FIVE MINUTES WITH ARTIST JASON POLAN

by: Catalog

FIVE MINUTES WITH ARTIST JASON POLAN

Three years after launching its SPRZ NY collection, UNIQLO is still killing the graphic tee game, delivering consistently high quality and unique designs by teaming up with internationally acclaimed artists. The Japanese brand’s latest collaboration is with celebrated illustrator Jason Polan, which features a new SPRZ NY UT line that’s fun, fresh, and can be worn (and loved) by both kids and grown-ups.

After living in New York for over a decade, Jason has become one of its most beloved artists. After releasing his book of more than 36,000 sketches of people in New York, aptly titled, "Every Person in New York" in 2015, Jason’s illustrations have been featured everywhere from The New York Times and New York Magazine, to now-defunct food quarterly Lucky Peach.

We caught up with the artist during his recent press tour of Singapore and Japan to chat about how the collaboration came about, how living in New York has shaped him as an artist, and what’s behind his hamburger fascination.

FIVE MINUTES WITH ARTIST JASON POLAN

Hi Jason! Can you share with us when/how you knew you wanted to become an artist?
I started drawing when I was four or five. It was animals first. I loved drawing birds and elephants. I think the positive response from people made me feel good (I think it was that I liked that things I made made them feel good). 
I am not sure if there was an actual moment when I decided I wanted to be an artist, but I have just always enjoyed drawing and have been lucky that it's what I get to do for a living.

How has living in New York shaped you as an artist?
I have been living in New York now for almost 12 years. I think about the people here a lot: The speed they move, the clothing they wear, the things they do in different parts of the city. I think it becomes even more apparent to me more when I leave and then come back. I like thinking about these things when I am drawing the people here and also in other cities around the world.

FIVE MINUTES WITH ARTIST JASON POLAN

You’ve been doing the Taco Bell Drawing Club for over a decade now. If Taco Bell didn’t exist, which fast food chain would you consider having it in?
Wendy’s, ha!

From your collaborations with Lucky Peach, we know you’re quite the burger aficionado (bring back Burger Boyz!), can you tell us what you love about them? What’s the best burger you’ve ever had?
I like how they taste, how they look (good colours!), and I like drawing them. My Mom makes a pretty good burger!

FIVE MINUTES WITH ARTIST JASON POLAN

Meanwhile, this UNIQLO partnership was a bit unexpected, but in a good way of course! Can you briefly tell us how the partnership came about?
Nick Grover, the Senior Director for UT Licensing reached out, I think in 2015, and we started working on things that came out in fall of last year (2016). Initially the line was very New York-centric, but quickly it shifted to being more, 'everywhere' (which I was really excited about). 

It has been great working with UNIQLO because the people that work there are really nice and the people that wear UNIQLO clothes are a terrific and it's a big audience to share my work with.

What’s your personal approach to fashion and how did you apply this while designing the UT range?
I really, mostly, just want things to be fun. I like the idea that people would pick to wear something I was involved with and I really like that strangers will see it on them, and hopefully enjoy it too.

FIVE MINUTES WITH ARTIST JASON POLAN
FIVE MINUTES WITH ARTIST JASON POLAN
FIVE MINUTES WITH ARTIST JASON POLAN

How did you choose which of your illustrations to use for the UT line?
We tried to do a range of things, but all with the goal of being fun. There ends up being a lot of food and animals in the projects I do. We wanted to make things simple, but worked/thought a lot about how to make things that way. I was really excited to be able to do kids T-shirts with this new round of things. 

It is so exciting seeing as the shirts are starting to spread around the world and seeing little kids wearing them all over the place — I recently saw a post on Instagram of a little boy wearing his giraffe T-shirt at a zoo in Japan next to some giraffes!

Any future projects we should watch out for?
I have been doing a daily project for The New York Times that I am glad to be doing (it is a drawing on page three every day). I am making some new little books of my drawings. I am continuing the project I do called Every Person in New York (forever). I am also working on a couple other secret things.

What advice would you give kids who want to pursue art as more than just a hobby?
I just draw a lot and look at things as closely as I can and just try to think a lot. I am not sure I am very good at giving advice, but I think just... practice, practice, practice. I think good things happen when you put a lot of time into something and interact with good people.


Text and interview by Chiara Cui

Shop the Jason Polan UT range online here

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