Interview by Nicole Gordon - Images provided by Nicole Gordon and Fillin Global
Jason Naylor is an award-winning artist, designer, and creative director based in Brooklyn. He moved to NYC as he was drawn to the colorful lifestyle and energy it possessed. Naylor began his career working in the Creative Department of M·A·C Cosmetics, honing his graphic design skills which later translated beautifully into murals, textile collaborations and more. His vibrant work is immediately recognizable, and widely known for the palate of bright neon colors against a black background, and --generally speaking-- always messages of positivity. Naylor spreads love, hope, faith, and positive vibes wherever he goes. I know firsthand -- Jason is a good friend – that he is an extremely uplifting and joyous soul who believes that kindness is the key to his success...
...I will never forget the day my daughter Emma came home to tell me there was an artist on a ladder painting on our block. I thought I would know if someone was painting as I felt quite immersed in the art scene, but this time I was completely in the dark. I decided to go and see for myself what was going on, and there was artist Jason Naylor painting his first and very poignant mural Live Life Colorfully for a contest he had won via a real estate company submission. His words were alluring and positive, his palette consisting of the bright neon colors that have come to define his style. That day has a special significance for me, as Jason and I not only became friends, we started working together on projects soon after. So, it is a great honor to interview Jason and tell his story of artistic success.
Nicole Gordon: Jason, can you please tell our audience about winning the Stonehenge competition and why you decided to submit?
Jason Naylor: For a few years prior to this, I had been actively seeking any and every mural I could get my hands on. I had painted a few indoor murals for big clients like Microsoft and Xbox, as well as the most random trade show walls, event murals, even someone’s front door. I would get on craigslist and search “mural” in the classifieds because I was desperately trying to build my portfolio of murals.
I remember painting an 8x8 ft panel at the Northside street festival and I loved being on the street with the other artists, and the energy of all the people watching and taking photos. But I was struggling to get a good permanent outdoor wall, as much of my work had been indoors at that point. So, when the StonehengeNYC contest arose, I jumped on it. The prize was a 12x15 ft wall in Manhattan -- basically every muralists dream! (There was also a cash prize.) Simultaneously, I had been doing a lot more typographic work in my murals, and I was seeing how this messaging was resonating with clients, so I decided to submit a lettering design for the StonehengeNYC contest.
I chose the phrase LIVE LIFE COLORFULLY for my design. I had no idea how this would change everything. But it won, I won... and I painted my design onto that (now famous) wall in Chelsea.
Nicole Gordon: What doors/opportunities opened for you after that first mural accomplishment? Do you look back and consider that the turning point in your career?
Jason Naylor: Looking back, yes. This was a major turning point for me, in 2 ways. First, obviously, because of the huge amount of exposure that resulted in having a very eye catching, colorful piece of art in such a high traffic location. I was quickly able to secure more and more murals, new commercial clients, and ultimately began the process of writing my book which was released just earlier this year, titled LIVE LIFE COLORFULLY.
Secondly, the success of that mural spawned a pivot in my body of work, where I began focusing my efforts on messaging, and a full spectrum color palette to match.
Nicole Gordon: Thinking of other projects you’ve worked on, so many stand out in my mind! There was your first gate, Lily’s restaurant, your Wearpear sock collaboration, MAC Cosmetics, Coach... you are constantly busy! What do you attest to that outpouring of work? Do you find you have a penchant for those areas, fashion and beauty?
Jason Naylor: I like to keep busy, and I am fortunate to be able to do so, but I do it part for my own well-being. I have a pretty healthy, regimented lifestyle, which I haven’t always had. I keep it for my physical and mental health and staying busy is a big part of that.
As for some of my commercial clients, I began my career as a graphic designer working for MAC Cosmetics, so I’ve always had a solid network within the fashion / beauty business. I find myself working with beauty brands pretty regularly, but in a way, it makes perfect sense with my bright colors. Makeup brands tend to like color. But more importantly for me, I enjoy working with any brand that is in the business of making people feel good and live their best lives.
Nicole Gordon: You have a fearless approach to your work ethic. You attended a licensing convention, collaborated on some very large projects (Candytopia - The Dream Room, etc.), and became an invited artist/member of Pow-Wow- to name but a few. How do you find out about these opportunities?
Jason Naylor: I mean, I definitely have my fears just like everyone else. But I am a yes person for sure! I have various sources where opportunities come from, chiefly, my representation agency, Fillin Global, as well as social media, referrals, people seeing my work on the street... even just talking to people about what I do! I think the key is always being open to opportunity and being prepared for it. And yes, I have found that people are often interested in me and my work based on my positive words and attitude, as much as the work itself.
