The following is an amended transcription of the @HyypeHQ Artist Spotlight with @JasonNaylorNYC & @AnarothsNFT on May 20th, 2022.
Anaroth: Welcome and thank you for joining us today. It’s been fun chatting with you throughout the week, but I am looking forward to learning more about you and your work. To help kick us off, could you share a little about yourself and your journey within the Art world so far?
Jason Naylor: I'm very Brooklyn proud, I live in Williamsburg and my apartment looks at the Williamsburg Bridge, which is amazing. It's my favorite view, I'm sitting in my little office looking out at the Williamsburg Bridge and feeling blessed. I love how the view of the bridge and what I can see out my window changes so much based on what's happening with the sky. I am fascinated with the colors of the sky, how you can have so many different colors happen in one day, and how the view is never truly the same?
My work focuses heavily on spreading vibes and positivity, and I do it using bright colors, bright messages, and bright themes are always found in my work. I would say my Art is both traditional and digital. Traditional happens with Spray Paint on large scale murals, like as big as I can get. My digital work stems from my iPad and Apple Pencil along with some occasional After Effects work that gets translated to NFTs. The general mission of my work is to spread love and positivity, I try to paint, talk, and make Art that is very uplifting, but with an edge. I really enjoy the juxtaposition in my work with the edge that comes from Street Art, Graffiti and Spray Paint, but gets juxtaposed with uplifting, wholesome vibes of positivity. That’s the niche that I have found for myself in Street Art and Physical Art, but then there is this new digital medium for me. With my NFTs I have evolved a little bit to explore the darker side of my themes and a little more balance of light, dark, and recognizing that life isn’t always so positive.
Anaroth: You have had success is previous forms of your Art, what was it about NFTs that made you want to branch out and try another medium?
Jason Naylor: I have had a long journey and it's been really exciting, it's like every time there's something new I get really excited about it. While I love painting, I love spray paint, and I love using my hands, I also love the variety that my career brings me. This ability to go back and forth between the physical and digital. Before NFTs I was using digital tools to generate all my sketches, anything that I was sketching for a client, planning for a wall, a mural, I would just do it digitally because it was so easy. Both for my process and the client process, it made things so easy. It is great to be able to sketch my own ideas quickly, but then presenting ideas, get feedback, edits, that whole process digitally makes the most sense.
When I discovered NFT's it was a perfect fit because all of a sudden there's something that I can do with this digital Art. For a while, unless it was an illustration job where I had to hand over digital files, my digital files were really only for my own purposes. I was using digital work to show the work before I painted, or to plan the work but not make the work. It was a couple of years ago that I had started investing in Crypto, and I have always been interested and excited by technology. While I wish I had started sooner, as soon as I discovered Bitcoin I started investing there, and helped me on my journey to NFTs. I remember reading about Ethereum maybe right around when pandemic started, early 2020, and found a rabbit hole that took me to SuperRare. I applied for SuperRare, and got accepted pretty quickly. I think at the time maybe it was less competitive although I will allow myself the credit of saying I was accepted quickly on my merit. So I find myself on SuperRare figuring out this NFT thing, and I had no idea what it was, to me it was a new place to put my Art up. I am the kind of guy that if you tell me I can put my Art there I am going to do it.
Anaroth: Thank you for sharing, the curiosity you speak to is such a great skill to have. Who are some of the people that have been influential in your web3 / NFT journey so far? Is there a specific lesson you have learned that stand out to you?
Jason Naylor: Yea, so going back to the early days… which is weird to say since the early days is about a year and a half ago. But before I minted anything I was already on SuperRare and was just trying to understand what the hell was happening. I remember watching on IG where people were posting about their NFT drops, and two Artists were killing it right out of the gate. One was Matt Gondek and the other WhIsBe, both were my friends and I was following them on socials. The reason I say both though is they simultaneously came out of the gate with these big NFT projects. I remember thinking, ok these guys are doing something right, I need to try and learn something from them.
What I took away from WhIsBe was the way he did the marketing portion of his drop, and that wasn’t an aspect that I had really thought through yet. If you know WhIsBe’s work it is all about this Gummy Bear called Vandal Gummy. He had these different iterations of the bear and one of them was a skeleton of the bear, but instead of actually showing the skeleton of the bear he showed this video of this scene with flames and hype and stuff. But you didn’t get to see the piece, it created this great sense of FOMO. The lesson I took away though is it isn’t just about making work, and then showing people look how cool my work is, there’s real strategy. I wanted to plan and really think about how I wanted to build interest in my work, without necessarily showing my work.
