Jason Polan, a popular sketch artist from New York, died on Monday at 37. A friend confirmed to Gothamist that Polan died after he was diagnosed with colon cancer last summer.
Polan was known for his ambitious project Every Person in New York, through which he tried “to draw every person in New York.”
He sketched thousands of portraits of people while working on the project. Many of the subjects were ordinary people captured on the move and who might not have known that they were drawn.
“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.”
But he also sketched people that he asked to pose for just long enough to make a quick sketch of them.
He posted the sketches to his blog and Instagram account. He published a collection of the sketches in Every Person in New York Volume 1 in 2015.
He commented in the intro to the book that he tried to reflect the motion of the people he sketched on the fly. So if, for instance, the subject moved a leg while he was sketching he would reflect the transformation by drawing an extra leg.
“This is why some of the people in the drawings might have an extra arm or leg — it had moved while I was drawing them. I think, hope, this makes the drawings better.”
According to Art News, Polan also pursued other projects, including Every Piece of Art in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). His drawings were not limited only to the art pieces in the museum. He sketched various objects and people he saw at the museum, including visitors and attendants. He also sketched the museum director.
He had his first solo show in 2011 at Nicholas Robinson Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan, according to Art News.
Fans pay tribute on social media
Many people have been paying tribute on social media since the news of Polan’s death broke yesterday.
RIP Jason Polan, the indefatigable artist who once drew every single piece of art on view at MoMA, and who tried to draw every person in New York City. His art says: "I'd be in heaven/If you'd share the modern world with me," as Jonathan Richman sings. https://t.co/gh72KRYj6p
— Andrew Russeth (@AndrewRusseth) January 27, 2020
It’s the saddest day. I love you, Jason @polan and am so grateful to you for always showing up and being kind and funny and totally brilliant. You made the world better and changed how I see it forever. pic.twitter.com/5WzlufRY5Y
— Jen Bekman (@jenbee) January 27, 2020
Jason @Polan adored humanity in all its casual nonchalance. His work always reminded me that much of life, if we're lucky, is just sharing space. We were lucky to share space with him. pic.twitter.com/rvzruh8TG4
— David Yee (@tangentialism) January 27, 2020
immensely sad to hear about @polan passing. i feel lucky to have a few pieces of beauty he brought into this world. his art brings me joy every day. and i know i’m not alone in that feeling, even if it’s a pale comfort. rest easy, jason. pic.twitter.com/c0V7oLqjQW
— rosemary k. j. davis (@widelight) January 27, 2020
Who was Jason Polan?
Jason Polan was born in Franklin, Michigan, 37 years ago.
He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2004 with a degree in Anthropology and art and design. He moved to New York in 2004 where he worked for brands such as Uniqlo, according to The New Yorker.
He founded the Taco Bell Drawing Club in 2005. Members included anyone who cared to join Polan to draw at a Taco Bell near Union Square West in Manhattan.
Taco Bell drawing club, led by @polan. Jason was ONE OF A KIND and i wish i got to know him deeper. RIP, NY will miss you. Too soon. (Forever Mountain Dew sketching on a city street… gonna dig up his sketches of Lenny Cooke) pic.twitter.com/ddhnztqmjw
— SAFDIE (@JOSH_BENNY) January 27, 2020
— Joan LeMay (@joanlemay) January 27, 2020