Inside The Brain Of Bay Area Artist Jenny Sharaf

She talks coming into painting, having younger mentors, and basing flights on feelings.

By Shaquille Heath

Photos by Mark Manalaysay


Jenny Sharaf is a multidisciplinary artist, and, by definition, an "it" girl in the art world. I fell in love with her work at the 2023 FOG Art Fair in San Francisco, in which Jenny took over the entire entrance with her very Californian psychedelic dreamscapes entitled “Elevated Conversation,” covering the place in large scale paintings and custom painted furniture. My personal favorite touch of that exhibit was her ceramic dinner plates. I finally had the opportunity to ask her all the questions I’ve always dreamt about asking, although I may have seemed very uncool in the heat of the moment. Here is the moment. She is the moment. And alas, my obsession with everything Jenny will soon become yours.

Shaquille: You are a capital “a” art-eest. What drew you to art in the first place?

Jenny: I have always loved art. My parents are total workaholics, so I had a lot of time alone to be a little weirdo. I also was very encouraged to make art and show it off, from as early as I can remember. My grandmother was a docent at the hammer and an academic, so she was always teaching me about art, design, fashion, etc.

Shaquille: The first time we hung out, you had a banana iPhone case. What's on your phone these days?

Jenny: I have an old barbie case that needs to be replaced. My huge nokia has been in the mix for a few months, but I am bored of it. I am always on the lookout for fresh cases that will catch people’s eye. I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore, so gotta get the stranger danger somehow.

Shaquille: What do you wear in the studio?

Jenny: I used to wear a paint coveralls, but haven’t in years. Felt too much like a cliche. Now, preferably a big mens button-up shirt over a hidden yoga set. It puts me in an appropriate work mood. Athletic and ready-for-business.

Shaquille: Do you listen to music while you paint?

Jenny: Only sometimes. It very much depends on the mood, just like painting, I try not to have rules and just go with the gut. Sometimes a painting will ask to be done in complete silence. This is probably half of the time. If I do listen to music, it's something extremely danceable and active, to get me in my body and out of my head.

Shaquille: What are you excited about in the studio right now?

Jenny: I’ve been working on a new series that incorporates more drawing, and pattern making. Part of what excites me is being open to seeing where things go. I enjoy a process that feels less predetermined. That truly is the magic and the fun of painting.

“Part of what excites me is being open to seeing where things go. I enjoy a process that feels less predetermined. That truly is the magic and the fun of painting.”

Shaquille: When does inspiration strike?

Jenny: In the morning when I wake up. It is a bit electric feeling. Super cheesy though to talk about inspiration. Feels ick. I can say that the urge to paint is constant.

Shaquille: Whose an artist that more people should know?

Jenny: Sorry I cannot only pick one, so here are three-

Aaron Elvis Jupin, Christina Zimpel, Will Rogan

Shaquille: The most memorable art party?

Jenny: Julian Schabel’s De Young after party at the Tonga Room in San Francisco.

Shaquille: Do you have a mentor?

Jenny: I am constantly collecting mentors. I love getting guidance, even if I ignore it completely. Lately I've realized I love having some younger mentors, a generation that sees the world completely differently. Or, when you are each other's mentors, mutual mentors, that’s amazing too.

“Lately I've realized I love having some younger mentors, a generation that sees the world completely differently. ”

Shaquille: What’s the oldest piece of clothing you own?

Jenny: A pair of khakis that I found at the goodwill that look like they are from 1900s. Other than that… Maybe a pair of vintage sunglasses that I found in Paris that are from the late 50s. Very mod. Deadstock. Feels a bit like Rick Owens-y. my favorite jeans are my guy’s from his middle school years. They are from sears in the nineties.

Shaquille: Who would be your dream collectors?

Jenny: Chloë Sevigny or Dua Lipa. I don’t know if either of them collect art, but I would assume because they both have great taste. Leonardo DiCaprio too, for the art-world-cliche of it and because, well, it's Leo. There’s really nothing better when people with amazing taste collect your work. Also, to be included in museum and institutional collections around the world is part of the dream.

Shaquille: Whose art do you dream about collecting?

Jenny: I feel like I have slept on a lot of rising art stars, so am always mad at myself over this one. If I had the dough, I'd buy the Henry Taylor painting that I sat for. (Not sure who’s collection it is in, but it was sold by Blum and Poe just over ten years ago.)

Shaquille: What does success look like in five years?

Jenny: Seamlessly moving between creative projects, painting always at the center of it all. working on things connected to fashion. Collaborating with brilliant people. Pushing my work further. Exceeding my own expectations. Traveling whenever feels right. Staying home whenever feels right. Moving along at a personal pace with ease and flow.

Shaquille: What impresses you?

Jenny: I am impressed by people when they are truly themselves.

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