Jenny Sharaf

Coffee in hand I walked along Fulton Avenue into Golden Gate Park. Wandering down the sidewalk in my own thoughts, I hear a familiar voice to my left shout, “ Hey stranger! I think we may be going to the same place.” Followed by a few of Lola’s excited barks. We drove over to park and took a stroll around Stow Lake. After finding a bench near the water, Jenny, sweet Lola, and I sat down to have a chat about her work, her life and what it is to be an artist.





Q: Shower Jam?

A: “I never really listen to music in the shower. I use that time to meditate, come up with new ideas, process the day.  Maybe because I’m a Pisces, but water has an amazing meditative power and I get my best thinking done when immersed in it.”

Q: Morning ritual?

A: “I like to wake up really, really early, like around 6:30am. I drink way too much coffee, like an entire French press, and then I write a lot of emails. By around 9am I take my dog to the park and then I’ll go to my studio and start painting. ”

Q: Favorite color?

A: “It definitely changes depending on my mood, but I definitely have my go-tos. A bright sunshine yellow, a complex red and all the pale blues.”

Q: Favorite coffee place in SF?

A: “My favorite coffee place is probably at the de Young.  You can grab a cup and head into the sculpture garden, which is totally free.  Plus you can sometimes convince them to give you free refills, if you’re nice.  There’s a beautiful James Turell, called Skyspace, that is the ultimate spot to think or just zone out.”

Q: Early bird or Night owl?

A: “Early bird, unless there’s a really good reason to stay up late, otherwise, I’m out.“

Q: Favorite Plant?

A: “I like ferns, I’m just looking at one now. I love all plants. Hard to pick just one, but I also really like peonies.”

Q: What’s the color of your toothbrush?

A: Hot Pink.


Q: What project are you currently working on?

A: “I’m going to have a show and residency with Eleanor Harwood  for August-October, so I’m starting to work on that. I’m in a show this month at Rule Gallery in Denver, called Pretty Powerful. Also a few exciting projects that need to be confirmed before I go talking about them. Always looking for more mural opportunities. I can never have enough going on, you got something for me?”


Q: How do you find inspiration?

A: “ I think that I’m always inspired. I don’t know how to answer that. You can make art in a good or bad mood. There’s no such thing as an artist block, that’s a lyrical myth. I’m never sitting around waiting for the inspiration to hit.”


Q: What draws you to using paint as a medium?

A: “ I just always have been really attracted to how paint moves and the history of painting. I want to be a part of that narrative. I feel that paint is the most romantic medium, even though some people would say that it’s restrictive in many ways and that everything has been done before. I kind of like that, playing within the structures that have already been created, it makes it less intimidating for me.”


Q: What do you hope people experience when they look at your paintings?

A: “ I feel like if you had asked me that a few years ago, I would’ve said to inspire people to be creative themselves, but I don’t think that’s it anymore. I would say part of my message is to allow space for people to take a break from the mundanities of ‘everyday’. I want my work to create some kind of intensely hypnotic moment for the viewer, so they can get lost in the painting and get some deep thinking done.”


Q: What does your work do for you?

A: “Painting is when time and space literally stop and I get lost in the process. The best day for me in the studio is when John [her boyfriend]—he usually helps me as my assistant  —and I open all the paint and we totally lose track of time. It’s the best when you’re in it so physically, mentally and spiritually that everything else becomes secondary. I feel really privileged to be able to work like that. I never want to lose a sense of play and discovery, or bore myself and be predictable. Even though I’m sometimes repeating techniques, I like that my work will never be the same twice.”


Q: Community involvement is something you are really passionate about, what do you prioritize when planning community events?

A: “I try to plan events that would appeal to many different kinds of people. The goal is always to bring dynamic voices together in the same space.  Our city can always benefit from the mingling of creatives. Those meetings and friendships are where new projects are born.”


Q: What do you think could improve the art scene in the Bay Area?

A: “More artist run spaces and more people thinking outside the gallery system. Giving young artists a chance is always something I feel strongly about. It would be nice to have more young collectors in the Bay Area - people from tech that are genuinely invested to keep art in San Francisco.”


Q: If you could do a residency anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

A: “My friend is doing a residency in Iceland now that looks pretty rad.... I live for traveling, so it’s hard to narrow down one place. I feel like I would need John and Lola (their pitbull) with me because we are a unit, which hard when it comes to residencies. If we are dreaming big here, I would do a painting world tour. A list of ten cities.  Two weeks in each destination, a mural and a show, travel and paint.


Q: Do you have any advice that you would give a younger you/ for up and coming artists?

A: “Surround yourself with people who support you and give you good vibes. Be authentic in every step of your process. Find that place between being vulnerable and protecting your vulnerability, it’s a very delicate balance. Reach out to potential mentors, because you can never get enough advice and support. Make genuine connections, rather than people that will use you for their gain. It’s hard to be a young artist, balancing making work, selling yourself and forming lasting relationships with other creatives. It’s all part of the journey.  You have to be confident and fearless.”




Jenny Sharaf: @jennysharaf

Photo credit: Kate Dash @been.milky