Jason Polan knows that he has set himself an impossible task. For the past two years the young artist from Michigan has been trying to sketch all 8,363,710 people in New York. When he recently passed 8,300 pen portraits he held a celebratory party. It was entitled “The One-Tenth of One Percent Event.”
Sitting pen in hand outside a coffee shop in SoHo, New York, he told The Times: “If I had been scared by the idea of finishing the project, I don’t think I would ever have started it. It would just have been too daunting.”
Sketching every day on street corners and in fast-food restaurants, museums and the occasional baseball game, he is now nearing the 10,000 mark. “It’s a project I’m getting enjoyment out of as I go along. I know I am not going to finish but I am willing to work on it for ever.”
Polan says that he is getting faster. As we spoke for this interview, he boldly sketched me in my flat cap and floral shirt in just a few unhesitating lines. It usually takes him less than two minutes to complete a sketch and he can do dozens a day.
“I’ve been pretty lucky with having a good response,” he said. “I usually try not to be noticed. If someone notices me and they give me a look, I will just stop.”