I started to mint some of my own pieces at this point, and making some videos about my work, but didn’t show my work. Fast forward a little bit and I want to shout out one other Artist, EfDot, a solid guy with great work. He came in a little later to the game, unlike me who is like I am just going to throw this out there and figure it out. I’ll pivot where I need to, but thats my overall tactic. I could see EfDot off to the sidelines a little, just observing, asking questions, and trying to learn. Then later on he came out with this really planned strategy of how he was going to position himself in the space, and has had some amazing success. I couldn’t be happier for him, it shows that there is more than one way to prepare, and it was a really interesting strategy that worked well for him. Those are some of the people that have helped me in different parts of my journey so far.
Anaroth: Now that we talked about some of the people that have played a role in your NFT journey I would love to hear a little about the NFT project you are working on now.
Jason Naylor: The project is called City of Angels, it’s more than just a PFP project because we are working on building a marketplace where you can collect IRL and NFT Art. We are looking to curate Artists on the marketplace that allow them to do Physical and NFT drops together. One of the strengths I have with my experience in both the web2 Art (Physical) and web3 Art (Digital) is being able to tap into both, and I want to make sure other Artists can do that as well. The marketplace for City of Angels will unlock the potential for vinyl toy drops with accompanying NFT authentication and much more. The way you will get access to the marketplace is by owning the City of Angels PFP, but as I said earlier that is just the start. I am super excited about this project, we’ve tailored it to have a mission that aligns with my own. The Angels are my baby, which I have created like minions to carry out my own mission of spreading love and kindness. The Artists that we collaborate with in the marketplace also will be making a difference in the world, it’s not just about hype, but the impact that we are making. Take a look at the website, roadmap, and white paper for all the details.
Anaroth: Earlier you mentioned how you have this natural curiosity to pursue new technology, looking ahead what ways do you see the technology allowing you to create differently?
Jason Naylor: It is interesting how fast the technology changes and grows, but also I find it interesting how quickly I have been able to keep up, learn, and grow with it. In the beginning of creating an NFT itself, maybe with a little animation, mint, then list and that used to be a big. Then utility enters the equation and as an Artist that isn’t a common factor. Investors love utility, of course, but from the Art point of view no one has ever been like if you show me a photo of this painting you get free coffee for life. That shit doesn’t exist, so adding this idea of utility to my Art as an Artist that’s pretty massive. I want to provide my collectors with something that is meaningful. So when I look down the line what I am thinking about is how can I use new technology to make projects that are exciting and fresh.
Like making a project where collectors create the Art during the mint process so it isn’t as much of a grab bag random generation. I really like that idea, say take 500 pieces in Mr. Potato Head fashion, you go on the platform and create the one you like and mint it right there and then that combination can’t be used again. While I know other projects have done something similar, the idea of taking my work, my themes, and have it be this magical unique on platform experience for my collectors is amazing. Since things move so fast it isn’t so much a 3 - 5 year plan as it is me always looking to take advantage of emerging technology. To succinctly answer your question I want to make the Art more exciting, more interesting, more valuable, that's where I want to go.
Anaroth: As someone with no artistic talent, I always like to ask what an Artist does when they feel creatively stuck. Can you talk through your Artistic process and how you overcome creative blocks?
Jason Naylor: To be honest my process is pretty formulaic, I think the luxury of a formulaic process comes from doing the work for a long time. At this stage I have been doing this for 15 years, so it starts with an objective of what I want to create and then I will think on that. I really love working out in the morning, I’ll hop on the bike and do a workout and I will be thinking about things and an idea will come to me. Now when I say formulaic it’s not about what I want to communicate, but how and where. My work always centers good vibes, positivity, kindness and related things. So for me it is very much visualizing another version of the same type of message. Sometimes I will think about what things should look like while I am not making things, and then when I sit down at the iPad I already have a rough game plan that I had built before the fact.
That is where the formulaic part comes in, I have a very distinct and preset color palette that I use. All the digital colors I use match the spray paint that I use in my murals. My drawing process is very whimsical and organic. I like to draw big shapes and put colors on the page and start to block it in. It's almost like sculpting the piece a little bit and then i'll just keep refining digitally. When I go to paint, the challenge of getting the design onto the wall depending on the scale of it I often use either a grid system or a projector to get all the work up there. After I have the outline it is very similar to the process I mentioned before where I start blocking out the colors of the spray cans, and chiseling down the shapes until it looks the way I want it to.
I think in terms of advice and honing ones process, It’s hard to tell someone how to hone their craft, the best advice I can give is to keep doing it. Do the process each day, do the drawing exercise each day, do it so often that it becomes like muscle memory and you’ll start to see patterns in your work and that will become your formula. Now when the formula isn’t working, to answer the second part of your question about being stuck, my best tactic is to just walk away. For me I love to just get in the car and drive, or if it is nice out, hop on my motorcycle and just ride, thats the best thing. It takes so much focus and attention to be safe on a motorcycle that it totally clears my mind. I will take a 20 - 30 minute ride and come back and can feel totally reset.
Anaroth: When you reflect on your Art career can you share one of the moments that left you feeling really proud of what you created?
