MOST OF POLAN’S Every Person subjects don’t even know he’s drawing them.
“I feel like the drawings come out better when people are more casual and not posing,” Polan says, “but if I see somebody who is wearing a crazy hat or an outfit that I really like, I’ll ask them if I can draw them. I’ve been pretty lucky that the interactions have been fairly positive.” But, really, the luck is on the side of the subject: If Polan makes his drawing presence known, he may gift you with the sketch after it’s done.
And he’s also up for arranged drawings. Contact him through the Every Person blog to let him know where you’ll be and when, and he’ll probably show at the appointed time (though, nice guy that he is, he’ll give a shout if he can’t make it). “That’s the element of the website I enjoy the most,” he says, “that people were kind of hoping [to be drawn]. I want it to be an exciting transaction for them.”
If the art world has trained you not to believe Polan’s openness, you’re not alone. “He is a lightning rod in a lot of ways,” Bekman says. “A lot of people respond with this unfettered joy that it’s this art they can understand and art that understands them. There are other people who assume that it must be a gimmick.”
But there are no gimmicks here. “He has a very populist approach not just to making work but making sure people can have work,” Bekman says. “He uses really simple tools and he creates a lot of stuff and he’s not uptight about putting it out in the world. He gets a lot of pleasure from the whole experience. He’s not somebody who is sequestered in his garret.”
Speaking of which … the Taco Bell Drawing Club.
“I found I was spending a lot of time drawing at Taco Bell because they have free drink refi lls and I like the lighting in there and they have good tables to draw on,” Polan says. Since he enjoyed it, he figured other people might too. Sign up for the mailing list (www.drawingattacobell.blogspot.com) and he’ll send you the details about the club. The concept is simple: Show up, sit down and draw. There are about 150 club members across the country (though regular attendees usually number around fi ve and meet in NYC) — and the movement is growing.
“I want [my art] to be a fun experience. I’ve found that these projects are the way I can do that,” he says. “I want it to be fun and I want it to be funny, but I take things seriously. I think about them very hard.”
JASON POLAN’s not new to cataloging things through his art. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Polan was a double major in art and anthropology. His passion for cataloging people and objects is a constant presence in his work. Along with his NYC project, he has also visually cataloged every piece of popcorn from a bag of microwave popcorn; every person in the Skykomish, Wash., phone book (there were 217 of them); every piece of art in the Museum of Modern Art (for a book); 132 birds at the American Museum of Natural History; rocks; and much more.
Want to keep an eye on Jason? He posts links to his latest projects at www.jasonpolan.com.
Freelance writer JENNA SCHNUER really can’t draw. Like, at all.