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The San Francisco Standard

Know Your Neighbors

Robin Galante 

A Forensic Artist for SF Buildings Lost to Time
Published May. 22, 2022 • 9:00am

For some, the soul of San Francisco was lost long ago, but for local artist and illustrator Robin Galante the vibrant spirit of this city can still be found. One just needs to know where to look.

Since first moving to and falling in love with San Francisco as an SF State student in 2003, Galante has earned a living working a variety of odd jobs. She’s worked as an assistant for a billionaire in Russian Hill and dressed windows for $20 a pop. But over the last four years, the self-taught artist has built a loyal following—and a successful small business—based on her illustrations of San Francisco streetscapes, vistas and Victorian homes.

Galante first started garnering attention in local publications for her picturesque, watercolor-and-pencil portraits of local landmarks, like the Balboa Theatre and Fred’s Liquor on Valencia and Duboce. But most of her business now consists of commissions to recreate former San Franciscans’ childhood homes.

In many cases, the buildings Galante sketches have been renovated beyond the point of recognition and have little photographic documentation of the way they once were.

Galante takes some artistic license to fill in the gaps, but mostly works like a forensic illustrator—relying heavily on her clients’ memories and stories to recreate the San Francisco they remember. Whether capturing a favorite local haunt or bringing a Victorian lost to time back to life, Galante’s colorful and playful renderings of city streets and corridors (which almost always feature a “Where’s Waldo-like” bald guy) strike a nostalgic chord and stir neighborhood pride.

Photos by Camille Cohen.

Robin Galante - portrait
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Special powers

Recreating San Francisco homes lost to time or change

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Arch enemies

People who don’t believe in art, because the world needs creativity

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Weaknesses

A good San Francisco story and Mitchell’s Ice Cream

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Lineage

Following in the footsteps of Herb Caen

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Current mission

Bringing people joy by helping them appreciate the beauty of where they live

“If I could wish to be one thing, it would be to become the visual art version of Herb Caen.”
Robin Galante - portrait