We had the good fortune of connecting with Jason Snape and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jason, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
The biggest impact on my sense of balance was staying home with my children when they were small. Sue’s work had the benefits and I was contracting, so I got to disengage from the hectic career race and just be for a few years. It was a hard adjustment, but I’m eternally grateful for it. Being on our own organic schedule and pacing things for a small person’s interests and point of view fostered a different type of creativity in me. I also started creating things just because – as artwork. I had never done that before, and it was a blissful release after the constant contextual aspects and rationales of design. I’ve learned that this balance simply changes over time as priorities have changed, and that it is nourishing if I step into it. I find now that I’m better attuned to when I need to shift gears. My work (design, illustrating, writing, making things) does not always feel like work, which can throw my balance off. I need a day of no computer, no phone, little to no agenda, so I plan how accessible I am accordingly. Interrupting myself is good for my ideas, my energy and optimism, and for those around me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have always been drawing and reading. I’ve filled 29 sketchbooks (about one per year since college) with my black-ink musings, wanderings, and wonderings around stories and designs. I love children’s books, and in my long creative arc, I’m assembling (slowly) the stories and ability to contribute my own books. My work is gentle humor. It was most richly nourished by the years I spent at home with my children when they were born, so it has a serenity, curiosity, and at least one detail to tell a tiny story. I like incongruity, fed by Monty Python, Edward Gorey, Sid Fleischman, George Saunders, Roald Dahl, They Might Be Giants, McSweeney’s, and Shaun Tan. I draw in my sketchbook, and scan it into my computer (for digital color work), or create it all with watercolors, then scan it in to create prints. My technique is not complex, and I like a clean white field for some work, or a wash background for others. I’m more interested in looking at relationships than developing fully-rendered backgrounds or settings, but sometimes that happens anyway. I create Nonsense, which I call Snape’s Ridiculorum. Some of my illustrations are quiet and whimsical, with clean white backgrounds and colorful characters – single-image stories of relationships and situations. A tiny person with a balloon, in front of a huge tower on wheels, topped with pointy-hatted spearmen. Noah in a rowboat crowded with animals, as waves crash and a dove wheels into view. A chess situation whereby the pawns are highly suspicious of a Bishop’s Gambit. Some of my illustrations are Misinformation – watercolor diagrams on How to Spot a Snowman, Pig Aviation, and a Carnivore’s Guide to Spotting Vegetables. These are heavy in writing, with details pointed out, subtleties noted, and instructions imparted. My voice here is the expert in Nonsense, who takes these fabrications seriously, and is presenting them as public service messages. I’m working now on ‘How to Fly: Guidelines for the Ambitious Pig’, a book of instructional diagrams and helpful tips on taking to the air. I’ve been working on it for a long time, and it’s finally getting some momentum and clarity (I’ve developed at least 8 versions of this story over the years). I have always wanted to make my living doing illustration work, making picture books, selling my prints. I have attempted and succeeded on occasion, but focus is not my strong point. I’ve waited for the Mysterious Benefactor. I’ve waited to be Discovered. This does not work. In the meantime, I do work for design clients, and I’ve become a far better teacher than I ever would have imagined, and taught far better designers than I’ll ever be. And I chip away at my vision for a career creating Nonsense. The world brightens for me considerably whenever I enter a children’s section of a library or bookstore, and I feel driven to give back to it some of what it’s fed me, and hopefully feed another Small Artist out there, wondering what they might do when they grow up. Two other contexts are that I teach design fulltime at Georgia State University, and I work part-time for Greathouse Remodeling. Teaching is great because everything I’m interested in feeds into design, and working with students is inspiring, challenging, and improves my ability to communicate, re-adjust, and think critically. It is challenging because, at least for me, it can consume all available time, and administrative work is ceaseless, thankless, and draining. At GreatHouse, I work with longtime friends, and develop new skills (animations, book design, brand systems, marketing experiments).
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Atlanta is interesting – I vastly prefer a walking city, which it is not. But it does have wonderful variety of spots to visit. I’m not a good logistical planner, so instead of an agenda, I’ll just list some of the options … we can take Marta and stroll a bit to some of these.
•DOWNTOWN The Puppetry Arts Center is unique and wonderful, especially the museum with tiny, weird, and wonderful puppets from around the world. While we’re downtown, we should visit the High Museum, especially if there’s a children’s book exhibit (Mo Willems, EH Shepard, and Maira Kalman were my favorites). MODA (Museum of Design Atlanta) is across the street, and has had fantastic exhibits on game design as well as the social justice posters of Luba Lukova. The Aquarium isn’t cheap but if we go first thing in the morning on a weekday, or just before closing, we can stand in the middle of the tunnel of the giant tank and just be quiet and watch. There’s good food along Fairlie Poplar, and the road is closed to cars so it feels wonderfully un-Atlanta-like. The childrens’ museum near Centennial Park is okay, but the one in Chattanooga is fantastic.
• INSIDE THE PERIMETER Up along Brookhaven way, I used to take my kids to have lunch along the runway for PDK Airport (small planes), and there are also great Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and pho places to eat on Peachtree Industrial. Oxford Too comic shop is enormous and has boardgames as well, which is a good hour of time to visit.
• OUTSIDE THE PERIMETER There are good hiking and biking trails, and places to kayak all around Atlanta (and up into the N.Georgia Mountains, if we have a day to spend). A 10-acre public trust offers some quiet release any day, and tends to be under the radar (or maybe too slow for busy Atlantans). Good sushi and Thai can be found. …But I’m not a big socialite or grand-night-out person, so a picnic out in a field on a sunny day, with no one else around, and some good food and a game or two makes for an excellent day. The beach is great down towards Tybee or Jekyll Islands, but that’s an overnight trip.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
While I’m not the businessperson or entrepreneur that I wish I was, I’m very grateful to those who helped me find, recognize, foster, and believe in my own creative voice and its value, and inspired me on my way – Sue, Don, Kathy, Jeff, Matthew, Rob, Katia, Stan, Liz, Randy, David, Vicki, Catherine, my brothers, and all my students. I’m also grateful to childrens’ books – Winnie the Pooh, Phantom Tollbooth, Zen Shorts, Harry Potter, A Light in the Attic, Pirates in the Park, By the Great Hornspoon, How to Catch a Star, The Stinky Cheese Man, The Rules of Summer …
Linkedin: Jason Snape