Born and raised in Indiana, Hugh has seen his fair share of poverty and strife after backpacking around the globe at the age of eighteen. On a trip to the Middle East, he helped a San Franciscan woman negotiate a cab fare, and in return she invited him to her home town where he found his calling: Art.

You have probably seen his iconic graffiti art plastered on walls around town. You couldn’t miss the intricately drawn portraits of people that somehow feel familiar. Who are they? What is it for? What you didn’t know is that the portraits are of your neighbors—people of San Francisco, drawn by Hugh Leeman, an inspiring artist residing in the Tenderloin district.

His art is a heart-warming expression, showing his affection for the under-served, or rather, his friends. The faces he paints, which Hugh refers to as his “muse,” are some of the homeless war veterans and displaced populous of the city, each with a story to tell.

“As a young immature emerging artists I knew I wanted to paint people, and I met a lot of interesting people that live in the neighborhood around me. I think in the very beginning it was kind of practical for me. Man, these guys are great models, there’s something really beautiful about the way they look, the feeling of it. And then I think it’s just the human condition.”

A condition we all share, where we should find ourselves caring more for the people we see day to day. Hugh makes art to help you recognize those unnoticed, and to give them a voice and a new hope.

He goes beyond painting to keep their issues center stage. Hugh also hands out printed tees with his art for them to sell and make a little money for a warm meal.

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This article was published:
People Issue - Released February 2012
Issue 3 / Version 2 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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