Yuriy Modlikskiy keeps stacks of sketchbooks chronicling the faces of New Yorkers he thought were interesting enough to draw.
65-year-old Ukrainian born Yuriy Modlikskiy spent his life illustrating books, first in Russia, and then in the US after following family to New York 15 years ago from Moscow. According to the New York Post he has illustrated more than 200 books, “including a translation of ‘Treasure Island’ and novels by the Russian writer Mikhail Veller.” After Modlikskiy began to lose his hearing, it became impossible for him to find work as an illustrator in America. He was eventually able to find work in Manhattan restoring art and antique furniture, but drawing is still his passion.
While on his 45-minute commute to work from his home in Sheepshead Bay, Modlikskiy found an “unexpected artistic inspiration,” in his fellow commuters. To those unsuspecting subway riders, he appears to be just an old man who is continually looking at them while scribbling on a notepad. But as the post reports, “if they look closely, they usually learn they weren’t just commuting — they were unknowingly posing for one of Yuriy Modlikskiy’s amazing candid subway sketches.” More often than not, Modlikskiy presents his unknowing subjects with the finished product, expecting nothing in return but the “joy of watching their reaction.”
Modlikskiy says, “Nobody wants to model,” but on the F train there are different models every day, often packed so tightly together they are completely motionless. “What else do I with the time? I never saw a lot of faces like this — all different — in Russia.” His longtime girlfriend Mila says, “He just loves to do this. He does it just to please the people.”