Talented San Francisco street artist Battles demons to Escape homelessness

SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco street artist has made an incredible turnaround that is still a work in progress after falling into, and then clawing his way out of homelessness.

There is so much beauty in Daniel McClenon’s art — a beauty that belies the often ugly reality of his life on the street.

“I would just set my Canvas against the wall and kind of turn my back and put the tip jar behind me. And I would just lock onto the Canvas and just draw. And whether there was money in my tip jar at the end of the day, I didn’t even pay attention to that,” McClenon explained.

SF street artist Daniel McClenon
SF street artist Daniel McClenon.


Daniel spent a harrowing two years living on the streets of San Francisco where he eked out a meager existence as a street artist. He would Survive on the tips passersby would leave in his tip jar as he Sketched outside the Nordstrom store in downtown.

“When I devoted myself to my artwork, I was happier than I’d ever been at any other time in my life. I was doing my work. I was loving what I was doing and I was making enough money to eat,” he said.

Daniel’s canvases and art supplies were made from materials he salvaged from the streets like cardboard or drugstore-bought ink pens.

On each careworn piece of cardboard, Daniel would create images of almost angelic beauty all the while battling his own demons — homelessness, addiction and mental illness.

“Without the art, I wouldn’t have gotten clean. I wouldn’t have been focused. I just had this deep conviction that if I focused on my work that everything would turn out for the better.” they said.

Daniel has struggled with a serious, crippling addiction to prescription pills, and later to street drugs. But he says in order to preserve his art, he knew that he would eventually have to get clean.

He held a small gallery show on his work this spring. The positive press helped him get into emergency housing and treatment for his addiction.

“As long as I don’t lose track of my work or my focus, I stay clean. I stay clean for my work,” he said.

Daniel is currently working to complete enough art pieces for a second gallery that he hopes will help establish him in the Bay Area’s art world.


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