We’re so happy to introduce you to our June Manc of the Month artist, Mary Naylor! We are so excited to have Mary share some their inspirations and experiences with us. We recently has one of Mary’s pieces as part of our In Manchester exhibition, and it was not only one of ours, but one of the people’s favourites too. Read on to hear more about Mary and her incredible art and travels!
COM: Please introduce yourself to the Cotton On MCR readers
MN: ‘Hi, my name is Mary Kim Naylor, and I’m originally from Salford. I’ve lived in and around Manchester my whole life, with the exception of four years spent in Liverpool for a Graphic Design degree. I use art for therapy, focus, escape, humour & expression.’
‘Bitter sweet circumstances switched up my life immensely when my dog Bronson died and Covid took over. My usually comfortable and safe job in hospitality was no more, and without my best bud, I was free to move as often & wherever I liked.’
‘It was during this time that I slowly transitioned into a professional artist. It seemed to be the only option for me and one that now felt safe for completely different reasons. It has been one year, seven months and 23 days to be precise and I can’t actually believe It is possible to do something you love for work. I learned annoyingly late, that what you choose to water in life grows the biggest.’
‘I draw in pen, paint large acrylic paintings and also digital work in procreate. I try to pull out a favourite each month now and have it screen printed on a small collection of organic Cotton Tshirts. This is done by a very sound Alex at Dissprints. I sell online, from my home studio or at markets. Most recently and frequently at Todmorden Market and Cotton On MCR Art All Dayer. I also make murals, deliver workshops and, more than anything, I love to exhibit. Changing a space momentarily and watching people get together and enjoy feels good.’
‘I’m an Associate Member of Ebor Studio, which keeps me in the loop. Making art can be quite isolating at times and can result in a state that feels blinkered.’
‘I have an incredible sister Zoe, who I love with all my heart. Without her support & wisdom, I would be stuck very often. Our dad suffered massively throughout his life with Post Polio and in 2008 he killed himself. I miss him a lot of the time, but more so this year. He was a super logical man who valued organization and planning. The battle with my daily work routine is real and I’d love his advice and direction now. The days and jobs differ so dramatically that it is hard to find a flow. My approach feels forever scatty and inefficient. Any tips please throw them this way.’
COM: Where does the inspiration for your work stem from?
MN: ‘I’m a big fan of faces, they excite me. The likelihood of two sharing the exact same facial features is one in a trillion, which leaves an abundance of ways to experiment and make new work in a comfortable and familiar setting. I tend to draw my portraits from photographs. It’s more accessible and much easier to stop and start. Drawing from fashion magazines is a cheeky short cut to make a good image. The lighting and composition has already been well considered, making a great starting point to create something new.’
‘Colour is important. I occasionally prioritize it over content. Finding and connecting two or more colours that harmonize, is for me as satisfying as eating Greek yogurt off a small fork. When I’m uninspired and searching for colour I might study other artists or photographers, favorites being Emma Kohlmann , Broken Fingaz , Tracy Slater Jack Tierny Alfie Kungu, Luke Saxon. A less obvious place would be music videos. I’ve been obsessed with Lido Pimienta for a while now. South America should probably get a mention too, the place was swimming in bright warm colours. Or sometimes it can be as simple as seeing where my clothes sit next to each other in the washing pile.’
COM: How did time in South America impact your art life?
MN: ‘Colombia had a profound impact on my art life for many reasons. It gave me clarity, comfort, confidence and friends. Additionally, it really opened my eyes to the benefits of public and community art. I’ve dabbled with community projects in the past, but never felt 100% qualified to do so. The timing of all this was spectacular, for It was at a moment in which I was at a crucial fork in the road for ideas with my career.’
‘I went with my best mate Ellaney, who is an absolute belter. We had a proper buzz traveling south from Cartagena, seeing all the sights, meeting some incredible (and weird) people along the way. Then we hit Bogotá and she received some pretty bad news and had to return to England. The next month I felt a little weird, lonely and lacking purpose.’
‘I had a go at one of the suggested activities and took myself on a graffiti bike tour. This took us around the streets of Santa Fé, It was a deprived area with high levels of sex work and drug use and we were told to keep any valuables hidden and keep moving. A week later I found myself on one of the same streets, but this time I was standing one story high on scaffolding in scorching heat and I was painting the biggest portrait I have ever made in my life. I was in the company of two extremely talented local artists, Cvas Villalba and Chucho Candela and their friend José. A few factors allowed this opportunity to happen, but the biggest one has to be the kindness, trust and generosity of Colombians. They fed me, paid me and Cvas walked me home each day. I felt so safe and welcomed by people I didn’t know existed only a week before. It was a delightful feeling.’
‘I was impressed where my confidence had taken me and it was now clear how I wanted to spend my time. If I can paint here, I can possibly and most probably paint anywhere. Teaching could be back up.’
‘I also realized at that moment how powerful art was for connecting people and places and bridging the gaps between language and culture. I completed three more murals with Cvas and two more with Chucho in different places. In this time I learned more about the importance and connection Bogotá held with graffiti and street art. Street art is used to convey messages, reflect on history or narrate stories and reclaim space. Acting as a therapeutic and communal place to communicate. It is art made by the people for the people and is almost completely exclusive. No ticket or program needed to view.’
