Following the tradition of cityscape artists like Edward Hopper, Ana Guzman often has a sketchbook in hand, ready to capture urban life in front of her. “I’ve always been an observational painter,” says Guzman, who moved to the United States from her native Cuba at the age of five and still paints scenes of daily life in Havana. These days, she also finds inspiration while riding MARTA en route to her downtown day job at the Internal Revenue Service.
“I like capturing people in a situation and the challenge of drawing them while they’re moving,” says Guzman, who lives in Brookhaven. “I started noticing on the train how the sunlight was hitting someone in a certain way, or a person was asleep on the seat, and I started sketching.”
Fellow MARTA riders sometimes notice what she’s doing and ask if she’s drawing them. “The best part of this has been people’s reactions,” Guzman says. “When I show them a sketch of themselves, it can turn a frown into a smile.” She often gives her subjects quick sketches of themselves, but the artist takes other drawings to her studio at the Goat Farm Arts Center and turns them into oil paintings.
Passengers usually keep to themselves on MARTA, earbuds in place and eyes locked on their phones. But when Guzman pulls out her paint pens and starts drawing, fellow riders begin to interact. “I’ll have someone ask, ‘Will you draw me?’ and I’ll hear people talking to each other about me,” she says. One young man posted a Facebook video he filmed on the train, talking about “Miss Ana” and clearly delighted with the sketch she’d made of him, saying, “This is how we do it in Atlanta.”
Says the artist: “It’s opened my eyes to seeing the beauty in everybody.”
This article appears in our April 2018 issue.