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A Moment With: Jason Polan

November 10, 2010

Jason Polan, the artist behind the Every Person In New York project that I posted about previously agreed to do an interview with me about his work. Thanks again to Jason!


It must have been pretty daunting to set out on such a huge, seemingly
impossible task. How did you get started? What was the motivation
behind the project?

I just started.  I didn’t think about it as something that I was going
to fail at.  I knew that would be the case, but I guess I am trying to
see other ways that the project could be viewed as a success.  I
wanted to make a project that a lot of people could take part in.

What attracts you to your subjects?

All different things, and I usually do not know it until I see it.
The other day I drew a man because he was wearing a Michigan
sweatshirt.  Sometimes it is a pose someone is in, the way they are
leaning on the counter at the post office, or how their hair is
blowing, or how their glasses rest on their nose.

Where are your favorite places in the city to draw people? Where are
you hoping to explore more of?

I like drawing at the Museum of Modern art and at The Natural History
Museum.  I think I should go farther out of Manhattan.  I haven’t been
drawing enough lately in the Bronx, I will try to draw more there.

Has spending so much time studying the people of New York allowed you
to come to any conclusions about the city as a whole?

I don’t think so.  I do notice little things I hadn’t thought about
before like the way people dress or the speeds they move.

How has your art developed over the course of the project? Do you see
it influencing your work outside of EPINY?

It has helped me look harder at things I think.  When I am on trips I
look at people more than I used to.  I hope my art has gotten better.

How has the project changed your experience of the city?

I think the project has helped me find my pace a little bit better in

the city.

You’ve been able to manage a nice balance between fine art and
commercial art with your work by coming up with creative ways to make
a profit like offering a personalized tour of MoMA if people buy the
premium edition of your book. What has it been like developing a
business strategy without compromising the integrity of your art?

I do not think about it as a business strategy.  I do need to make a
living though, so sometimes I will do projects for companies and other
times I will do more personal projects.  I look at them fairly
similarly though.  I like doing projects where I can interact with
people and I try to make it something that is enjoyable for them.  I
have been lucky to be able to do that.

What are some of your most memorable experiences from the project?

I have met some interesting people while working on the project.
People have told me to go to some interesting places.  I have been
interviewed on tv a couple times which has been an interesting

Any particularly interesting stories, subjects or encounters?

There have been some celebrities that I have been excited to include
in the project.  I have also been excited to see things that I
wouldn’t have been able to see if I wasn’t doing the project.  I got
to go to The Natural History Museum before it opened one day because a
Japanese TV show was interviewing me and figured out how to get in
before normal hours.  It was quiet there.  I got to see them dusting
the dinosaurs which I enjoyed very much.

It’s 80 years from now and the project is complete. What do you hope
its legacy will be? What would you like to do with the project as a
whole once it’s finished?

The project will never be finished.  People are always moving.  There
will always be more people to draw.

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