Taco Bell with Jason Polan
...Are they playing Justin Bieber right now? Sorry. Hope this is in the recording. You should also lead this story with the fact that you have only been to Taco Bell once before.
Good idea. So, what is the thing to get here? What is your go-to?
I mean, I have tried, I think, the entire menu. Try to get something different every time. You should also emphasize heavily the Taco Bell theme, rather than the interview with me.
You should request corporate sponsorship.
Unfortunately I have tried but they won't. I am working also on more Taco Bell Drawing Club volumes, so after people do a bunch of drawings I collect them and make a little book, and go to book fairs.
You draw basically without looking?
If I am looking at the person, it seems like more of an authentic thing because I am not making as many decisions. Which I like. Fast food places really are the ideal people watching, I am learning. People don’t focus on me, or anything, here really, just the food. So that is part of all of this.
Weirdest thing you have seen here?
I saw a guy get arrested, during a TBDC, a bunch of us were sitting here and a guy came in and the cops all came in after him, arrested him... He had just stolen shoes from the store next door and there was some weird interaction, where the cops made the guy’s dad, who was there, pull off the shoes while the cops were like holding him, like, horizontally. We were all drawing what was happening, but were also like “What?! This is so weird…” I don’t know though, things are usually pretty chill in here.
You come [to TB] at a pretty neutral time. It probably gets stranger later in the day, or super early in the morning. So, what are you working on right now? You had that huge Uniqlo thing, and the Tokyo drawing book, the NYT... you’re everywhere...
Yeah, I am doing some more for Uniqlo, right now...
I see that Giraffe everywhere. All over the city I am seeing that shirt. Not the giraffe you have on though-- are giraffes a theme for you?
I think you get this shirt if you are a recurring member at the zoo.
Do you go there to draw, or do you just really like the zoo?
I like going to the zoo, drawing animals in the Central Park Zoo, where you’re walking through central park and you kind of pop into the zoo. Anyways, yeah also I’m working on the New York Times drawings, which is every day.
How long before it’s in the paper do you have to send it to them?
I send them a block of ten drawings weekly. They’re not really specific to a topic, unless it’s a drawing for Father’s Day or something.
What was the Father’s Day drawing? I wouldn’t honestly know where to start with that one.
I mean, it’s funny, I don’t know if I initially made it for Father’s Day but it was appropriate. It was somebody sitting and reading the newspaper with a bunch of mugs that all said ‘#1’. They’re kind of subtle, not trying too obviously to be jokes.
You seem like you have a pretty good sense of humor.
Thanks. I try not to think a lot about making things funny, because then it can come across weird. I am often not aiming for funny, but just want it to be ‘fun’.
I feel like the problem as an artist trying to hard to be funny is then you are potentially setting yourself up for getting way in your head and end up paranoid self-conscious and/or... failing.
Yeah, sometimes I will think a joke is funny at the time, and then I will look at it, even just a few months later, and I will think “My goodness, this is not funny.”
Well, overt sense of humor is definitely not timeless. When did you start drawing, did you go to art school?
I was probably four or five years old when I started. I went to University of Michigan, for art school, but I also studied Anthropology. So I did the scienc-y side of stuff as well as drawing and painting.
Probably where your fondness of the zoo comes in.
Anthropology is the study of our evolution, human, and that’s why I kind of like cataloging things. I think the zoo is just me intrinsically liking animals.
Where are you from, originally?
Michigan. I have been here since 2004, when I finished college. And I ended up leaving for almost a year, doing this thing called the Art Train USA. Basically a train that travels the country with four artist ‘fellows’, going to different communities talking about and teaching art.
What kind of train is this?
It ran on our nations railways, and it was four cars and a caboose. There was one guy who stayed in the caboose, and we would drive in vans between locations, doing volunteer training and going to schools talking about art. But the train would take a couple days to get places... That was a good part of 2005. I still think about it a lot. And after that, I came back and started doing more projects in New York.
What kind of projects have you been involved in since being here?
I had an art show Nicholas Robinson gallery that was on 20th Street, a couple summers ago. I have shown things with Jen Beckman. I have work in the Levi’s store on 14th Street, done projects with Warby Parker, Nike (my drawings on shirts and Air Force 1s). I guess I have more commercial projects than art shows in galleries.
And what is that like?
I like making things that more people can interact with. Doing a project with a company like Nike can hopefully reach a lot of people.
I appreciate that. If you believe in your art, everyone should be able to have access to it. You have a wider reach to more communities.
I also just think the idea of having a show, for instance in Chelsea, and you have an opening, and say 500 people see your opening, that’s awesome. But you can post on Instagram and 50,000 people can see your work. It’s such a different, easier interaction, and I love that.
Last question, what was the last song you listened to?
I find that it’s totally random. Brian Eno, Radiohead, Selena Gomez, Lana Del Rey, it’s all just pretty embarrassing YouTube connections.