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Stikman - a Look at Mysterious Stickman Street Art in Crosswalks

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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.

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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.

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.

More on Stikman

Comments

Mary Ann on March 08, 2020:

Found a Stikman in South Beach Miami crosswalk while at Art Basel. Took a quick photo. Didn’t know what it was. Posted and someone informed me it was a Stikman.

GalaxyRat on June 20, 2017:

Cool! I was half tempted to shout, "I am the stikman" for laughs. I am not, however. I can barely draw a stick figure. Thanks for this Hub.

Frank on October 15, 2014:

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.

Michelle on September 13, 2014:

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.

Sandy on August 29, 2014:

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!

hopebcook on March 02, 2014:

they are downtown nashville.

Gaby on February 18, 2014:

These things are all over Memphis.

Bronwyn on January 02, 2014:

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.

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 20, 2013:

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

mtnmatthews on April 23, 2013:

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

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 04, 2013:

Do so, Vimural! I agree entirely. :D

Vimural from Tucson on February 03, 2013:

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

Anonymous on October 05, 2012:

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

Rachel on September 27, 2012:

They have invaded Nashville!!!

voidPortal on August 31, 2012:

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

Will on July 11, 2012:

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

I want street paint!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 23, 2012:

So cool, Mkp1703!

Mkp1703 on May 20, 2012:

They're in Pittsburgh, too!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 07, 2012:

Oh, awesome! Yeah, these dudes are EVERYWHERE.

Tipping on May 05, 2012:

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!

Bruce on March 22, 2012:

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.

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on March 14, 2012:

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

paansabri from kuala lumpur on March 09, 2012:

i wish we had that in Malaysia..

Claudia Tello from Mexico on December 17, 2011:

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

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on November 07, 2011:

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

TUG on November 05, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on August 15, 2011:

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

AG on August 13, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on August 11, 2011:

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.

kk on August 10, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on July 02, 2011:

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

Sanelli on July 01, 2011:

Saw a bunch of them in DC

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on June 27, 2011:

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!

umich on June 25, 2011:

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

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on June 23, 2011:

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

Barbara on June 22, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on June 22, 2011:

Oh, too cool!!

mgilbert64 on June 22, 2011:

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

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 09, 2011:

Oh, so cool!

Tom S on May 08, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 02, 2011:

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

Executive Office Furnishings San Franisco on May 01, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 22, 2011:

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

Murph2che on April 20, 2011:

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.

Romano Arnesto from Philippines on April 02, 2011:

Stikman has a mission, for sure!!!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on March 10, 2011:

Thanks, speedbird!

speedbird from Nairobi, Kenya on March 10, 2011:

Great hub about Stikman. Voted UP and rated USEFUL

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 21, 2011:

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

Kimberly on February 21, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on January 21, 2011:

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.

sira9 on January 20, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on January 04, 2011:

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

Melanie Shebel from Midwest, USA on January 04, 2011:

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!

Sira9 on January 03, 2011:

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!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on December 21, 2010:

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

mog on December 21, 2010:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on November 26, 2010:

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

Jamie on November 26, 2010:

They have been spotted in Wheeling, WV.

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 28, 2010:

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

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on September 27, 2010:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 24, 2010:

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

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 24, 2010:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 23, 2010:

So desu ne!

Stuart Goddard from Bradford on September 23, 2010:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 21, 2010:

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!

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on September 21, 2010:

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.

Betty Reid from Texas on September 18, 2010:

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

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 17, 2010:

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

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 16, 2010:

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!

Garrett Mickley from Jupiter, Florida on September 14, 2010:

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

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 14, 2010:

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 from Jupiter, Florida on September 14, 2010:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 14, 2010:

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 from Jupiter, Florida on September 14, 2010:

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 Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 14, 2010:

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

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 14, 2010:

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

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 10, 2010:

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

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on September 10, 2010:

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.

Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on September 10, 2010:

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!

Garrett Mickley from Jupiter, Florida on September 10, 2010:

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.