He knew it would be impossible, but in some ways that was the point.
“I am trying to draw every person in New York,” Jason Polan announced on his website in 2008. “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.”
He drew unwitting New Yorkers on the subway and in restaurants, at museums and on street corners. Sometimes, in a day’s work, he drew just a few fleeting faces and other times he drew hundreds, amassing more than 50,000 within the decade. He captured them buying hot dogs or playing an accordion. Some fidgeted with a Rubik’s Cube or read the paper on the E train.
But then, after Dec. 19, 2019, the drawings on the “Every Person in New York” blog stopped coming. The last entry that day featured “Man at Taco Bell on 2nd Avenue,” sitting on a stool in a bulky winter jacket. Polan, his family said, was fighting colon cancer.
On Monday, the artist died in New York after succumbing to cancer, his father, Jesse Polan, told The Washington Post. He was 37.
Polan’s death brought forth an outpouring of grief from the local art community and the everyday people who saw themselves in his work, remembering him as the “constant chronicler of our city,” looking for beauty in the blur of a New York minute on any given street corner.
He knew he would never finish drawing all of the 8 million-plus people living in New York, his close friend, Jen Bekman, told The Post. But she said the prolific volume of what he did manage to capture each and every day taught her how to see the world differently.
“To walk down the street with him is just a reminder that, no matter how boring you think the day is, there are always interesting things around you,” Bekman, the founder and CEO of an online art curator, said Tuesday night. “If you think of just a walk to the corner as an opportunity to see something different, most of us don’t do that normally. He is just this super voracious observer of everything.”