arts

Artist Jason Polan, who wanted to sketch everyone in New York, is dead at 37

Published 28th January 2020
TO GO WITh AFP STORY LIFESTYLE-US-ART-SOCIETY BY SEBASTIAN SMITHArtist Jason Polan stands in Grand Central Station February 28, 2011 working on his project of trying to draw every person in New York City.  Every day he's out there with ink pen and sketch pad, posting the results on www.everypersoninnewyork.blogspot.com. Three years into the project, he's up to about 14,000. Polan, a professional illustrator, has a thing for cataloguing. He once sketched every single work of art in New York's Museum of Modern Art. Another time he drew every individual piece in a bag of popcorn.   AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Artist Jason Polan, who wanted to sketch everyone in New York, is dead at 37
Written by Jacopo Prisco, CNN
Artist and illustrator Jason Polan, who was working on an ambitious project to draw everyone in New York, died on Monday aged 37, his family confirmed to the New York Times.
The cause was cancer, the family told the newspaper.
In 2008, Polan started "Every person in New York" in the form of a blog, stating: "I am trying to draw every person in New York. I will be drawing people everyday and posting as frequently as I can. It is possible that I will draw you without you knowing it. I draw in Subway stations and museums and restaurants and on street corners. I try not to be in the way when I am drawing or be too noticeable."
Polan sketching in New York's  Grand Central Station in 2011.
Polan sketching in New York's Grand Central Station in 2011. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
The last sketch on the blog is titled "Man at Taco Bell" and dated December 16, 2019. The drawings were made quickly and sometimes affected by whether the subject was moving or had suddenly left. Polan was open to sketching someone upon request, offering people to email him at a 24-hour notice the details of which street corner or public place they would be standing at for a duration of just two minutes.
The last sketch from the "Every person in New York" project.
The last sketch from the "Every person in New York" project. Credit: Jason Polan
"You may or may not see me drawing you during this time. If I do draw you, you will see yourself (or rather, a drawing that hopefully somewhat resembles you) on this blog that evening," he explained on the blog.
"I know I'm going to fail, I won't draw everybody, but I enjoy trying," he said in a 2011 interview. At that time, he had drawn 11,000 people, and by 2015, when he released a book with selected sketches from the project, he had reached 30,000. Most of them were regular New Yorkers, although Polan did draw a few famous people, including Judd Apatow, Zadie Smith, Joan Didion, Sofia Coppola and Anthony Bourdain.
Jason Polan drawing cards at  Warby Parker's holiday spectacle bazaar in New York, in 2011.
Jason Polan drawing cards at Warby Parker's holiday spectacle bazaar in New York, in 2011. Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/WireImage/WireImage
Polan's other projects were beautifully quirky. Shortly after moving to New York from his native Michigan, he started drawing every artwork of one of his favorite museums, the Museum of Modern Art, hoping to get a job there.
Also notable was the "Taco Bell Drawing Club," which he started in 2005 as a weekly meeting open to anyone who wanted to join him in drawing at the Taco Bell restaurant in Manhattan's Union Square, where he would personally make laminated membership cards for every member.