Jason Polan, Fast-Drawing Artist of the Offbeat, Dies at 37


Jason Polan, an incessant sketcher whose whimsical drawings and art projects — one was called “The Every Piece of Art in the Museum of Modern Art Book” — made him one of the quirkiest and most prolific denizens of the New York art scene, died on Monday in New York. He was 37.

His family said the cause was cancer.

Mr. Polan’s signature project for the last decade or so was “Every Person in New York,” in which he set himself the admittedly impossible task of drawing everyone in New York City. He kept a robust blog of those sketches, and by the time he published a book of that title in 2015 — which he envisioned as Vol. 1 — he had drawn more than 30,000 people.

These were not sit-for-a-portrait-style drawings. They were quick sketches of people who often didn’t know they were being sketched, done on the fly, with delightfully unfinished results, as Mr. Polan wrote in the book’s introduction.

“If they are moving fast, the drawing is often very simple,” he wrote. “If they move or get up from a pose, I cannot cheat at all by filling in a leg that had been folded or an arm pointing. 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.”

Mr. Polan’s other creations included the Taco Bell Drawing Club, a loose group that initially consisted of anyone who joined Mr. Polan, who lived in Manhattan, at a Taco Bell outlet off Union Square and drew something. As the group expanded, any Taco Bell would do.

“If I am out of town,” he told The New York Times in 2014, “I will try to have meetings wherever I am. Luckily, there are a lot of Taco Bells.”

Mr. Polan’s work has been exhibited in numerous galleries.

“Polan has managed to strike a curious balance between the fleeting and the iconic, the famous and the pedestrian, the glitzy and the mundane,” Dave Delcambre wrote in Indy Weekly, reviewing a 2009 exhibition at the Lump gallery in Raleigh, N.C. “His most significant accomplishment is that he has taken seemingly random things from everyday life, internalized them and made them into something highly personal.”

A full obituary will appear soon.

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