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Highlighting local artists is our way of supporting the creative community and helping to keep San Francisco a strange and wonderful place. Meet Ryan Malley, an artist you should know…

SF Artist Ryan Malley working on his new series of life sized San Franciscans

Anyone who’s been downtown San Francisco will understand this work instantly.   Malley captures SF’s main artery on a life size canvas.  He depicts the frozen anticipation of strangers waiting in a bus/train line, something every city dweller can relate to, but rarely thinks about.

A bus stop on Kearny St.  Life size.

The subjects stand and glare impatiently at what is coming.   The color tones in the background really imitate the movement of a city backdrop and allow the viewer to focus on the line of vibrant individuals.  The men on edges of the canvas observe the observer, which gives the viewer an added realism, the point is to make you feel as though you are in public as well, standing on the street yourself, and it works.  We asked Ryan about his work, his life in SF, and his observations as an artist.


Name:  Ryan Malley

What was your first job in San Francisco?
Weed dealer

I’m a sophisticated graduate with a BFA or FUCK art school!
Haha I have a BFA in animation from The Academy of Art University but also fuck art school.

What still inspires you about painting San Francisco?

Everything. It’s an amazingly photogenic city filled with incredible characters and scenery. It’s mostly the people that motivate me these days. My current project involves a multitude of life size figures so yeah people.

Ever had a great night out in San Francisco? 

Never had a bad one. There have been so many epic nights it’s hard to choose but Radiohead at OSL with my gf was amazing.

How has the city changed?

I’ve been here since 1998 so I got here right around the time of the dot com bubble burst and the subsequent relatively affordable real estate market. The city now is almost unrecognizable. The characters that once made this city colorful/sometimes scary are dwindling and the landscape has also changed a great deal. A great metaphor of the current state of things is the slowly sinking Millennium Tower.

“This is the second time I’ve painted this lady. Interesting to spend so many hours on a person you’ll most likely never meetor see again.” – Ryan Malley


What does it take to make it as an artist in SF these days?

An insane amount of resilience, patience, and a side job.

Any SF artists you think are outstanding right now?

Many artists that I admire have moved to Oakland but here’s a list that are making it work in SF. Mars-1, Kim Cogan, David Chong Lee, Chad Hasegawa, Sean Newport

Do you support Proposition S this November?  It reserves funds from the Hotel Tax fund to support the arts and homeless families in SF, over the years politicians have diverted these revenues to other projects without the public’s consent.


Favorite Museum right now?
The new SFMOMA is awesome! Lots of love for the DeYoung as well.

Favorite Gallery right now?
Hashimoto Contemporary

Photo by Shaun Roberts

What’s coming up for you?

My first solo show at Mighty Box Gallery October 8th – 29th
‘A life-size study of man as archetype’
245 S Van Ness Ave, SF, CA

Ryan’s site:

Ryan’s publishing company:

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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