SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco artist Nicholas Coley makes his living painting vivid landscapes.
He's frequently spotted at work in the Presidio or Crissy Field. He told KTVU Thursday onlookers sometimes follow him back to his North Beach studio to purchase a painting.
"I hand out cards, people often come down here and [if] I'm lucky, they oftentimes walk away with a painting," said the 43 year-old painter.
That's just what happened with a male and female couple, recorded by surveillance cameras outside his studio earlier this month.
Coley says they took a blank canvas and a large finished painting, mistakenly believing both were left abandoned on the street.
"I ducked into the office for about 10 or 12 minutes, came out, the paintings were gone," said Coley. "The canvas is probably only worth $200, but the finished painting is worth about $5,500 in the galleries."
Police say they don't believe the couple had ill intent, based on their actions in the video. "This is really not a theft," said San Francisco Police Department spokesman Officer Carlos Manfredi. "They pick it up, they're walking, at one point you see them kissing and they continue to walk away. Sometimes when you don't want an item, you just place it out on the curb and you leave it there for people to take. And people will take it."
Police are asking the couple or anyone with knowledge of the painting's whereabouts to call the department's non-emergency line at 415-575-4444.
Coley says he blames himself for the loss of the painting, which already had a potential buyer.
"If you have them, please bring them back," said Coley. "I totally don't want to press charges, I just gotta feed my kids."