The Rumpus Interview with Jason Polan, Part II


The following is the second part of a two-part interview with Jason Polan, the first part of which can be found here. Excerpts of Polan’s art from Michelle Tea’s Mermaid in Chelsea Creek can be seen here.  


The Rumpus: When did you first learn about mermaids?

Jason Polan: I liked the movie Splash a lot when I was little. I think we taped it when it was on TV, and then would watch the movie fairly often.

Rumpus: Have you ever tried to create the sensation of color with a black-and-white drawing?

Polan: I draw rainbows whenever I see them, with my black ink pen. When I have collected enough, I thought I might make a book called Black-and-White Rainbows. I think about this a lot, especially as I have gotten into Instagram. I like drawing most everything I see, but sometimes the light will hit something in a certain way that I just cannot capture the thing the way I would like with a drawing, so I think taking a picture might be the way to document what I am seeing better. Sometimes I can’t draw or take a picture of something, though, if the color is a certain way and the only way to see it is to see it in person.

polan rainbow

Rumpus: Have you ever considered doing a series where you ask random people on the street to draw your portrait?

Polan: I have not ever considered that, but occasionally people will draw a picture of me, which is nice.

Rumpus: Have you ever tried drawing with a red marker while wearing red goggles, or under a red light?

Polan: I have not ever considered that.

Rumpus: Do you ever draw with your non-dominant hand, or with your teeth?

Polan: Yeah, sometimes I draw with my left hand and I am pretty terrible. The drawings end up just looking like shakier/inconsistent (worse) versions of my right hand drawings. Sometimes I like drawing with my eyes closed.

Rumpus: Have you ever considered fashioning a glove with markers for fingertips? And can you imagine how luxurious the marks from such a glove would look if you caressed a sheet of poster paper?

Polan: Ha, this is a good idea. This is maybe a little related—I was just talking to a friend who was going to make me a glove that I could wear on my right hand while drawing outside, that had some of the fingers open and the right hand side of the palm open or with an added grip, because sometimes when I am drawing outside—when it is cold out it gets difficult (my hand gets slower when it is really cold) because I do not like wearing a glove while drawing, because I cannot feel the paper right. I like drawing on wet windows, so maybe that is kind of related to having marker fingers?

Rumpus: How big was the largest drawing you’ve ever made, and does it haunt you that it wasn’t bigger?

Polan: I made a mural with my friend Jake in Ann Arbor that was I think about 14 feet-by-180 feet. That is the largest thing I have ever made. It is ten big ants. I taped off the outlines of the ants with blue tape and it felt neat to be drawing something with tape that large. A couple summers ago, I made a life-size drawing of King Kong’s head which was about eight feet-by- six feet. I tried to measure the head (scaled to other things in the movie I could estimate the size of) that was in the movie in the early ’30s, and I liked that I was making something “life-size” that was kind of a fictional thing.

polan king kong

Rumpus: How small can a drawing get, and is there a point at which a mark is so minute that it ceases to convey meaning?

Polan: I am not sure—but I do think about how simple a drawing can be while still being that thing, rather than just a mark. Sometimes I will draw people and they will move away too quickly for me to finish what I wanted, and it is not enough for me to consider it a drawing of them. I hope I have gotten better at capturing things quicker in a drawing.

polan speck

Rumpus: Have you ever furnished an empty room with drawings of furniture, and if so, did it make the space feel larger, or smaller?

Polan: Nope, but one time I covered a wall with 8.5×11 pages of drawings, which made things feel a little bit different in the room.

Rumpus: Have you ever drawn in your sleep?

Polan: Drawn in a dream? Or found a drawing when I woke up that I made when I was sleeping? I draw in my sleep (dream of drawing) a lot. I don’t think I have ever drawn anything in real life while I was sleeping, though. I do keep a pad near my bed, just in case.


Original Rumpus art by Jason Novak.

Jason Novak lives in Oakland with his wife and daughter. More from this author →