The accidental tour guide

henricks streetcar

Early Saturday afternoon, I was on my way to downtown, my plan was to pick up a couple of frames for my latest commissioned paintings. While waiting for the subway trains, a young man approached me asked me. He wanted to know the transit pass in his hand allow him to ride the subway all day. It was a day pass which allows him to use all public buses, streetcars and subway for the day. “Yes”, I told him, he sat next to me and explained it was his first day in Toronto; he arrived from India last night!
After we boarded the trains we continue our conversation, he came to Toronto to study engineering and he planned to go downtown to have a look of the city.

Without much thought, I invited him to come along and offered to give him a tour of the city if you like. He eagerly took up my offer.
For the next four hours, I showed him the different parts of the downtown, from the high end shopping area, to low end open market, big shopping center to underground mall. I took him for his first ride on the streetcar. Along the way we talked and I pointed out the historical buildings and took photos. We even made it to the busker festival, watched and enjoyed some of the acts.
Finally, after tea and desert in a small café in Chinatown we exchanged phone numbers and end our tour of Toronto.

buskers 2.


Breaking ice with my Art


 mountai ram

Canadian are more reserve as whole, rarely strangers would start a conversation with another stranger on the public transit. However the frozen facades been melting slightly since I been drawings on the subway trains.

This winter is seems extremely cold in Toronto. The morning trains, it is ice cold inside, Even I bundle up with hat, scarf and gloves but I still manage to draw. Passengers around me usually resting with their eyes closed around me


Today, the man sat near me look like he was napping during the whole trip but when he got up for the exit he tuned back said to me “Nice drawing”.

Another day, the woman sat next to me commented on my beautiful drawing. Next she would started to tell me story about her daughter’s up coming wedding.. She has to give up this year vacation in order to pay for her up coming trip to Jamaica for her daughter’s big wedding. We chatted all the way to the end of the line while I was drawing.

Last Friday, another woman was so interested in what I was doing. She told me when she was a child how much she loved to draw, seeing me drawing she wanted to get back to drawing again. Before she got off the train, she inquired about where to buy the paper and pen..

Never expected my mobile studio has invited such lovely responds.

wood duck

The power of social medium


touch down

Yesterday, after I post my latest “mobile art” (drawings I done while riding the subway). Right away, one of my followers asks if I wanted to sell it. Soon than I say yes, she brought it and sent the money to my pay pal account. This been happened a lot recently, I sold another painting to someone on Facebook as well.

In the old days, most of my sales were through galleries. First, I need to had it framed, delivered to the gallery wait for a buyer to purchase it. Even when the work finally sold, I still have to wait for three months to be paid and the gallery would keep 50% as commission.

Now, with the power of the internet and social medium, all I need is create the art, upload and it sells by itself and no more needs to share my income.

My Christmas Eve Incident

christmas night



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I always think Toronto is a safe city and never encounter any troubles walking in downtown. On Christmas Eve, I enjoyed being alone in my building and painting. Winter in Toronto and darkness came early; even it was not 6pm it was very dark outside. I was heading to the subway to go home as usual, I use the same path every night which only a short walk to the subway. I was just a short distance before I reach the subway entrance.

All of sudden, I heard someone running fast behind me and before I knew I was being bear hug from behind. A man’s voice spoke, demanded I gave him my phone! Although I was in shock but still managed to told him I did not own a cell phone.

“I saw you” that was his reply, then I realized he must saw me taking photos a couple of street earlier and mistaken I had a camera phone. He has followed me and wanted to rob me. I had my camera in my coat’s left pocket. On my left shoulder I was carrying a heavy bag full with my art supplies and news paper for my trip home

. My camera is important to me and I use it daily so I was not given up so easily. My instinct was to call for help; I yell “help! Help!, help!, as loud as I could. He tried to cover my mouth with his hand which gave me the chance to bite into his finger as hard as I could.

With the pain on his finger he released his hand from my mouth and tried to slam me against the iron fence next to the walkway. However he was still bear hugging me which make it hard for him to do this. He lost his balance and both of us hit the ground, He was underneath me and because of the cold weather I had on layers of clothing and with him to cushion of my fall. I was not hurt and I kept yelling for help.

Within seconds two men appeared while both of us still on the ground and he still has his holds on me. I told the men to call 911 as I was being robbed.

However the thief claimed I took his phone and he was merely trying to get it back from me. The men seem confuse of who to believe at first. Finally the tall young man made the call and describe what he was seeing to the 911 dispatcher.

 Meanwhile, I was able to got up and stand closer to the tall young man and he hand me his phone. I was ask by a woman from 911 to describe the thief, his age, height and his clothing while he was still few feet away from me. As I was on the phone, the thief calmly first walked and then ran away and disappear from our view.

The woman from 911 instructed me to remain on the scene for the police arrival and stay in a safe area where I could see. I thanked the young man for his help and wish him a Merry Christmas he then left. Although I was only feet away from the subway entrance where usually is a busy spot. However being Christmas Eve with all the offices in the area was closed for the holiday and it was an extreme cold night, there were few on the street. After waiting for about 20 minutes I was cold and I feeling rather very unsafe. What if the thief returns? I would not be as lucky as the first time. I decided since I was not hurt and nothing was taken from me. I better leave that area and head home..


Making art on Public transit



my mobile art studio

I don’t drive and take the public transit everywhere. Every morning I leave home early from the east end to my studio downtown.  My one way trip with bus, RT and subway would take almost hour and half. The subway ride is the longest among the three different transportation. It takes about 40 minutes. I spent my time on the transit reading (books and newspapers) and think about ideas for my art.

The other morning, I was up extra early and ready for my trip to my studio. Thinking I could be more than half an hour early. However, it did not turned out as planned.

Our Toronto subway system is aging fast, break-downs and delays occur far too often. My train was stopped in the tunnel for half an hour due to some fire investigation. As I sat there wonder how my time been wasted but nothing I could do just sit and wait.

grasshopper drawing

Later, back in my studio, an idea came to me: I would use the subway trains as my mobile studio. The same evening for my trip home I was prepared. I packed an artist kits:  pen, tiny watercolor paper, miniature watercolor set and small bottle of water. I turned my long ride into something more enjoyable. I start my little drawing by memory. Not only it helps to keep my mind sharp and with the small scale I can focus on the details of the drawing.

The first one I produced is the “grasshopper” which is 3”x6.5” and finished in one trip. The second is the  kingfisher 9.5”x4.5” and took two trips.