It’s nearing 8:30 on Wednesday night, and Jonathan Matas alternates between shaking cans of spray paint, climbing up and down a ladder with small paintbrushes, and darting across the street to get some distance from the wall at 780 Valencia that he is painting by streetlight.

Commissioned by 780 Cafe owner and friend Jose Luiz Ramos, Matas, who recently completed “Two Truths” at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, has been out here all day.

“He’s a horse,” says Ramos, who has been popping out of the cafe periodically to check on the progess of the two large heads that have replaced Rocky Villanueva’s two women in a hammock. “He’s in that artist mode. Once you got it goin’, then you can’t stop.”

Matas wears a red hooded sweatshirt, jeans, paint-splattered sneakers and a mask to protect himself from the paint fumes. A white rag hangs from his right pocket and swings around as he moves. The project began a couple of months ago when Matas said to Ramos, “Hey, let me do this piece for you.”

Ramos, who is proud to support local artists, jumped at the opportunity to support his friend. He even went to Facebook with Matas to see the work he had done there. But he left the design of the piece at 780 Valencia completely up to Matas, who didn’t do a sketch before applying paint to the wall.

“He’s a freestyle artist,” Ramos says. “He goes to the spot and sees how the flow feels … sees how the energy feels.”

The energy must have been good today on Valencia. “He just comes in and BOOM!” says Ramos, showing off the wall with open arms.

The cafe owner admires the painter’s selflessness, and says that one of the great things about him is his willingness to share concepts and collaborate on work. Next month Matas will team up with other local artists to produce another piece at 780 Valencia.

“He’s very humble,” Ramos says. “This guy — he doesn’t know it yet, but he’s famous already.”

Note: This reporter didn’t want to disturb Matas while he was “in the zone” of creating, but please check back soon for more on the artist, who we’re sure to see more of in the Mission.

Follow Us

Molly is a multimedia journalist, editor, photographer and illustrator. She has contributed to dozens of publications, and most recently, served as Editor of the Pacific Sun. To view more of her work, visit

Leave a comment

Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *