Mary Naylor

English, born 1988

Mary is a self-taught painter. She studied graphic design at Liverpool John Moores and now works in a variety of styles, including portraits, digital prints, screenprints, animation, and textile art. She has been exhibiting in and around northwest England for over a decade, and her paintings are on permanent display at YakumamaThe Jane Eyre, and Henry C. in Manchester and Yorkshire. From December 2022 through February 2023 you can find her in New York City at the Mothership Artist Residency in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

What inspires Mary?

Mary began creating art as a child. Her best friend’s mother, a muralist, always made sure that she had the materials she needed to realize her visions. Her parents were painters as well, but they reluctantly let go of their artistic aspirations at an early age after being told that they couldn’t make a living creating art. This same instability that Mary’s parents feared has been precisely what’s kept Mary going despite all the challenges of an artist’s life—”What I used to think was unsafe and unstable about being an artist has proven to be the most stable thing in my life. My artistic practice is something I can control and take with me anywhere, bringing me as far or as close as to home as I want.” This stability within instability, combined with the accessible nature of art has brought Mary quite far from home during the decade-plus that she’s been creating. A formative experience came in 2019, when a neighborhood of Bogota she’d been advised to avoid provided her first real meaningful Colombian connections, A supportive family of artists and a canvas through a community development project, all within a matter of weeks. A natural facilitator, Mary’s recent interactive solo exhibition featured a paint-by-number outline that invited her patrons to become the artists themselves. The result Mary describes as a freedom akin to the childlike state people enter as they splash around in the sea. This project reflects one of Mary’s core beliefs: that everyone has the ability to create. Whether or not people want to listen or watch what someone creates is another question, one that Mary had to face head-on as a self-taught painter. She didn’t learn the traditional techniques of figure drawing, but like all of the challenges Mary has faced in her career, this proved to be a blessing in disguise. She has long preferred drawing in pen, for its deterministic quality, and once she reached the end of her abilities to render a reference photo with her pen, she began to fill in the gaps with her imagination. In this way, the end of her technical abilities actually revealed something many artists struggle their whole careers to find—her own voice. She is clear that every time she draws, her abilities improve, but when asked if she ever envisions a point where she is able to render technical photorealistic perfection in her drawings, she disagrees—”If you want to render it perfectly, you might as well just hire a photographer.”

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