Stikman - a Look at Mysterious Stickman Street Art in Crosswalks

For several years people have been fascinated by small, robot-like figures popping up in city streets and other innocuous places. These figures, now documented in flickr pools and blog posts from cities arose the world, can be attributed to Stikman (sometimes searched for and referred to as "stickman"), an anonymous graffiti artist, sometimes perhaps going by the alias "Bob," who has been putting these images up since at least 2006.

Spotting Stikman

If you want to keep an eye out for stikmen in your own city, here are some common characteristics to look for:

  • Small figures constructed with a kind of tape similar or the same to that which is used for crosswalks and other pavement signs
  • Yellow figures- though other-colored (such as blue, green, and white) stickmen have also been identified
  • Images in pavement- usually in crosswalks or streets (though stikman have also appeared on other surfaces, so jeep an eye out!)

The Semiotics of Stikman

One of the very fun things about Stikman is his relationship to a larger family of interesting underground street signs. One might liken stikman to the "Kilroy was here" markings that puzzled American citizens during World War II or hobo signals that were utilised by vagrants during the Great Depression. These images and their kind are an interesting kind of street language that goes unnoticed by some, but can make others feel completely understood and informed even when they are far from home.

show route and directions
A markerMission & New Montgomery -
Mission St & New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA
[get directions]

You'll see a fat stickman in the crosswalk here!

B markerMission & Yerba Buena Lane -
Mission St & Yerba Buena Ln, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
[get directions]

A damaged stikman can be viewed in the small crosswalk here

C markerMission & 4th St. -
Mission St & 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
[get directions]

A great stikman sighting in a very public place!

Stikman in San Francisco

Now, along with Washington DC, Boston, Hollywood, Philadelphia, Wheeling, WV, Ann Arbor, and Minneapolis (according to Murph2che), stikman figures can be found in San Francisco. The cluster with which I am familiar in the city is located South of Market, around the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The San Francisco stikmen can be found in crosswalks at the following places:

  • Mission & New Montgomery
  • Mission & Yerba Buena Lane
  • Mission & 4th Street

There are probably more locations- this is just a spot I wear thin during lunchtime walks. If you know of any more locations, tip me off in the comments section!

Should you see a stickman or stikmen in San Francisco, or in any place for that matter, take a moment to appreciate your discovery of one of the world's many fascinating little mysteries. You can enjoy your discovery even more by snapping a photo of the figure and adding to the growing stickman flickr pool.

The Man Behind Stikman

Because their creator is anonymous, it is impossible to know if stickman's creator is one person or a group of people.  That said, a Washington Post reporter did have an exchange with someone claiming responsibilities for these diminutive glyphs. Calling himself "Bob," to maintain his obscurity, this individual explained that "He considers himself an artistic Johnny Appleseed, spreading stikmen instead of seeds."

It could be that this Bob is only responsible for the over 150 stickmen in DC, and that friends or hoer people are putting them up (or more properly, slapping them down) in other cities throughout the world. It could be that Bob is not reposnible for any stickmen at all.  It is also possible that Bob is the ultimate mastermind of the movement and puts down each and every figure himself.  It is a mystery, and that is half the fun.

At the very least, visiting, noticing, and finding stikman figures is a great reminder that the world is brimming with interesting secrets, just waiting to be discovered.

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Comments 79 comments

Garrett Mickley profile image

Garrett Mickley 6 years ago from Jupiter, Florida

I visited Philadelphia Christmas 2008 and saw these everywhere. I had no idea what they were until now!

I've always appreciated graffiti, but stikman was something I had never seen before.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Love the shoes, Simone...I look forward to seeing some of these icons when in San Francisco for camp on Oct. 6th! Needless to say, we don't have stikman figures here in Bishop-yet!!

What I'd like to know is what the artist is trying to convey, if anything. Appleseeds mean what? Perhaps I should re-read Johnny's story, you think? Well anyway, I do enjoy mysteries like this.

See you soon!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

I've never seen Stikman in Central Oregon. I have a feeling if I asked anyone, they would think I was again the city slicker they seem to think I am!

I will have to look more carefully in my travels and see if he is there! Next time I'm in Portland I'll have to check there as well - or Seattle.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Garrett - that's so cool! Yeah- I like how stikman has added an interesting new dimension to the world of street art with his distinctive and interestingly placed figures.

lorlie6 - I am SO glad you can make it!! And thanks!! And yes, it is fun to contemplate the mystery and stikman's motivations. My take is it's all about making a place more familiar- just as you feel kind of comforted when you see a friendly face in a foreign city, one might feel comforted by seeing a stikman on a foreign crosswalk.

akirchmer- seriously! Keep an eye out!! XD


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Wish we had these in the UK. Maybe we have though but just not where I live :(


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Well, this is true, but you're lucky enough to have Banksy!


