Taco Bell Drawing Club pops up in Long Beach in honor of the late artist, illustrator Jason Polan

When he found out the news of New York-based artist and illustrator Jason Polan’s death at 37, local designer Nick Zegel’s first thought was to host a Taco Bell Drawing Club, right here in Long Beach.

Polan began hosting the weekly drawing club at a Taco Bell near Union Square in 2005, where his friends, fans and social media followers would gather to sketch and socialize, according to The New Yorker.

Polan’s quest to draw everyone in New York City was well known—he’d drawn more than 36,000 people—while his work has been showcased in museums and galleries worldwide as well as in publications including The New York Times and The New Yorker.

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Jason Polan, an incessant sketcher whose whimsical drawings and art projects made him one of the quirkiest and most prolific residents of the New York art scene, died on Monday. He was 37. @jasonpolan’s signature project for the past decade or so was “Every Person in New York,” in which he set himself the admittedly impossible task of drawing everyone in the city. By the time he published a book of that title in 2015 — which he envisioned as Vol. 1 — he had drawn more than 30,000 people. Jason had been a regular contributor to The New York Times since 2008. Among his many contributions to The Times were these drawings — a selection from the 505 sketches Jason made of different ways to read a newspaper.

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Zegel, a transplant from Philadelphia, can’t recall exactly when he first discovered Polan’s work but said it must have been around 2008 or 2009 on Twitter, or an art blog when he was living on the East Coast.

“An artist attempting to draw every person in New York City,” Zegel said. “I thought wow, what an awesome idea. The task of drawing every person was impossible until someone set out to do it… All of a sudden, because of Jason just saying that he would do it, it felt possible.”

Zegel, who moved to Long Beach in 2010 to work for Roxy/Quiksilver, had his own freelance operation on 4th Street and Linden Avenue for a bit, but most recently has begun building a small design studio called NICK.

“As an art director and graphic designer I’m always doodling and taking notes, but drawing from life can really reveal the world around you. Jason’s work couldn’t be a better representation of this.”

So tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 29, at a Taco Bell in Downtown Long Beach, Zegel will be there at 5 p.m. with a pad and pen ready to draw and has invited anyone to join in. Depending on tonight’s attendance, Zegel said he’d definitely consider making a Long Beach Taco Bell Drawing Club a regular occurrence.

“We’ve been hit with a few tragedies early this year: Kobe, a couple members of the skateboard community and now Jason,” said Zegel. “It’s been a heavy week for a lot of people and I think just doing something, making something, and going out into the world, is what the ones we’ve lost would like to see us doing.”

Bring some drawing supplies to celebrate the life of Jason Polan with artist Nick Zegel at Taco Bell (Drawing Club) from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 228 E. 7th Street. You can reach Zegel at [email protected] and on Instagram @zeegisbreathing.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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