TikTok subway artist finds his way to the Lower East Side

At first, he posted time-lapse videos of his current sketches, on a catchy song, giving viewers the chance to compare his portraits with their actual inspirations – the precision of the pencil shadow of the crumpled jeans or the cockeyed mask. facial. He started to have more views, but not as many as he hoped. “I was posting thinking, ‘Oh, I’m talented. It’s going to go viral. But none of this has gone viral. If it’s not a show, people don’t care.

Then he noticed a comment on one of the videos: “You should give it to them at the end. “

At first, Mr. Rodriguez rejected the idea. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m not giving away my art,’ he said. “This is how I make a living.”

But soon the comment itself garnered over 32,000 likes and he knew he had to try it.

It was the second time his life had suddenly changed.

“When I did that, it exploded,” he said. The first video, published in August 2020, showed a young woman in a private security uniform. In it, Mr. Rodriguez sketched his portrait to the tune of “Renee” de Sales and even with his mask obstructing his reaction, it is easy to see that the young woman was affected by the sketch – and in awe of the detail: “You even got my tattoo.”

In just over a day, the video was viewed 8 million times. Soon it shot up to 49 million.

“The interaction just added another layer,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “So I thought, ‘Alright, I’m going to keep giving them away. And the videos have gone viral. I was so excited. It was everything I wanted – my whole life – all those eyeballs. “

He refined his process. Now he gets permission from the person he wants to draw and asks how long they plan to stay in the metro. He trained to finish a portrait in 15 minutes, including breaks so he could film his progress along the way.

Mr. Rodriguez has racked up over 225 million likes on TikTok and when he started reposting his videos on other platforms his numbers also increased in those places – 2.7 million followers on Instagram, 1, 4 million subscribers on YouTube.

About Mary Moser

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