Garrett Mickley profile image

Garrett Mickley 6 years ago from Jupiter, Florida

My favorite graffiti artist was always Borf. He was up in the DC area, by where my parents live.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borf


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh yeah- I went to school in DC and saw Borf tags EVERYWHERE on GWU's campus. Wasn't he a Corcoran student?

.. Oh- just checked out the wikipedia link. Confirmed! Yeah- he's awesome.


Garrett Mickley profile image

Garrett Mickley 6 years ago from Jupiter, Florida

Have you seen Graffiti Research Lab? They do a lot of cool stuff that is legal/removable graffiti.

http://graffitiresearchlab.com/projects/led-throwi...


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh yeah! I stumbled across this site from a while back, but I completely forgot about it! It's awesome! You've made my morning.


Garrett Mickley profile image

Garrett Mickley 6 years ago from Jupiter, Florida

Hahah well knowing that I made someone's morning made my whole day.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

This is new to me and I have never seen one in person but will keep an eye out. Looks like a cute little guy!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Sure is! Do keep on the lookout- it's always fun to notice little secret signs!


Betty Reid profile image

Betty Reid 6 years ago from Texas

Interesting topic! I never would have thought to write about this. I haven't seen any in Austin, but I'll start looking.


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 6 years ago from Minnesota

What a fun mystery here. It does remind me of Kilroy was here. I think the stikman is really cool looking. I have not noticed any here in Minnesota but one never knows. Thanks for a fun hub.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

The fun thing is that Stikman is just one of many interesting semiotic enigmas floating around towns and cities. The fun is in spotting new ones, and there are always new ones to seek and discover!


stugod profile image

stugod 6 years ago from Bradford

We had the king of stickman l s lowry . I did some of the demolition work for the new lowry art gallery in Salford quays Manchester.

ps not a great fan of it although it fetches ridiculous sums of money


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

So desu ne!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

Must keep an eye out for Stickman. I love this kind of street art so like the old Kilroy Was Here of WWII fame.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Yah! It's fun to see a new Kilroy XD


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

This is new for me and I never see kind of this thing before. Good information, my friend. I try to see this in person if I have a chance to visit San Francisco. Good work. Rate this Up.

Love and peace

Prasetio


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Definitely keep an eye out Prasetio! And Stikman isn't only in San Francisco, so you may see him before you would expect to!


Jamie 6 years ago

They have been spotted in Wheeling, WV.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Very cool!! I'll add that to the Hub!


mog 5 years ago

I recall first seeing stickman in Boston when I moved there in '06 (I'm now in Brooklyn). I love them. It makes me smile whenever I see one because it's a cute character and a subtle piece of street art. Thanks for this page! Long live street art in all its forms! (And to anyone who's not yet seen it, check out the indy film "Exit Through The Gift Shop {a Banksy film})


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh yeah, I LOVE "Exit Through the Gift Shop"! I second mog's recommendation :D


Sira9 5 years ago

They are also all over Chicago. I've seen a few and in the past couple of months and I've recruited a couple of friends to send me photos of them when they see these little men. I always keep an eye out for them now!


melbel profile image

melbel 5 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

I haven't been to any large cities lately, although I live right outside Chicago. I'll have to keep my eye out for these guys next time I'm in the city. Cool hub!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Sira9 - that's so cool! When my friends and I started spotting them in DC, we had a real blast comparing notes and keeping track of new sightings.

And melbel - do keep an eye out next time you go into the city! It's such a thrill to spot one in a new place XD


sira9 5 years ago

My boyfriend found a red one (I've only seen yellow and white ones)a couple of days ago at downtown Chicago. It's super cool.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Wow- a red one - that's really awesome!! I've seen the occasional photo of a uniquely-colored one, but you're the first person I've heard from that has seen one in person.


Kimberly 5 years ago

There is one on Van Ness and Chestnut, I'm so glad you posted this. Me and my husband were on vacation and couldn't figure out what they were!!! There was also on on North Point but I don't remember the cross street.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

How cool! I'm so excited to hear of another SF Stikman sighting - the ones I first saw have been paved over, mostly T___T


speedbird profile image

speedbird 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Great hub about Stikman. Voted UP and rated USEFUL


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, speedbird!


Romano Arnesto profile image

Romano Arnesto 5 years ago from Philippines

Stikman has a mission, for sure!!!


Murph2che 5 years ago

I see a stikman everyday during my commute in Minneapolis, MN. There's one by the crosswalk crossing Hennepin Ave where it intersects with 5th street downtown by our light rail. I always attributed it to the local art school, but I'm much more intrigued to know that's it's a national phenomenon.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

I totally agree, Romano Arnesto. And that's so cool Murph2che! I'll have to add Minneapolis to the group of Stickman cities!!


