You may have seen Mason Newman’s art on your feed – or may be about to. His series DOLLAR BILLS has amassed some serious attention in the fashion and art spaces – landscapes which can be hard to break into for young creatives. We caught up with him to talk through his journey into the arts, how he’s found navigating these spaces, as well as his dynamic and boundary-pushing projects.
Hey Mason, great to catch up. So how did you get into fashion, and then art?
So, picture it’s 2016 and I’m doing my GCSE’s. I’m drawing t-shirt designs in my exam papers, dreaming and hoping I could start a label. Then I left school, and borrowed £200 from my Grandad to start. Built up a label called “oser vivre” (which means dare to live) that later turned into Mason Newman Studios, which I then parted ways with to focus on building myself as an artist.
Quite a few different ventures, but you just have to roll with your goal and trust the process. following your true dream.
All led to today, though. So what’s the single most important piece of advice you’ve been given?
Honestly, I think there’s two. The first one came from my Grandad when I was around 16. He said to me that a strong man trusts his gut, and learns to control his emotions. As an artist or creative in general controlling your emotions can be super difficult.
The second is from my mother. She always taught me growing up to speak what’s on my mind and be honest. No matter what. It’s something that’s truly followed me into adult life. I speak mostly what’s on my mind through my work right now.
What about a piece of advice you’d give emerging creatives today?
Don’t give up. See life as a video game, in which you are a character that you always work on and develop.
Achieving your goals is like driving down a road with shit loads of speed bumps. Each bump is a trial in life we need to get through but at the end is our desired destination. You won’t get to your destination without going over the bumps.
No matter what. Trust your gut and never give up.
Your recurring character, gyal, is this sort of omnipresent being running through various projects of yours. Can you talk a bit about this – how she came to be, what she represents, and why you feel it’s important to have her throughout your work?
I always wanted to develop a character to be sort of a recurring piece in every work, but one that actually meant something deeper. Over the last few years it’s taken 1000’s of sketches to get gyal to what it is now. Which is wild considering it’s such a simple concept. But overall gyal consists of a few key components Eyelashes, Eyes and Mouth.
Gyal represents us as humans. How we’re all the same yet different at the same time. How we can be anyone we want to be. Gyal can be anyone and anyone can become gyal.
More recently, your series ‘DOLLAR BILLS’ takes real $1 bills and updates them with your artistry – talk us through this project from conception to actuality – what are the steps?
The dollar bills series is my personal favourite. I’ve always been obsessed with currency from seeing my grandad count cash to seeing the amount of dollar bills in the movie ‘Scarface’. I think we all stress a little too much over currency and money without looking at what’s right in front of us sometimes.
I sat down one day and thought about what stories a dollar bill could tell. Who’s last dollar it was, what strip club floor it’s been on. Every bill has so many hidden stories we’ve never or will never see. I just wanted to add my own story to them and offer them on a mass scale.
As a young creative, how do you begin navigating the creative and art spaces – what’s key to know and consider?Honestly just roll with it. There’ll be so many people doubting you and sometimes even yourself. That’s the main thing to consider. Never doubt yourself, always trust your gut and power through.
Another thing to know is eventually there will be people trying to get a piece of your success. I call them leeches. People who couldn’t make something of themselves so they try to leech off you. Be aware of this and don’t allow it. The creative space can be difficult but focus on your craft and you’ll power through.
Is there anything you wish you’d known when starting out?
Everything I’ve learnt over the years has come naturally. I like the idea of learning on the job. Things going wrong and you figuring it out type thing but one thing i wish i knew when i started is that there will always be someone somewhere who wants the work no matter what.
So always create for yourself, never for others.
Finally, what’s next for you?
A debut solo exhibition is high up on my list of to do’s. That’s what’s next.
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