Interview with Street Artist Jason Naylor
Jason Naylor is a street artist, prolific and instantly recognizable, his work wholeheartedly uplifts the streets of New York and beyond.
We offered Jason the walls of Lily’s, our ground floor bar, with the knowledge it’s not his usual ‘beat’ but he is also a man who is game for a new challenge.
We are thrilled that Jason brought is positive energy and vibrant vision to Roger Smith!
So Jason, first things first. What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I reply to comments and DMs on Social Media from the day before. I think it’s important to engage and give back to my audience so I usually reserve the morning for that.
How did you get your start in street art?
I have always been interested in street art. When I was in high school, I would draw graffiti-esque pieces of my friends' names, but I was scared to use spray paint. I painted a few large scale pieces using a grid system and brushes. Later in life, I was asked to create a mural for Microsoft for their SXSW installation, when the wall graphics fell through. It was very last minute, and I didn’t have time to worry about tools. I had to fake it until I made it. I painted a 30ft mural over the course of a week. I really cut my teeth on that wall, but I now had a taste for painting murals. So after that, I began seizing every opportunity I could to paint murals, indoor and out. Now I absolutely LOVE painting on the street.
What is the process like, of making public art in New York?
Painting in the street, in public is the most meditative place I have. Despite being in public, it’s a very peaceful, magical place I go when doing it. I love the energy of people watching, it energizes me to stay focused and productive. The process can be grueling, going up and down a ladder all day, but it’s very rewarding.
You seem to be attracted to a particular pallet of very distinct colors, how did you come to them?
Yes. I like to describe my color palette as electric. My art is very reliant upon messaging, often about kindness or love, but I don’t see these as something passive. I think they should be treated with passion and energy, and my palette supports that. I developed the palette to assist in getting the point across. You’ll notice there is no red, which I see as too romantic or angry. My work is neither; its boldly kind. For example, it’s not, “please spread love, thank you.” It’s, “SPREAD LOVE!!!” with an active, command-like voice. So the electricity in the colors helps to convey that.
Where do you get your best ideas?
I am inspired by motivational messaging, found in quotes, or talks, but also in the language commonly used in fitness. Sometimes while I exercising I generate ideas for messages without realizing it. I also am very attentive to signage and lettering on the street and around me. I might see something in an ad on the subway and feel inspired by it.
What other New York street artists inspire you?
I love the color palette and organic shapes of Dasic’s work. I am ever-in-awe of Tristan Eaton (more of an LA / Global artist.) I like J Goldcrown and his smart approach to art. I am also very inspired by Shantell Martin and her messaging.
Tell us about your inspiration for the artwork in Lily’s?
I have always loved NY. I was drawn here magnetically as a teen, and have felt inspired by the magic of this city for as long as I can remember. I wanted to create a story about what it feels like to love NYC. And if the city were a woman, what would the narrative be? The lights, the colors, the energy… I wanted to capture all of it in a series of messages that describe a dream-like romance with the city itself.
What role does the theme of affirmation play in your work?
Well, affirmation plays a big role in self-confidence, which is a big part of what I am preaching. To love someone you must first love yourself. Love, kindness, friendship, acceptance, caring… all of these are intertwined with self-confidence, which relies on affirmation.
What is it about using The Roger Smith as the context for your work that appeals to you?
I like the juxtaposition of the venue and my work. I think my work has a pop sensibility and is obviously “of the street,” so it felt like an interesting fit!
What role does Social Media play in what you do?
It plays a pretty big role in spreading the good word. Social Media has been really beneficial as a platform to showcase my work, but even more importantly, my murals are fortunate to appear in a lot of selfies, which really magnifies the reach and exposure. Street art x social media is somewhat of a recipe for success.
What is the last thing you do at night?
I usually wind down watching TV and simultaneously reading things on the internet, often fantasy shopping or educating myself about some new technology.
Have you got any exciting projects we can look out for coming up?
YES! I have a collaboration with Coach consisting of bags and T-shirts with my art on them. It launches in July, so the products should be in stores soon! I also have a few murals coming up around the city, over the next few months, and finally, I am currently working on a line of socks! That will be available soon as well!
And one last question…
We noticed your love of socks on your Instagram – tell us about it.
Oh, I just love socks. As long as I can remember being an adult, I’ve enjoyed buying and wearing interesting and colorful socks. I think socks are a great way to accessorize in a colorful way and I can express myself through the socks I choose for the day. I like to wear black, but I love to have colorful socks and a colorful heart ????
The project was initiated and curated by Nicole Gordon, Lily’s bar is open 5-10 pm Monday to Friday. All are welcome to come by, have a drink and check out Jason’s work.
The Roger Smith is family-run hotel in Midtown Manhattan. For over years the owners and employees have been committed to shaping and growing a diverse and organic cultural footprint within the hotel and beyond. With a continued desire to converse and engage with guests, New York, and places further afield, The Roger Smith Hotel’s creative program seeks to create big opportunities, pleasurable experiences, inspiring happenings, and intelligent dialogues.
Nicole Gordon Instagram