Have you ever been en transit in New York City and felt someone watching you in the distance? Chances are this has probably happened way more times then you’re comfortable with, but observing people from a safe distance is exactly how freelance illustrator Jason Polan plans to reach his goal of drawing every person in New York.
If Polan sketched over 14 people an hour for the next 70 years, he could possibly finish drawing everybody in New York. But knowing this is a sentence for misery and angst, Polan frequently meanders through Manhattan quickly sketching as many people as he possibly can in his little black book (actually a four-by-six inch Strathmore drawing pad).
Fans of the project can contact him via email to coordinate a sketch at a specific intersection, as long as you provide identifying information and a meeting time. Otherwise, he is typically posted at the MoMA, chilling on the corner of Mercer and Prince in SoHo, or lounging at any Taco Bell (FYI he is the official founder of the Taco Bell Drawing Club.) He prefers to keep these arrangements discreet, in fact no real artist-to-person interaction whatsoever.
Polan recently completed an impressive 30,000 drawings for his 408 page book, Every Person In New York which was released last week. Some of the drawings are bigger than others, and some are much more detailed – though they all give a brief synopsis of the illustration (i.e. description of person, street, date). His illustrations range from Donald Trump’s coif to the average Joe hunched over his laptop at the 53rd Street Starbucks.
Even the beloved comedian, Kristin Wiig jumped on the Polan fan van and wrote the foreword for his book. He has also published The Every Piece of Art in The Museum of Modern Art Book, which is just as literal as the title states. Polan and the MoMA collaborated on this project, resulting in 50 pages of illustrations of every work that was on display at his favorite New York museum from January 19 to January 31, 2005.
He regularly updates his blog with sketches of the people of New York (I’m secretly hoping I’ll see my chopped ómbre locks in there soon). His Instagram is just as amusing, a steady steam of witty captions and snapshots of his every day life.