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Artist Jason Polan, Known For His "Every Person In New York" Project, Has Died At 37

Friends, colleagues, and fans are remembering and celebrating the beloved artist on social media.

Posted on January 27, 2020, at 1:07 p.m. ET

Timothy A. Clary / Getty Images

Jason Polan sketching in Grand Central Station in 2011.

Artist Jason Polan, best known for his ambitious project to sketch every person in New York City, died Monday at age 37.

His family told the New York Times the cause of death was cancer.

Known for his simple, gestural doodles, Polan's long-running "Every Person in New York" project was a sweeping, ambitious attempt to, as the straightforward title says, draw every person in the city. "It just sounded like such an all-encompassing, ridiculous idea,” he told the Times in 2009.

Some of his sketches captured celebrities like Zadie Smith or Joan Didion, but most were quick drawings of strangers done from a distance with titles such as "Man at Taco Bell 2nd Avenue & 8th" or "Woman Working & Eating a Cookie at Lafayette."

He began the project in March 2008; his last drawing was posted on his blog on Dec. 19, 2019. He published a book of his sketches in 2015.

"I know I'm going to fail, I won't draw everybody, but I enjoy trying," he told Agence France-Presse in 2011.

Jason Polan

During his career, Polan also drew every piece of art at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA.

[Read: Jason Polan's "19 Famous People I've Spotted in New York City"]

Polan was also known for founding and hosting the Taco Bell Drawing Club in 2005, a weekly meet-up of artists and friends at the (now closed) Union Square Taco Bell; Polan himself made laminated "Official Member" cards for anyone who wanted one. In a 2018 New Yorker story, Polan explained that he had started drawing in Taco Bell because it reminded him of his Michigan hometown, where a manager at a local franchise was especially friendly. The art platform Ghostly International described the club as the "sort of adventure that Polan was all about. Artful in concept but widely accessible."

Friends, colleagues, and fans are taking to social media to remember and celebrate the beloved artist.

It’s the saddest day. I love you, Jason @polan and am so grateful to you for always showing up and being kind and funny and totally brilliant. You made the world better and changed how I see it forever.

hearing really sad news that the artist jason polan has passed way. i didn't know him well but he always seemed a very talented, energetic, and unique person. i loved getting the chance to write about his taco bell drawing club last year. https://t.co/xeUL85NzRZ

My friend Jason has given me so many wonderful little things for years. This one seemed like the right one to post today. RIP Jason Polan

i didn't know jason polan well but always liked bumping into him and his art all over the city 💔 rest in peace

Jason @Polan adored humanity in all its casual nonchalance. His work always reminded me that much of life, if we're lucky, is just sharing space. We were lucky to share space with him.

jason polan loved art so much and was so good at living inside of it. he showed the rest of us how to do it, how to live like that. i am so grateful for the small part of him that i got to know, and the large swath of his brain that he shared with all of us. rest in peace buddy.

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