New York artist Justin Baldwin does his best work underground in the subway system. Unlike many who use their Metrocard to gain access to a city full of straphanging subjects, however, he merely uses the subway car as his studio, not to find models. He recently told us a little about his process.

When did you start drawing on the subway? I started drawing on subway trains shortly after I moved here in late April 2006. Initially it was just a way to be as productive as possible despite having limited space and time for art making. I also used subway drawing as a way to come to terms with the city. Eventually, it became a preferred way of working in itself, leading to some new bodies of work and ideas specific to the practice of drawing in transit in New York.

Have you ever drawn a person sitting in the same car as you? I never draw anyone who is actually on the trains with me—or anywhere. I don't want to make anyone feel exploited (although I'm sure that people assume I'm drawing them sometimes anyway). There are never any models - all portraits reveal themselves to me as I draw them.

If so, has there ever been an interesting reaction from someone who notices you sketching them? Since I don't do drawings of actual people, this hasn't happened, but I have had a few interesting interactions with people who notice me drawing. For example, while I was working on “No Woman, No Chance”, which features a woman/animal hybrid wearing a tight sequined T-shirt that says, "No Money, No Car, No Chance," a woman who by coincidence resembled the drawing sat next to me. I could tell that she was watching me draw. As we approached her stop, she poked me on the shoulder. I was really nervous that she'd be offended, but she said, "You paint beautifully" and then got off the train.

How long does it take you to finish a drawing while in transit? I finish some within a day, others within a week. I might work on some steadily for a couple weeks before storing them for months and completing them later on.

What is the Urban Tribal series about? The Urban Tribal Series involves ideas about nature vs. nurture, business vs. war (or business as war), socioeconomics, science (genetics & technology), pop culture, fantasy, science fiction, and belief systems (mysticism, spirituality, science as religion, and money as religion). Some of the drawings are more generalized archetypal portraits, while others are fictional portraits of Urban Tribal salarymen, all members of an imaginary corporation.

What do you plan to do with the drawings? The best of the Urban Tribal salarymen will eventually be used to make a giant corporate organization chart—the drawings will all be arranged on the same wall, with lines connecting them and establishing rank. I'll probably use title cards beneath each drawing to reinforce their status (ex: "Urban Tribal Salary CEO," "Urban Tribal Salary Stooge," "Urban Tribal Salary Shaman," etc).

Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. That's a tough one to answer, since I've had so many strange experiences in New York. One memorable New York story happened on a train and involved a lost phone. A friend of mine and I got on the train, only to find a cell phone sitting on the seat next to us. My friend flipped it open and freaked out. The cell phone wallpaper image was a crotch shot close-up. He quickly put it down and commented in surprised disgust at the pornographic picture, asking to use hand sanitizer because he felt so dirty from touching it. Just before the train doors closed, a sweaty man literally jumped into the train car. He looked at us and announced, "Man, I'm so fucking stoned I can't even believe it!" and then went on with more details to back up his uncomfortable announcement. At a certain point, he saw the cell phone, opened it, and exclaimed, "Holy shit! It's my cell phone! I can't believe I found it! I thought it was lost for good! Goddamn. Only in New York, right?" Afterwards we rode with him for another excruciating half hour, listening to his rants in awkward, embarrassed silence.

Which New Yorker do you most admire? I’ve always had a lot of respect for David Byrne, but there are so many other outstanding New Yorkers that I’m not sure that I admire him the most of all. He’s definitely on my top ten list, though.

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? Less expense overall and more convenience traveling between Queens and Brooklyn would be a good start. More accessibility to high quality education for those with limited means would also be on my list of things to do. Higher quality health care for the uninsured (had some nightmare experiences while uninsured) would also be essential.

Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? I’ve gone through periods where finances were so tight and good jobs seemed so scarce that I considered giving up on New York and moving away…but when I considered my alternatives, I realized that I couldn’t think of anywhere else that I’d rather live right now.

Do you have a favorite New York celebrity sighting or encounter? I saw Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo eating burgers with a small group of children at The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It was really endearing, and kind of changed my perception of him and Sonic Youth in general.

What's your current soundtrack? The ambient sound of New Yorkers mixed with whatever is playing on my iPod or in my mind at the moment. My music tastes are too varied and my collection too abundant to narrow down into an answer to this question.

What's the best subway line? I haven’t ridden them all, so I can’t claim to know which is the best. I’m rather fond of the N & W trains, though—smooth rides, above ground in Queens, with great people watching.

Favorite place for people watching. New York is so rich with diversity that the entire city is amazing for people watching. Subways are great, as are parks, concerts, and any other event locations.

Best cheap eat in the city. I don’t really feel qualified to answer this in a city populated by foodies and food bloggers - especially since my culinary experiences in New York are very limited. Having said that, I really love the Azteca Pride El Rey Del Taco Truck off the 30th ave. stop in Astoria. The owner has also opened a restaurant by the same name which has been both good and cheap every time I’ve been there. Outside of Queens, I love Shake Shack, but that’s hardly a revelation for anyone who’s lived here for awhile.