Capturing the Richmond in Watercolors

By Gui Oliveira

For Robin Galante, local Richmond District illustrator and artist, the neighborhood is her source for inspiration.  

“I walk a lot in the neighborhood and I do it to blow off steam and to exercise, and I love to look at this neighborhood. I’m just in love with it.” Galante said.

Robin photo PAGE ONE GUI RR 1-20

Richmond District artist Robin Galante shows off her drawing of the Balboa Theatre. Photo by Gui Oliveira.

One of her earliest Richmond memories was when her father took her to the Cliff House Restaurant for a birthday lunch. Her dad had forgotten his wallet, so the young Galante paid for the meal out of her allowance. 

“I can’t believe I had enough to cover it,” she said.  It is a memory that has imprinted in her mind.

A Los Altos native, it was a goal for Galante to move to the Richmond neighborhood. She was able to realize that goal in 2005. 

As an artist, Galante notices the neighborhood’s nuances – architectural designs, brightly colored homes, the blanket of fog and the sunsets. She is also influenced by the businesses of the Richmond.

Joy of All Who Sorrow

The Holy Virgin Cathedral on Geary Boulevard is one of the many Richmond District landmarks that have caught the eye of artist Robin Galante. Watercolor by Robin Galante.

She drew the Balboa Theatre as a challenge to herself. From there she went on to sketch the Four Star Theater on Clement Street. Soon after came the colorful houses and local shops. But it was not until Galante started posting her drawings to a Facebook group with the subject matter of people who grew up in the Richmond between certain years – before her time – that her illustrations initiated a conversation that triggered nostalgia for the community.  

“People post photos and memories, and when I posted a painting on (Facebook), there would be a dialogue that would go on for hundreds and hundreds of comments, she said. “It would ignite people’s memories and make people feel good, and I thought this is nice. I’m getting comfort out of this, and it’s bringing others comfort too, or it’s making people remember and feel good. And that kind of kept me going with it.”

Galante kept her hand at it, drawing some of the shops on the Balboa corridor that feature a diverse combination of veteran businesses as well as shops that have sprung up within the last decade or so. It is an eclectic mix of storefronts. Some have come and gone. Some are still thriving as social hubs, protected by the affection of neighbors. 

“My goal is to have more people see my stuff just so they can feel something even if they don’t buy something,” Galante said. “Just so they can have a respite from all the other crap on the internet.”

Galante aims to create work that is befitting to the Richmond neighborhood. She illustrates the characteristics of the architecture, the mood of the neighborhood, and, along with detailed lettering, she works to make a complete and genuine illustration come to life.  

The beauty of watercolor pencils is that they can be sharpened; a fine point lets texture become more prominent and visible. The watercolor paint effect adds another layer of creativity and depth. Galante’s drawings are reminiscent of a small gem of a seaside town, standing alone, apart from the rest of the City.

“So it’s kind of fun. It just feels like I’m drawing and I’m 12,” she says.

Galante A Girl and Her Dog

Simple scenes, like a girl walking her dog down a Richmond District street, inspire artist Robin Galante to use her creativity to capture moments of everyday life in her neighborhood. Watercolor by Robin Galante.

Aside from the neighborhood illustrations, Galante collaborates with Vanessa Lowe, the host and producer of the podcast “Nocturne.” The podcast is an “essay radio” show that tells stories of “the dusty corners of the night.” Galante draws the artwork for each episode, which contrasts with her neighborhood drawings yet allows her as an artist to expand beyond the known comfort zone of the Richmond District.  

“She would listen to each episode for hours and hours, and she would create the art for each episode based on listening to it over and over again,” Lowe said about Galante’s art process for each episode. 

Galante and Lowe met more than five years ago as musicians in a broad group of friends at the Bazaar Café. It was when Lowe was getting ready to launch Nocturne that she serendipitously discovered Galante’s dream series – drawings based on her dreams.

The overall success of Nocturne led to a feature in The New Yorker magazine in 2017. 

For more information and a gallery of Galante’s work, visit

Categories: Art

Tagged as: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s