When I was accepted to study Musical Theatre at The University of Alabama, I was elated and honored to have been granted permission to do what I love. I trained with up to 50 of some of the finest and most effortless artists I may ever work with. Their natural skill sets, vulnerability to be constructively picked apart and carefully put back together, and flat out love to be around one another 12+ hours a day was a place I immediately desired to live in.
Now if you grew up in the theatre, you know there were people who instantly caught your eye or ear and clung to your heart. John Paul Snead was one of those elite individuals in my world.
John Paul caught my ear first because he was studying abroad when I got to Alabama in the Fall. Students raved about this performer who was right out of Tuscaloosa and grew my curiosity about what he had to offer. By the time he got back in the Spring, we took classes and did shows together, and I witnessed his gifts first-hand….I was overwhelmed.
There is a stigma for lack of humility and kindness that follows exhaustingly-talented artists but John Paul is undeniably one of the most humble, kind, caring, hilarious, insanely talented artists I may ever know. He is quick as lightening with the voice of an angel and spares no prisoners if free food is around.
Now he has caught my eye. I not only admire John Paul for his performing ability but his artistic ability as a painter. His gift has truly blossomed after college and it has been a joy to watch. In March, we shared an art show together in Tuscaloosa.
Shocking in size, his pieces did not disappoint. He has a beautiful natural instinct for the way colors should be directed on a canvas. When asked about his process he said, “Usually, it flows until completion. If it takes several days it’s because I need coats to dry before moving on,” wishing he could manipulate the drying times of mediums so time would be in his favor.
There is a quote by the great Leonardo DaVinci that rattles my core – “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – John Paul absolutely agrees. “The work slows and I realize I have to be done, that there’s nothing more to do. That moment usually happens for me when the feeling or movement I am trying to create appears, but I would be mistaken to believe that moment ends with me.” And though he may place a signature he is confident his work continues through others. “My art is not for myself. It comes from me, but the beauty comes in other’s eyes. As long as someone new sees it, it is never complete. The viewer must put their own signature on the piece, a response of the heart.”
John Paul has the great fortune to live in a community where the Arts are supported and encouraged. Local support can be found through Kentuck, the Washington Center, the Arts Council, community theatre companies, and the University – several outlets he participated with. However, he feels the nation has not exactly embraced all the Arts have to offer. “While the arts are certainly supported, they are not celebrated, respected, or heeded. As much as I would like to live in that world, the arts are not a true centerpiece of American culture. They are still ‘extracurricular.'” As he looks for the disconnect, this he sees clearly, “Rarely do you hear negative attitudes towards the arts community to to the point of a movement against the arts, and always you hear the cry for more arts funding….I am a strong believer in narratives. Storytelling and the arts have
monumental potential for truly shaping our communities, our hearts, our minds, our culture, and our country. It is the job of the artist to claim the seat at the table beside the revolutionary, the politician, the scientist, and the doctor. It is our responsibility to show why it is important that the arts be supported.”
Although his foundation is in theatre, his creative spirit yearned for more than it was being fed. “I learned to take my creative energy, grab a pallet knife, and work on canvas in my spare time from work and graduate school. I learned it was a beautiful stress reliever. I learned to press images and feelings and color into canvas. It is refreshing, and cathartic when I truly work from my spirit.” He claims his aesthetic is not heavily evolving but that does not discourage him from creating and exploring new mediums.
In my opinion, John Paul has something powerful within him. Because he has the courage to be vulnerable and share his spirit, soul, and heart on a canvas, healing has the potential to consume its viewers. “I hope my art awakens anything and everything in an audience. The pieces that are closest to me have been in response to events or are moments of my own I need to share…If there is one goal of mine, it is to inspire others to reject apathy.” Feeling more deeply connected to God and to himself, his art has opened opportunities to
explore more desires of his heart, “the painful groans of [his] spirit, the chaos and clarity of [his] mind.” And when he is finished creating and has accepted there is nothing more to do on a piece, he shares. “An audience may have a connection to my work, and while not direct to me, they have made a connection with something of me.”
I am proud of this marvelous friend who I have had the honor and joy to not only share the stage with but now the studio, in hopes of sharing with others.
I love you, my dear insane….ly talented, JP
Follow John Paul on Instagram at: @johnpaulsnead!