On a rainy afternoon in San Francisco, “Little” Eddie Sanchez hunches over a work table at the back of Hospitality House’s Community Arts Program center on Market Street, his flamboyant top hat bopping up and down as he lays out his goods. For the past two years, selling artwork on the street has helped the previously homeless San Francisco native afford an SRO senior housing unit on 6th Street.
To make the art, Sanchez says he’s been visiting the public art studio every day for the past two-and-a-half years. The practice acts as a kind of self-driven art therapy for him. “I’d rather be constructive than destructive,” he says.
“I’ve never been able to beg,” Sanchez continued. “I don’t want to ask for something for nothing.” By creating and selling art, he’s able to contribute to the culture of the city. Much of the money he makes goes back into buying art supplies, some of which he distributes to homeless youth he meets on the streets. During the holidays, he devotes a chunk of money to making copies of his Santa Claus poster to pass out to homeless children.
“The main reason I [make art] is to put a smile on people’s faces,” says Sanchez.
That day, Sanchez had covered an entire table with his work: vibrant visual love letters — and notes of criticism — to San Francisco. On the right, are his signature San Francisco post cards, featuring Betty Boop posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and a banner with the nickname “Frisco” across the top. He originally created the scene as a large painting, but made small copies so he could sell them for $3 a pop to tourists. Like the rest of his artwork, the image is rendered in an aesthetic nostalgic for the San Francisco of the ‘60s — a playful, gritty illustration style reminiscent of early underground comics, mixed with a psychedelic palette harkening back to Haight and Ashbury’s heyday.