My work is informed a lot by the pain of love and relationships, and I take an almost light-hearted, silly, and sarcastic way of approaching it.
The San Jose–based artist, best known for his slight, sardonic illustrations, is on a mission to grow as both an artist and a person, without sacrificing that part of him that makes art his own way.
Originally from Seattle, Jeremiah Harada (mr.harada), has spent much of his life in San Jose. A graduate of Del Mar High School, he moved down to Huntington Beach in search of opportunities in the skate industry before moving back up north and settling in with a local San Jose skate-crew-turned-skate-legend: The Tiltmode Army. “It’s the people I grew up with,” he says about the support system that pushed him in a fully creative direction. He also credits skateboarding—particularly the tongue-in-cheek decadence and satire of early 2000s skateboarding magazines—with inspiring his art.
But mr.harada always made art, and his family recognized this, too. Drawing consumed his life from an early age. “I knew I could draw, but I never took it seriously,” he says. Art was just something he did in his spare time. “I didn’t want to read any art books or have any influences. I saw what was out there, and frankly, I didn’t want to know more about it,” he says.
Instead, mr.harada approaches his creations in his own inimitable way. Working mostly in pen and acrylics—or even Sharpie on napkin—he creates singular portraits of humor, exasperation, and suffering. Often manifested through spare, cartoonish figures and cursive slogans or phrases, mr.harada reflects on his own journey through misery, joy, and humor.
“My work is informed a lot by the pain of love and relationships, and I take an almost light-hearted, silly, and sarcastic way of approaching it,” he says about his flat yet striking portraits. “I create things in a way that is so straightforward, yet open to the imagination at the same time.”
One-quarter Japanese, mr.harada goes by his last name—only formalized—as both a tongue-in-cheek reference to mysterious noms de plume, as well as a reflection of his own cynical nature.
His first real gig was for Enjoi Skateboards, where he designed graphics for a series of decks. He then showed his work in a Phantom Galleries exhibition. From there, things started taking off, and at last, he began to take his vocation as an artist seriously.
Currently, he works for Metro Silicon Valley, where he illustrates the “Barfly” column. He also holds a spot at Local Color, a gargantuan space in downtown San Jose full of working artists and creative types. The spot has impressed upon him the importance of being an integral part of his community—both artistically and personally. “It’s about pushing and supporting each other,” he says. “Not networking to get ahead, but having a collective understanding of resources and opportunities.”
Written by Tad Malone
Photography by Daniel Garcia
This article originally appeared in Issue 9.3 “Future”