I liked him in the first 10 seconds I was in the room with him, even though I had no idea why. And over the course of the evening, as he and I and a few friends played games together, I began to understand why Jason Snape would quickly become a good friend - one I would only engage on occasion, but one who would be true and be real.
I’ll get this out of the way RIGHT NOW, and not make mention of it again. I think he’d appreciate that: Jason Snape is in no way related to Severus.
A couple of years back, Jason designed the cover of the magazine I TRIED to establish (he didn’t do the art itself, but everything else is his, and in retrospect, he probably could have done a fine job on the art, too). He’s also on tap to help me create graphics and artwork for a couple of game ideas that I have in mind. So I suppose I’ll be engaging Jason a lot in the future, and I’m excited by that. Writing is a lonely vocation sometimes, and the idea of collaborating with someone makes me feel all tingly - and all the moreso because it’s Jason.
When the prospect of our future collaboration (along with our other friend, Michael Collins, whom I’d be remiss if I failed to mention) came to the fore again a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that I could and SHOULD give voice via my web site to Jason. He is an artist as I am, and since I occasionally use this great forum I have to showcase people whose talent I admire and respect, I decided to dedicate a post to him. As you will see from Jason’s words below, he and I see eye to eye in this respect: we are all “in this together”.
So here’s Jason Snape, artist, cartoonist, graphic designer, writer, and friend….
Let’s start with one of Jason’s one off cartoons!
C’mon! It’s fucking funnier than Ziggy!
Anyway. Jason was born in a small, rural town, not far from where Lily Evans, Harry Potter’s mother, also grew up. His parents were a Muggle named Tobias and a woman descended from wizards named Eileen. At an early age, Jason showed an affinity for potions and the Dark Arts. All of that changed, however, after having what he calls “violent disagreements” with physics and calculus. Somehow, in the ensuing years, he wandered into design, and left the wizarding world behind.
With his eventual MFA in graphic design, he came to Atlanta for a job at an architecture firm. Since then, he’s worked with a software company, a number of small design boutiques, and a few big dot com entities. He’s taught at a university, does freelance work, and sometimes builds houses if times get tight.
If you replaced a few words in the above paragraph, you might be describing me. Hmm.
Another thing we have in common is our attitude toward the state of the arts in the United States today. We were talking one day, and he mentioned that he thought Frank Zappa would never get signed as a musician, were he trying to make it in today’s music industry. I asked him to elaborate, and here is what he said. I’ll give it to you word for word, and ask you to imagine me standing beside Jason, nodding in agreement with everything he says:
“I never considered myself an artist until a few years ago; I’ve always been more comfortable calling myself a designer. An Artist is someone who sculpts, or paints astonishing canvases, or creates music. There are amazing Artists at KSU [where he taught], and it saddens me, because I don’t know what they do (and they usually don’t either) with their Painting degree. Do they become Painters of Light©? Work for Disney? Why can’t they just create? Artists in the old world seemed to have stipends from their families to go out and create, or explore without need for income. This seems extravagant and, in this country, frivolous and wasteful somehow, because we put value on industry, labor, profits, and constant improvement. We don’t see value in culture. Do we have culture? Maybe it is consuming. I have a sense (probably romantic and naïve) that Europe and the rest of the world value art and their culture, and cultivate it. When I talk with people about art in our country, in our world, I bring up my theory of Frank Zappa. I do not know a lot about Zappa; I do not have all of his music. But like Monty Python, it’s hard to believe that someone like him could get a music contract today, for the same reason I am doubtful about my book publishing aspirations – unless it’s a guaranteed profit, they don’t have an interest or the time for you. Too risky. The encouraging thing is that, as creative people, there are new avenues to explore. Frank would be all over the Internet, I’m sure. That would be his way of creating and getting his music out there. But would it pay? The internet is awash with blooming and previously-unpublished creative endeavors (and everything else). So the interesting question comes down to, do you want to create and get your art out in public? There are countless ways to do that. Do you want to make your living through your art? If so, it is a more difficult path. Here is one example of why: Story magazine was created by Whit Burnett in 1931, and published such young unknowns as J.D. Salinger, Truman Capote, John Cheever, Joseph Heller, and Norman Mailer. In an excellent book about writing, Burnett describes how these authors’ initial works were promising but unrefined, and that through the act of publishing, editing, and evolving, they became some of our most important writers WHILE BEING PAID FOR THEIR WORK. Story invested in them and helped them grow. Salinger did not hit the ground with The Catcher in the Rye, and yet that appears to be what the “artistic” industries expect of musicians, writers, and maybe artists too. Where is there room for experiments, innovation, the chance to fail and make improvements learned from the failure? In politics and corporate America, the failures appear to have enormous, real consequences that hurt people and affect the way we live, yet the ramifications seem slight in comparison. Art is about creativity, and creativity is how we discover new things, find new solutions and break away from old, obsolete parameters. It is supposedly still one very distinctive way that America remains far ahead of China, if that is a motivating factor. So how do we best foster creativity? Math time tests. Art class once every 9 days in elementary school. CRCT bubbles.”
And… with that stuck in your craw, I’m gonna sign off on this post. Read that again, if it pleases you. Read it out loud. You see why I admire Jason? It’s not just that he’s an artist, as I am, as you might be. It’s that he thinks deeply and with feeling. He takes time to play (his cartoons indicate that), but - like a child in his formative years - his play has substance and meaning. It’s a process by which he grows and learns.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve personally lost that ability. Then I spend a little time with Jason, and I can feel it coming back just a little bit.
For more examples of Jason’s art and design work, visit his site: www.jasonsnape.com. BTW, the title of this post, in case you’re wondering, comes from the name he’s given a portion of his site: Snape’s Ridiculorum - Finely Crafted Illustrations, Stories, and Nonsense.