Artist Spotlight: SNAPP – Ars Longa Vita Brevis

by Jhenna El-Sawaf, JAC Volunteer

For Snapp, seeing is the first step. “My creative process is based on what I see. If I see something that catches my attention, I say to myself… ‘that would look good in charcoal or pen.’” He uses any medium available to capture his subjects: black Sharpie, watercolor pencil, charcoal, pen. Snapp does “everything except oils or airbrush,” which he doesn’t have access to inside. 

Snapp’s art is playful and reflects his personality as seen through his letters: enthusiastic, sincere, and colorful. One can picture his laughter with each parenthetical (haha), or smiley-face dotted exclamation point written in red pen.

“I’m Native American Paiute-Navajo, raised in the old ways yet modern. When I was free I roamed the west and lived to the fullest, now I’m an explorer on paper! (haha).”

And explore he does. Snapp draws inspiration from what’s around him, since, he says, he doesn’t have access to a lot of media. He created this charcoal portrait of Marilyn Monroe from a picture he had — an iconic figure that intrigued him. “Marilyn to me is the unattainable, she’s the love of many and of the few, she has her moments but she’s forever that immortal ‘Guardian Angel’ of the live fast and die young.”

“I’m inspired by ‘everything!’ It’s hard to shut off the brain, but what gets the juices flowing is seeing something so mind blowing it resets the bar! (haha) Some days though it’s more of a “why not?”” 

The range in Snapp’s work embodies his explorative, ‘why not?’ approach. Contrasting his grayscale headshot of Marilyn, Snapp also submitted a gorgeous representation of Koi Fish, titled “Into the Swirl,” which he created with watercolor pencils and a Sharpie marker. The spiral-like movement of the piece is enrapturing, and was difficult to create: “I like the flow of the piece, very Japanese inspired, but also a pain,” Snapp reflects.

Though he has been interested in art since childhood, Snapp only began developing his skills when he was incarcerated. When someone offered to purchase his work, Snapp realized his talent and became focused on his art. He says that art is an escape and meditative process for him:

“Being locked up, art is everything to me! I enjoy getting away in my creations, it calms me and allows me to see more than what’s there.”

Seeing, both literally and through creation, drives Snapp as a person and artist. “As long as I have the blessed gift of sight I’ll stay true… Ars longa vita brevis: art is long, life is short.”

You can view more of Snapp’s work in his portfolio. If you are interested in connecting with an artist experiencing incarceration, please sign up for our pARTner Project!

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