilton Cline, however, a BART ride is a chance to explore the many faces of our diverse rapid transit system—and to sketch some of those faces as well.

Cline, shown in photo below at Fruitvale Station, works at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco as a professor of web development,. He sketches the faces of BART passengers on his Samsung Galaxy Note 2 on his commute, making sure to capture the distinguishing features of each portrait.

“I’ve always loved drawing, from a very young age,” Cline says. After graduating from high school, Cline went on to become a caricature artist at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, drawing wildly exaggerated portraits of visitors whilst perfecting hArtist Hamilton Clineis craft.

Throughout his career, Cline has held true to an unwavering philosophy: constant improvement. “The journey is the reward,” Cline says.  “I’ve never looked toward a goal or anything; it’s really about the process and the growth in my skills.” 

Cline’s journey led him to the Bay Area, where he resides today in Daly City. To travel to the Academy of Art, Cline would have to drive 20 minutes on a good day without traffic—with BART, however, the Academy is only six stations and a two minute walk away.

On this six-station ride, Cline finds time to sketch some of his fellow passengers, using the Infinite Painter app to do so. How does he choose whom to draw? “Usually, I try to find someone that looks like they’ll be staying on the train or if they’re on their phone,” Cline answers. “The passengers that aren’t paying attention are usually the best.”

He sketches usually in anonymity without interrupting the subjects, and has received mostly positive feedback. 

Once finishes with a preliminary sketch—Cline only has approximately 15 minutes to draw a person, mind you—he touches up on his drawing, adding minor details such as wrinkles or tattoos later on.Author Jiahao Huang

Cline’s sketch of the author is at right.

Over 300 of these sketches are portrayed in Cline’s new book, Rapid Transit, which explores the many diverse faces of the Bay Area. As an artist, Cline tries to make sure his craft reaches more people, and Rapid Transit is his way of doing so.

As a professor, however, Cline’s primary mission is to educate—and he does so throughout the Bay Area. Caricature is typically portrayed as cartoony and gimmicky—however, there’s much more to it than a silly face. Cline teaches his clients the “three schools of caricature.”

“The first school, simplification, tries to find the fewest lines to connect a face, “ Cline explains. “The second, cartooning, employs more realism, while half of it still uses the simplification method. And the third, exaggeration—the style I find the most interesting—is like molding a face, pushing and pulling it as if it was made out of clay.

“I travel around the Bay, teaching those that are interested how to sketch faces and perfect their portraiture,” Cline explains. “It’s a really fulfilling job, and I’m delighted when my clients improve.”

You can find more of Cline’s artwork on Instagram, @bronkula.