Illustrator by day, musician by night, Jason Snell brings 'screaming loud' color to LumenoCity

Snell's piece honors Cincy artist Charley Harper

CINCINNATI—Six nights ago, Jason Snell stepped onto the familiar stage at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine, wrapped his fist around a microphone and barked out the throaty vocals to his latest crushing band, Temple.

Snell stayed at the club past midnight, then was up by 7 a.m., trading his microphone for a stylus and trackpad at his small storefront studio on Vine Street. Two large iMacs in front of him, Snell continued the fine detail work on one of the most painstaking projects he’s taken on as an animator—illustrating about 12 minutes music for this weekend’s LumenoCity.

“I’m tightening the screws and working on the final minute-thirty, which doesn’t sound like much, but man, it’s a lot,” he said. “I’m working on something really awesome and I just want to make sure it’s right.”

The work of Snell and four others on the visual team assembled by the Cincinnati creative duo Brave Berlin will bathe Music Hall in a kaleidoscope of color and character, set to the live music of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Watch the video player above for a sneak peek behind the scenes with Brave Berlin and the designs that make up Lumenocity.

Snell’s segment, set to the Polovetsian Dances by Russian composer Alexander Borodin, is an homage to the late Cincinnati artist Charley Harper, who was best known for his modernist, geometric takes on wildlife. Harper died in 2007.

Snell worked closely with his estate to select, re-create and animate Harper’s static images. Snell also needed to convert Harper’s original palette of browns and reds into “vibrant, screaming-loud colors”—Harper’s original color choices wouldn’t work against the brick backdrop of Music Hall.

“He was doing all this before computers,” Snell said of Harper. “He painted all these thin lines and he thought of it as art, but there was that commercial side, too, and he made a living with it.”

Become a WCPO Insider to learn more about the work of Jason Snell—with LumenoCity, his music and his design career.

Jason Snell also appears on WCPO's live-streaming Reds show The Fifth Mascot as Mr. Satin. The show airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. at

To continue reading: Subscribe Now or