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Meet the artist behind San Jose’s massive SAP mural

And how you can get your hands on some of his work.

Martin Jones of the San Jose Sharks takes the ice against the St. Louis Blues prior to Game 5 of the Western Conference Final during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 19, 2019 in San Jose, California. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The SAP Center has gone through many different names in the past 25 years. From the San Jose Arena (1993–2001) to the Compaq Center (2001–02) to the HP Pavilion (2002–13) — but through it all, it has always been the Shark Tank. So, it only made sense to Jeff McMillan, his partner Gary Musgrave and artist Jake Kazakos that a tribute mural to the SAP Center should feature the iconic Shark head.

“Thousands and thousands of acts have been through there,” said McMillan. “We tried to represent prominent women, prominent men, good sports teams, lettering, graphics, ethnicities because San Jose is a pretty diverse town anyways, we really wanted to represent everybody and their cultural impact on the city and what they’ve done for the city. We tried our best. I think we were successful.”

The 40-foot-tall and 270-foot-wide mural is on San Fernando Street between 1st and 2nd streets in San Jose. It features athletes like Simone Biles, and Kristi Yamaguchi, and artists like Adele, Jorge Hernandez, Jr. from Los Tigres, James Hetfield of Metallica and Elton John. There’s also an airplane, because SAP Center sits right in the flight path of San Jose International Airport, and of course, the Sharks players coming out of the Shark head.

McMillan and Musgrave are an artist team out of Southern California known as The Draculas.

“We’re called the Draculas because we always work super late at night,” said McMillan with a laugh.

They lived up to their name while working on the mural.

“Since it was so hot, we started around 4:30 [p.m.] just work until 5 in the morning every day; slept during the day and then went back out there around 4:30 [p.m.] … we beat the heat,” said McMillan. “Took two weeks and three days to do.”

McMillan laughed when I asked how an artist team from Southern California ended up making a mural for a Northern California hockey team.

“[The Sharks] found our artwork through the Pow Wow website. I’m originally from San Jose, so I guess that helped the decision too,” said McMillan, who now lives in Long Beach with his family. “I came back a day early from camping, I get that email from [the Sharks], it’s almost like it was meant to be. I was in San Jose for an extra day and I just met up with [Whitney from the Sharks].”

McMillan grew up in Willow Glen and attended Archbishop Mitty High School. He went down to Southern California for college and made his home there after he graduated. Still, he comes back to the Bay Area often because his mother, sister and other relatives live in San Jose.

The mural was extra special to McMillan because his family and friends got a chance to see him work.

“A lot of my family came out to see the mural and see us working,” said McMillan. “A lot of them aren’t familiar with art at all; they just didn’t know about it, they weren’t raised with it, they didn’t do it professionally, they just don’t really know. To see it in action, I think they really enjoyed it and they were like, ‘Oh, I get it now. This is awesome.’

“It was cool, it was really cool seeing everybody … Going back home, doing the biggest mural we’ve ever done, it was a big deal and having the Sharks jersey …”

The jersey McMillan is talking about is another collaboration with the Sharks. Around the same time he was working with the SAP Center to create the mural, he was asked to create a redesigned Sharks logo for the team’s 2019-20 Artist Collection series.

“Of course, I jumped on it … [I] grew up watching the Sharks, it was awesome,” said McMillan. “I remember when the SAP came to San Jose, it was a big deal.

“[There was] a brief of what we can do and what elements we can use. I went the other direction … I did Santa Cruz and then I did Highway 17 in the background and then you can see SAP in the background with a lot of lights. I tried to tell a story that way.

“I spent a lot of time in Santa Cruz as a kid, liked that area. I thought the Boardwalk, just like the lights and the roller coasters, especially the Big Dipper, would be a cool element in the background. Just to tell a little story that way, make it a little more intuitive.”

The end product was something much closer to the work McMillan does every day. While he enjoys making massive murals like the one in Downtown San Jose, he spends most of his time working as an illustrator.

McMillan has created illustrations for the Los Angeles Galaxy …

And Disney, to name a few.

You can find McMillan’s mural in Downtown San Jose anytime, day or night. As for his jersey, it will be on display at the Jan. 11, 2020 game when the Sharks host the Dallas Stars (a.k.a. Joe Pavelski Homecoming night). If you buy a Sharks Open Water Hat Pack to the Jan. 27, 2020 game against the Anaheim Ducks, you can get the logo on a baseball cap as well.

McMillan says he’ll be at the game on Jan. 11.

“It’s going to be really neat to see it,” said McMillan. “To see your design on a product in an arena like that. That’s cool. That’s fun. It’s very, very humbling. It completely amazes me, this is so cool, this is so neat.

“I never take it for granted because the art world changes all the time so you never know. You’re relevant one day and then you’re out of style the next.”

You can follow Jeff McMillan on his website www.jeffmcmillan.com or follow him on Instagram @jeffmcmillanart. You can also check out The Draculas’ other work on Instagram by following #thedraculas or at https://draculasdesign.com/.