Jason Naylor: I feel good saying that I think I have a lot of those moments, but let me share two with you. One more general and another a little more concrete. In general I feel very proud when I complete a mural, I get this massive feeling of accomplishment. Part of that feeling comes from the unique challenges that I encounter in the creation process. For example, the other day I did this piece in a courtyard in front of a hotel and it was so windy! The wind was channeling through this courtyard and it was almost impossible to get the paint from the can onto the wall. When it is complete though, I can stand back and have this feeling of I can’t believe I got through that, it’s a true sense of accomplishment. There is almost a feeling of surprise that I finished the piece, as though I didn’t think I could do it, but knew I could. It is like this magical moment every time I finish a piece and see my work. I have made it a habit that when I finish something I take 20 minutes to sit and appreciate my work and what I accomplished. I stand back and just soak it in, not right up at the wall, a ways back, just admiring what is complete. Allowing myself to enjoy the feeling of yea, I just did that.
In terms of a specific piece that I am proud of I think back to my first mural in Manhattan on 16th and 6th Ave. Before this I had never used spray paint as a medium, and the wall I painting on was this really craggy brick. I had always used bucket paint for my murals in the past, but because of the type of wall spray paint was the only option. It took me about 10 days to paint this wall, in hindsight it should have taken me a day or two. But in the course of that 10 days I was able to figure out how to use spray paint well enough to complete the wall. That specific wall has a special place in my heart because first it was the most challenging, and there was so much growth in that 10 day period. Second because it is so monumental to get a mural in Manhattan, it is not easy to have that opportunity.
When I reflect on that wall there were just so many wins to that one wall, my break so to speak. That is definitely one of my most special moments in my career. Another quick thing I would like to add is I think that at times we as Artists can be cavalier about the work we create. It’s so precious while you are working on it, but when it is done its almost like on to the next one. I have learned to try and reposition this in my mind where every piece you finish is a major accomplishment. If I don’t appreciate the work that I made, how can I expect someone else to find value in it? Enjoy, appreciate, and feel proud of every piece you complete.
Anaroth: You mentioned earlier on in our conversation about how central the themes of love and positivity is at the heart of what you do. Do you ever have a desire to explore some of the darkness, or duality from the positivity in your work?
Jason Naylor: I think this is a really relevant question because I do see that I often focus on the silver lining so to speak in my work. There is this idea of toxic positivity and I like to bring that up, I happen to be a very upbeat and positive person, I am always the guy who sees the glass half full. So for me to see the bright side of things is very comfortable and common. But what I think has allowed me to focus so purely on that with my work is the fact that my life has not always been rainbows and butterflies. I have had a lot of dark times in my life, and while I won’t go into those now, I do find that having these dark times in your life, these difficult times, it give you a really clear understanding of the good in your life. I feel like I have a really clear understanding of the light that is in my life because of all the darkness. I’m not saying oh my life has been so hard, my life has been like everyone else's life, there are difficult things, there are shitty things, and there are great things.
If you look back at my work 15 years ago, it hasn’t always been so bright, colorful and vibrant, it has been an evolution. When I first moved to NYC 15 years ago that was very challenging for me, and my sketchbooks reflect that. I didn’t really see that at the time, but my drawings, my Art, my sketches were all very dark at the time, tortured, misunderstood and emo. It was this punk emo thing, and I love it, and I should totally bring some out sometime. When I reflect on that Art it was a reflection of who I was at the time. The big picture here is that the art that I am making now is a reflection of what's in my heart and who I am. I don't wanna be toxic with the positivity, and I don't believe that saying you are happy 100 times will make you happy, but my work is a reflection of me, and I am a very happy person right now.
Now having said all that I do like to explore the balance in things, and what I love about the NFT world is that the audience here seems to embrace the balance of the dark side of things. While I love putting very positive things on the street because of that juxtaposition that I mentioned, in the NFT world I think bringing a little bit of the darkness and providing balance is really exciting for me. I'm painting a mural next week with the Bushwood Collective, which is an international mural festival, and the piece I am planning is very much about the undertones of life. The piece is going to show how the dark things that are in life make the sweet sweeter. Long story short though, I think this space has a lot of room for me to explore the balance of things.
Anaroth: Earlier you mentioned how some of your friends approached the NFT space, for those that have been watching and waiting and are feeling like this is their time to get in, what advice would you give them?
Jason Naylor: I think that the best thing an Artist can do is be true to themselves. Do what feels right, trust your gut, and be true to who you are. If you are watching the space, watching other Artists, it is easy to be like ok I need to tailor my work, modify, and adjust to that style. You can see someone who is successful and it is natural to think that your path to success will come from emulating theirs, and this is totally not the case. I am not just saying this, this is advice that I have to take too, knowing that your path is your own unique path. I think that is the best advice I can give, not just for NFTs but for life as well.
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