More vintage signs in San Jose

To those of you that wrote in and told me about signs I must sketch in the South Bay, thank you! Here are a few recent sketches, most from your suggestions.

Cambrian Park Plaza with it’s charming carousel. The Plaza is up for sale. Will they leave the carousel where it is or will it be torn down?

In that very same plaza is Cambrian Bowl.


This is Babe, the Muffler Man, at 808 The Alameda in San Jose. He’s huge and scary looking at first: maybe it’s those really bushy eyebrows and just how large he is? But as I drew him, he looked more and more benign. Which might be why he looks like he does in this sketch. Besides, it was an overcast day so I got no strong shadows: it’s just a lot more fun to draw something big and scary when there’s strong light and sharp shadows.


So I went back to draw Babe all over again. This time I chose a more dramatic angle, and I got some shadows, which helped. The muffler Babe holds, though, was gone. It had been taken down for repairs.

Another old sign. This one for a business that has long since disappeared. The sign for Stephen’s Meat Products stands near the Diridon Station in San Jose. It now marks the edge of a parking lot by the train station.

To see a collection of my vintage signage sketches, click here.
And if you know of more old signs in the San Francisco Bay Area, signs I can sketch, old theater marquees, drop me a line and let me know.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in california, Close to home, Silicon Valley, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to More vintage signs in San Jose

  1. Diane says:

    Currently taking Danny Gregory’s Sketchbook Skool and your sketches/paintings & loose style are such an inspiration for me!


  2. Chrisf says:

    Are any of the “Doggies” still around? The last one I saw was near the SF zoo, but it may be gone by now.


    • Chris, what doggies? I’m going to have to look them up…


      • Chrisf says:

        Doggie Diner…they used to be all over California. But one of the last ones was across the street from the SF zoo. Not sure if it’s still there. The sign is great. Also, look up Mimetic Architecture. Most of it in Cal. is in the LA area, but there is some in San Jose I think.


  3. Melissa says:

    It’s funny that you called the big man statue “Babe.” The original advertising gimmick was this man and a giant blue ox, taken from the legend of Paul Bunyan, the giant lumberjack, with his ox, Babe. Someone obviously transferred the name from the ox to him, at some point.


  4. These are beautiful; love your style of loose, splashy color washes and loose lines, yet detail and space are still very much and vey well conveyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sonictamez says:


    I enjoy your blog so much!

    I am a member of the SF Bay Area Urban Sketchers. I would like to sketch with you sometime in San Jose. I’m based in Oakland, but go to San Jose every few months. I sketched in Alviso recently (but haven’t posted). I want to go again and do a better job on the historic cannery.

    Further afield, I plan on going to the Badlands and Yellowstone in June. Any art related tips for a fellow sketcher based on your experience?

    Take care, Sonia

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

  6. davidmagnum says:

    I’ve lived in San Jose my whole life. It’s great to see these sketches. There is also The California Theater in downtown also. Great job.


  7. segmation says:

    I love Vintage Signs! Have you seen the yard full of vintage signs in Walnut Creek, California as well. One family has them all over his front yard on display all year around!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. freddy6990 says:

    Very very good


  9. Wendy Kate says:

    Really lovely, I like your style! 🙂


  10. They are so awesome


  11. Taylor says:

    I love these! I moved to Chicago from San Jose and these sketches make me miss home! I used to pass the Cambrian Carousel almost every day. Great work!


  12. Really, really cool stuff. I like this post a lot.

    Congrats on the FP!


  13. solaclips says:

    Look s great! How long does it take to make?


  14. ditchthebun says:

    Love these vintage signs. It’s like a little piece of history 🙂


  15. rrearick says:

    You have a nice style of drawing.


  16. pezcita says:

    Lovely sketches! I’ll look for these should I ever be in California. I’ve grown up near the “wrong side” of one of those mid-sized, midwestern cities, which boasts some fairly unique signs. Some are still intact, while others are just memories or ghost images on the brick walls downtown. I used to be into drawing that sort of thing around age 12 (just because it was easy) but then I transitioned into comics in college.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. monita4ever says:

    very cool like your style.


  18. You sketch well. 🙂


  19. Ahh, yes I like these sketches Suhita


  20. Those are awesome drawings! I mean paintings! Wait, paintings or drawings?


  21. spikey1one says:

    Its good to see that someone is ‘documenting’ local history, it disappears very quickly and people only miss it after it’s gone. Keep up the great work and I love your style.


  22. lshenefi says:

    aww is that one still around? Near the train station yet?


  23. yeseventhistoowillpass says:

    Excellent! You are an incredible artist! Bravo


  24. michaelaisms says:

    Really cool sketches! There is this place called the Neon Museum in Las Vegas you might like. It is the resting place for all the old Vegas neon signs. It’s pretty neat. It looks dramatically different from day to night visits. It would be interesting to see it done through your eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. A real fan of your stuff. Watercolor??? Sketchpads rock. This summer my goal is to sketch scenes of the campus I work during lunch break. I have a Cotmans field box which I love and some other portable equipment. Happy painting!!!


    • Susan,
      yes, watercolor. And sharpie pen. I use the filed box too, and a couple of ringbound sketchpads. And almost no other equipment. Keeping it light= sketching often and everywhere 🙂


  26. Love them all! Thanks for sharing!


  27. Povonte says:

    So lovely and touching! Thanks for sharing.


  28. omkarauti says:

    You draw things in a very unique way.. Its candid and quite catchy 🙂


  29. kyrrha sevco says:

    Love your work!


  30. Cynthia G. says:

    Such great vintage signs! There is a giant Paul Bunyan guy in just about every city, I think. There is one in North Portland, holding an ax. I’m thinking they accessorize him according to local legend.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Frank says:

    Nice! You inspire me to make sketches myself!


  32. kanandak says:

    These are so much fun!


  33. hsy11002103 says:



  34. cletocriste says:

    Your watercolor sketches are awesome! Beautiful work.


  35. PoshPedlar says:

    What a talent! Thanks for sharing, love retro.


  36. Redwood City and San Carlos (along El Camino) have some classics. Also Industrial Way parallels the El from SC north – again some keepers from a time gone by


  37. Great! i love them … ks


  38. Tara M says:

    Great work…can’t wait to visit San Jose again!


  39. Wow …. beautiful ….. 😀


  40. russwilliamsfreelance says:

    Very nice! My girlfriend and I were so close to leasing our own bistro a few months back, and we both agreed that we would have loved to have had your work hanging up there! Good work, keep it up!


  41. Lynn Holbein says:

    I love receiving these! Thank you so much. They are an inspiration and I almost always dust off my sketchbook and paintbox as a result.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s