The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Tucked in a parking garage in downtown San Mateo, a mural with two musicians in mid-note greets those who seek it and those who happen upon it.
It is the work of Dylan Hararah, a 23-year-old native of San Mateo’s Shoreview neighborhood, who is slowly finding ways to bring his work to life in San Mateo through murals and other pieces of art.
Hararah believes looking at art is an experience, one that gives people a break from the advertisements with which our society is inundated. Yet in the course of our daily lives, it’s a rarity to view art outside of museums or gallery exhibitions. Hararah’s murals give the public an artistic respite from everyday life.
“Public art gives people a break, I think, from a world of monetary value” said Hararah.
The B Street and Vine café in downtown San Mateo commissioned Hararah to paint “Jazz Duet.” The mural, finished several years ago, is on the restaurant’s back wall in the parking garage on B Street between Third and Fourth avenues. Vibrant saxophone and stand-up bass players in Hararah’s street scene come to life and lighten up the garage’s drab concrete walls.
An art teacher of Hararah’s recommended him to Steve Spieller, the owner of B Street and Vine. Spieller looked through Hararah’s portfolio then told him he was looking for a music scene that would liven up the garage. Hararah took the brief direction, infused his creativity and gave the public a work of art. Friends of his who played music at the cafe inspired him to depict a jazz duet, Hararah said.
And Spieller was thrilled.
Hararah was “great to work with, very meticulous. If I had more space I’d hire him again,” Spieller said.
The appropriately named “David Bowie and Winston Churchill” mural surrounds the front entrance of the Swingin’ Door pub on 25th Avenue. The two British grenadier guards stand nearly 8 feet tall and are impossible for the passing public to miss. Hararah contacted the owner, Warren Chapman, about finishing the poorly painted incomplete guards a previous artist abandoned. Chapman told Hararah he wanted the guards to have recognizable celebrity faces. Hararah’s grasp of the figurative created the two British celebrities that now stand guard at the pub’s entrance.
Hararah has been fine-tuning his skills for many years. Artistic even as a child, Hararah said he picked up a paint brush for the first time in 2002. It was a high school art assignment that introduced Hararah not only to painting, but to murals as well. Along with his classmates, they created a large painting for their school’s library, said Hararah.
It was during his time at the College of San Mateo that he began to focus on a career as an artist, said Hararah. The sole artist in his family, Hararah went against his traditional parents’ ideal profession for their son. Yet regardless of familial encouragement, he can’t imagine finding fulfillment in another career path, said Hararah. Hararah considers his job with humor.
“When I’m making art, it’s not necessarily like working, it’s more like high-stakes play,” he said.
As a figurative artist, Hararah said he typically paints from photographs he takes on the streets of San Francisco. The diverse culture of a large city attracted Hararah and led him to paint portraits of the economically disadvantaged. The figures in his paintings emerge from an intensely colorful background. These abstract backgrounds convey a sense of movement while highlighting the detail of his subjects’ faces.
“Abstract goes into play with the figurative, they live in this symbiotic relationship on the canvas,” said Hararah.
Hararah describes his paintings as psychological, relating to both subject and audience. He believes viewing art is a momentary experience and hopes that, in seeing his art, people will take away insight to the world and themselves.
Although he prefers to paint murals accessible to the public, Hararah knows they don’t come easily, or often. He works with graphic design on the computer to provide artistic advertising for clients. Hararah also paints signs for local businesses such as Otter Books and Talbot’s Toyland. Even though fixing signs doesn’t require much imagination, Hararah still finds enjoyment. Painting signs while atop a high ladder is dangerous, yet still entertaining, said Hararah.
Each commission creates new challenges he finds both enjoyable and educational, said Hararah. Communication between him and his clients is crucial and valuable. Listening to what a client wants and adding his own unique artistic perspective is essential, he said.
Although Hararah finds his work personally rewarding, he delights in the effect his art has on others.
“For me, the satisfaction of the client and of the public is [my] number one priority, and I really enjoy that, when people are genuinely happy about the work I’ve done,” he said.
Hararah’s portfolio and contact information can be found at dylanhararah.wordpress.com.