Nicole Gordon: When the pandemic hit, you became very involved with supporting essential workers. You created prints, banners, murals depicting gratitude for the front line workers. How did that project happen and how long are you planning to create art for that specific community?
Jason Naylor: When the pandemic was unfolding, I created this project called, “Graffiti for the Greater Good.” It was a series of messages that I stenciled all over the city on construction walls and high traffic areas. It consisted of messages like, “Be my quarantine,” “Spread Love not COVID-19” and “We may be alone but together we’ll conquer.” It was designed to look like the warning-style typography from apocalypse movies like Terminator. I also focused my social media posts on dedicating the art to the essential workers.
I knew that everyone safe at home could see these things on Instagram, but I wanted the community to know that I intended that work as a thank you to those who had to be out on streets, going to work. Shortly after, I painted a mural on one of my walls in Bushwick that said HOPE. I guess the word spread that I was doing pandemic related work, and I got a call from the Atlantic Terminal, who wanted to do a HOPE mural on the front of the Atlantic Center mall building, right across from Barclays.
One thing led to the next and opportunities kept arising, which enabled me to create work to support essential workers. And I was ready for it. I was able to say yes to all of these things, and I plan to continue to do work that highlights and pays respect to the heroes of this era.
Nicole Gordon: Something I always wanted to ask you is - what was the impetus in creating only positive and colorful art?
Jason Naylor: It’s just in me. I am a super optimistic and all-around upbeat person. The work I am making is just me being myself! I am as happy as the colors you see in my work! Plus, it’s a cycle. You fill your world with color and positivity, and soon enough you’ll feel it. I get down, like everyone, but I am pretty quick to count my blessings and move through it.
Nicole Gordon: I noticed there are a lot of socks on your Instagram feed - what is the tie in there? Are you a sock lover and do you see yourself collaborating with a specific brand?
Jason Naylor: Yep! I love socks. I always have. Sliding my feet into brand new pair is one of the best moments in life! Plus, I love that socks are a great opportunity to wear something with color and attitude, which compliments my mostly black wardrobe.
Nicole Gordon: For your first solo show, I understand that both you and curator @girlseesart had to make some adjustments due to the pandemic. When I was there, pieces were selling rather quickly and by the end of the show, nearly all were gone! I love that you added sculptures to your work, too! Given the circumstances, how did you feel? Was it everything you had hoped for?
Jason Naylor: Thank you! I’m so pleased with how the show turned out. Originally it was meant to be last year ,but the pandemic forced it to happen a year later. Ultimately, I think it was meant to be. I had another year to button up my concept and direction for the body of work, and the time during the pandemic really helped to shape my artwork.
And of course, it felt good that I sold most of the show. Honestly, I was thrilled! It’s such an honor to me that people want to collect my work, it’s almost surreal. I feel so thankful to all of my collectors, big and small.
Nicole Gordon: Let’s talk about the sculptures, your collaboration with Joyeria Suarez, and of course, your best-selling book, Live Life Colorfully. These were all new mediums you explored. How was it creating in new different elements? How do you find the time?
Jason Naylor: I’m so excited about the jewelry and sculptures. Making physical objects feels so fresh to me, and it’s been a fascinating learning curve. I am excited to keep going with 3D objects and sculptures.
My book has been such a dream come true. It gave me a platform to create something that is less about art and more about mental health, kindness, and creativity, something that universal, and so important. Honestly, I don’t know how I find time, I just make lists of what needs to be done and I do it!
Nicole Gordon: What is your dream collaboration, and have you put the wheels in motion to make it become a reality? What other projects are you looking forward to down the line?
Jason Naylor: My dream collaboration is with Oprah. I have not put the wheels in motion except to work on growing my platform into a force of kindness and positivity big enough to make a dent in the world. I’ll get there. I have confidence! And my dream client is Nike. I haven’t worked with Nike yet so, Nike feel free to holler ... just do it!
I also love technology, and I am excited about the NFT craze. I have dreams of using Augmented Reality to animate my murals or something like that, but I haven’t dived into it too much yet. Still It’s definitely a possibility for the future.
Nicole Gordon: Last question! What has been your favorite “art” chapter so far, and why?
Jason Naylor: I am always looking back and thinking about how I can improve, and I am always obsessed with the current thing I am working on. Past and present obsessions aside, looking forward to the future I think my chapter is yet to come!