Executive Office Furnishings San Franisco 5 years ago

Oh yeah- I went to school in DC and saw Borf tags EVERYWHERE on GWU's campus. Wasn't he a Corcoran student.Great hub about Stikman.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Yeah, he was! I loved those Borf tags. I miss them ; _ ;


Tom S 5 years ago

Just got back from Chicago and saw a number of Stikmen along Lakeshore Drive near Millenium Park, and along State Avenue between Lake and LS Drive. First I had ever seen the little guy - very cool, love that kind of thing.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh, so cool!


mgilbert64 5 years ago

Last week (6.18.11) I saw 3 in Columbus OH near the Columbus College of Art & Design.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh, too cool!!


Barbara 5 years ago

Fascinated to read about Stikman. We first saw Stikman on a trip to Washington DC. When we were in San Francisco we saw one in the Fisherman's Wharf area. So cool. Now we now to keep our eyes open for more!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Yeah! It's so fun to see them in far-apart cities! Keep on the lookout!


umich 5 years ago

They're all over the place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they seem to cluster around large cities or college towns


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Wow, really? That's so cool, umich! I'll have to add that to the Hub! And you're right about that. College towns especially!


Sanelli 5 years ago

Saw a bunch of them in DC


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Nice! Yeah- DC is definitely a hotbed of stikmen!


kk 5 years ago

saw them all over chicago when i was there this weekend for lollapalooza.. then i came back to work in la (near little tokyo) and found it on the crosswalk on first and some street i forgot which but right across from the geffen moca. awesome. i wish i'd taken pics but i'm glad i pointed it out to my cousin who was with me at lolla so i know i'm not just imagining things


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh, that's very cool! Isn't it awesome to realize that you're tracing someone's steps? Next time you see some stickmen, don't forget to shoot them! They wear away with time, so it helps to take photos to prove that they were there.


AG 5 years ago

Spent weeks convincing people i wasn't crazy and that there were little robots all over Manhattan. Now I know I'm not!!!!! Love it!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

YAY! Yeah, Stickman is definitely real, and you're definitely not crazy- you just have a sharp eye for cool things!


TUG 5 years ago

the article was a bit incorrect- the story behind stikman is that he was an old guy, some say around 60, that used to work for the NY transportation department. He got his hands on several gallons of this road paint and started making these stikman characters, so yeah he is pretty boss


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Huh, I'd never heard that before! If anyone could refer me to the source of that story, I'd appreciate it!


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

Hi Simone, interesting hub! I am placing a backlink to it from my "Street Art, Mexico City Urban Furniture" Hub.


paansabri profile image

paansabri 4 years ago from kuala lumpur

i wish we had that in Malaysia..


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Who knows? Maybe he'll make it out there someday!


Bruce 4 years ago

Just saw this:

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/02...

It looks like Stikman is forever memorialized on the last roll of Kodachrome ever produced and will be permanently housed in the George Eastman House photography museum.


Tipping 4 years ago

I saw one of these in Wilmington, DE outside if The Grand Opera House, and just recently I saw another by the convention center in Wildwood, NJ. Crazy, had no idea they were so widespread!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh, awesome! Yeah, these dudes are EVERYWHERE.


Mkp1703 4 years ago

They're in Pittsburgh, too!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

So cool, Mkp1703!


Will 4 years ago

Stikman sighting in Austin. At intersection of Guadalupe and Dean Keaton and intersection of 24th and Nueces.

I want street paint!


voidPortal 4 years ago

they're all over the southern UT and downtown areas of Austin. i think usually white ones


Rachel 4 years ago

They have invaded Nashville!!!


Anonymous 4 years ago

There is one in Houston in front of the beer can house


Vimural profile image

Vimural 3 years ago from Tucson

I will keep an eye for these marvelous works of art! I love street art, but a total movement is best!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 3 years ago from San Francisco Author

Do so, Vimural! I agree entirely. :D


mtnmatthews 3 years ago

2 Stikmen located at pedestrian crossing Bay St and Embarcadero in San Francisco.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 3 years ago from San Francisco Author

That's awesome, mtnmatthews! I hadn't noticed them! I'll have to take a look!


Bronwyn 2 years ago

There are so many of these in Toronto! I'd known about Toynbee tiles for a while and always saw these and thought they must be something similar. No idea whether the Canadian ones are rip-offs or not though.


Gaby 2 years ago

These things are all over Memphis.


hopebcook 2 years ago

they are downtown nashville.


Sandy 2 years ago

I first noticed these figures in... Buenos Aires, but have seen them in the US too! I've been so intrigued, asking various people about them!


Michelle 2 years ago

I first saw these years ago in DC! Just spotted a stikman in Austin, TX. It's on South Congress right in front of Jo's Coffee.


Frank 2 years ago

I just found one in Chicago, on the street where Columbus and Harrison meet, the day of the Bank of America marathon. I found one a year ago in Tennessee on Beale street, 2013.


A2 - D 20 months ago

There's also a couple at Detroit's Heidelberg project! One by the remains of the record house, and one on a clock installation. Go Michigan Sitkman!

http://www.heidelberg.org/

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