‘In 2011, sixteen year old graffiti artist Diego Felipe Becerra was murdered by police and they attempted a cover up, there was a public uproar which pushed the government to downgrade graffiti from a criminal one to eventually a legal and condoned activity. This means artists are safe to spend more time creating larger, more thoughtful pieces.’
‘On a lighter note, you can get a lot more done in a hotter climate. If you ever have the chance to visit, take it immediately. I cannot thank Colombia and its beautiful inhabitants enough for facilitating one of the best periods of my life so far.’
COM: What is your creative process when creating new artworks or mural?
MN: ‘My process is relaxed. I draw from photographs or life, and once a drawing stops looking like the subject, I continue in my own way and dismiss the reference image, or maybe take up a new one.’
‘My favorite part of making art is the unknown place that sits between trying and doing, controlling and allowing, starting and finishing. I don’t want to know what something will turn out like, until it turns out. It keeps it interesting. However, because the majority of my paintings are not planned in detail, I’ll often embark on a composition nightmare, wasting a lot of paint. I place things in only to paint them back out. It can be frustrating, but would make an interesting time lapse.’
‘Contrary to this I did paint a collection of paintings for an exhibition with OklahomaMcr last year. They were made in a small bedroom in my mum’s house so I had to be quite careful and tidy. Naturally this transferred across onto the canvas and forced me to slow down and be more considerate. I think this is very visible in this body of work. The lines are clean, colours undiluted and the compositions strong.’
COM: What advice would you give to those starting to create art?
MN: ‘Be confident. I hear so many people say ‘I’m not an artist.’ during conversations, who most definitely are. Don’t worry, you are not stating ‘I’m an incredible artist’ you are simply telling people what you do. From these conversations flow opportunities and from those opportunities flow more experience. It is the law of attraction and it isn’t particularly magical. I wouldn’t have been invited to paint in Colombia had I not been openly talking about my passion. When you talk yourself down or doubt yourself you are cheating yourself out of space to grow.’
‘Surround yourself with good people, anything that needs creating in life will benefit from a healthy, and supported mind. One that has space to think. Difficult toxic relationships steal this space and additional energy.’
COM: What is your favourite piece of work you have made and why?
MN: ‘It would be the mural I joined in Santa Fé titled ‘Paz A La Calle’ The aim of the project was to give a voice to the community, especially to those who often don’t have their voices heard. In particular trans women and sex workers, a social group who are targeted daily with violence, murder and continue to have their rights ignored.’
‘This was achieved by working together with Las Callejeras (a support group for women of the street), and the women in a number of workshops. They chose everything from the content to the colour palette and who would appear in the mural. The project was a way for members of this particular group to speak to their wider community, by announcing with pride their identity. Identities that have previously been hidden from history, persecuted and continue to live with the threat of violence.’
‘I was given the wonderful job of painting Martha Julia Sanchez, Madre Lider de la Redcomunitariatrans , a non governmental organization fighting for the human rights of trans people. Visit their page to find out more about the cause and see how you can help.’
‘I loved the challenge and pressure of creating such a big and sentimental piece, the physical energy it took, obviously sitting for a typical Colombian lunch with my new friends in the shade and talking with locals all added to the enjoyment. I learned plenty that week and it led to so many more special memories. Hands down my favourite piece of work.’
COM: How do you feel about the Manchester art scene?
MN: ‘I’m not sure I know much about it. But if I have to say something It would be that I’m grateful. Manchester to me has always been a very supportive and encouraging place. It is small enough to connect, collaborate, and find opportunities and also big enough to never get bored. These traits thread right through all the creative scenes in the city.’
‘For all the years I made art as a hobby I’ve been relentlessly helped along the way by friends and strangers, more so from the hospitality and events scene. I’ve exhibited in bars, restaurants and music venues over galleries. Antwerp Mansion alongside Jeru The Damaja was a huge highlight, made possible by a work friend and music promoter Dean Skarret.’
‘With a fair number of central galleries to sit in and soak up and plenty more on its borders and an equal number of approachable people. Manchester is a fantastic place to be for any artist.’
COM: Do you have any up and coming projects for this year?
MN: ‘Absolutely, I’m hoping to squeeze in at least another exhibition in Gallery Frank at Ebor studio and some more workshops, but their programme is filling up rapidly with incredible events like artist talks etc, so I have to get moving. I went to a really inspirational one given by Liz Mytton, a Rochdale-based playwright, lyricist, poet and facilitator. There are discussions for another pop up shop and exhibit in Yakumama although dates are yet to be confirmed. ‘
‘And I finish the year with two months in Mexico doing some workaway and hopefully hunting out some artists and projects there, followed by a three month artist residency with Mothership in New York.’
COM: What are your hobbies or interests outside of your art?
MN: ‘I’ve been attempting to learn Spanish for some years now. It was reaching a usable level after seven months in South America and I was gutted when I had to return home for Covid. I’ve also signed up for a marathon in September with my cousin Luke in memory of his brother Adam. We are raising money for the renal ward who supported him before he died in September last year. You can support this cause by donating or sharing here.’
COM: If you could live inside an artwork what would it be?
MN: ‘I think if I could walk away from all my commitments and ideas about life as I imagine you would if you were to step inside an artwork. It would be one of the weird and wonderful animations of Jack Stauber.’