Six: The Downtown Sticks

I spent my teens and twenties in a small town in the piney woods of East Texas, around the environs of Big Sandy to be exact. Back then most people considered us ‘living out in the sticks‘, or way out in the country or backwoods. I had friends though, that lived even further “out in the sticks”.

This painting is out in the sticks right by downtown San Jose. I painted it from under the Taylor Street bridge near Guadalupe Parkway (Hwy 87) just on the northern edge of downtown San Jose. The creek is a side channel of the Guadalupe River as it flows through downtown San Jose. The fall color is still hanging around a bit, and I will continue to look for spots with color.

In case you missed it, I started a map you can follow with all the locations painted which you can find here.

Under the Taylor Street Bridge
Under the Taylor Street Bridge
My easel with the almost complete painting.  By the time I finished, the sun was almost set, and of course the light totally changed.
My easel with the almost complete painting. By the time I finished, the sun was almost set, and of course the light totally changed!

You can see Guadalupe Parkway in the back (have to touch that up a bit!), and the Taylor Street bridge and support column.

The Downtown Sticks 8x10 oil on board
The Downtown Sticks 8×10 oil on board

I am starting to introduce man’s mark in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, which is one of the points of this project. Sometimes people (or at least a lot of city folks) don’t realize the natural beauty right below the freeway bridges, in back alleys and other ‘hidden’ places.

I am already about 3 paintings ahead of schedule but have some prior commitments the next few weeks so may not do anymore for awhile. Stay tuned!

BTW, I hadn’t originally planned on using the cutsy titles, but will keep it up when appropriate.

Four: Victorian Lore, Five: Just Down the Drive

Alum Rock Park sits in the foothills just east of San Jose. Founded in 1872 with its dozens of mineral springs, it soon became nationally famous as a health destination. Stone grottos were built around 20 springs, along with bath houses, hotels, saloons, a zoo, and other facilities over the years. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, San Jose residents and others could take the trolly from downtown east to commune with nature, partake of the mineral baths, and other attractions. All that is gone now except the stone bridges, grottos, and stairways. The park has basically ‘returned to nature’. More history can be found here. Here are a few historic photos of the park. Click on any image to see a larger version.

Alum Rock Park is a little over 7 miles from my home and Penitencia Creek flows through the park, the subject of painting number four. I painted one of the old stone bridges (built in 1913) in the afternoon. A few deer and a flock of wild turkeys kept me company for awhile. Here is a link to the location.

Alum Rock bridge over Penitencia Creek.
Alum Rock bridge over Penitencia Creek.
The almost finished painting on the easel.  There was no direct light in the canyon by the time I completed the piece.
The almost finished painting on the easel. There was no direct light in the canyon by the time I completed the piece.
Victorian Lore 8x10 oil on panel
Victorian Lore 8×10 oil on panel

There is a lot to paint here and I would like to return soon before all the fall color is gone, but also need to start covering more streams!

Painting five is just outside the entrance of the park along Penitencia Creek. Eucalyptus trees always make great subjects as they reflect a lot of the local light. I painted right along Penitencia Creek Road. Here is a link to the location.

The scene along Penitencia Creek.
The scene along Penitencia Creek.
My easel along Penitencia Creek close to the entrance to Alum Rock Park.
My easel along Penitencia Creek close to the entrance to Alum Rock Park.

In the painting, you can see the road bed in the middle background, and a bit of suburbia in the background.

Down the Drive (Penintencia Creek) 8x10 Oil on board
Down the Drive (Penintencia Creek) 8×10 Oil on board

There are also a lot of good spots to paint along the creek outside the park, but will hold off as a backup in case I run out of ideas in other areas in Silicon Valley.

OK, I confess. I went to Alum Rock Park on Monday, but it was closed, so did painting number five just outside the park. I returned on Tuesday and did painting number four. I thought the title was catchy so reversed the order. I never said I would number them exactly chronologically!

Two, Three: Woz Way

Woz Way was named after Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple Computer, the inventor of the Apple 2 and other wonderful inventions Apple produced in their early years. Woz Way wraps around the Childrens Discovery Museum situated near the south end of downtown San Jose. As I recall, Woz contributed heavily to the museum, and continually contributes both monetarily and personally in the area. He is a local hero.

I did this painting sitting under the overpass of Woz Way, right near the intersection of Interstate 280 and Hwy 87. Up to the left you would find the Childrens Discovery Museum of San Jose. To my back is the freeway interchange of I280 and 87. The Guadalupe River Trail is where my easel is sitting. Here is a link to the location.

This is the southern end of the Guadalupe River Park Area which runs right through the middle of San Jose, and I will try to do a few more in the next week or so along the Guadalupe to capture the fall color.

Painting under Woz Way
Painting under Woz Way
Painting under Woz Way
Painting under Woz Way
Woz Way  8x10 Oil on board
Woz Way 8×10 Oil on board

I scraped the stream three times, and wonder if I should scrape it again.

I also tried to explore more along the Guadalupe River Trail, but much of the access to the river is restricted and posted ‘by permission only’, presumably to keep the homeless from building camps. I guess I will have to check with the city of San Jose to get permission into some of these areas.

The third painting is of Thompson Creek a few miles upstream from painting number one, close to the intersection of Aborn and White Rds, and just a few miles from my house.

Along the banks of Thompson Creek
Along the banks of Thompson Creek

Silver Creek II 8x10 oil on board
Thompson Creek 8×10 oil on board

Here is a link to the location.

One thing I am learning early on is I a will have to do many more than 52 paintings to get a good body of work. The paintings above needs something, but I can quite put my finger on it. Anybody have any suggestions? Too busy? Not enough contrast?

Update: This was originally named Silver Creek II, but is actually Thompson Creek which flows into Silver Creek. I updated this post accordingly.

Thanks, Plein Air Magazine!!

Silver Creek 8x10 OIL
Silver Creek 8×10 OIL

Plein Air Magazine picked up on my year long project and honored me with an article in their weekly newsletter and their website. Thanks Bob Bahr & Plein Air Magazine for a great article! Click here to see the article.

It Begins: One Down Fifty-One to Go

There is a wonderful variety of topography and scenery right in my hometown of San Jose, and I am often amazed at the many streams and rivers which flow through both the suburban and urban landscapes of Silicon Valley. Below freeways, around back alleys, behind fences are wonderful little scenes we hardly notice in the rush of modern life.

For many years, I have wanted to spend a year painting a different stream each week throughout the seasons, well, at least what mild seasons we have here! I’m putting it off no longer and am embarking on a project to do one painting each week throughout the next year of the Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley.

Due to traveling and other commitments, I won’t do a new painting exactly every week, but expect to have fifty-two 8×10 paintings by this time next year. Right now we still have lots of fall color in the valley, so I will try to capture that in a number of works the next few weeks between a busy holiday travel schedule.

Below is painting number one. I went just a few miles from the house and painted Silver Creek as it wraps around Lake Cunningham Park. I was at the corner of Capitol Expressway and Cunningham Ave.

Here is a link to Google Maps on the location.

(Note: you can click on any photo to see a larger copy.)

The general view I am painting in Cunningham Park.  For those who are familiar with the area, Raging Waters is just to my right, and Capitol Expressway to my left.
The general view I am painting in Cunningham Park. For those who are familiar with the area, Raging Waters is just to my right, and Capitol Expressway to my left.
A little closer shot focusing on the specific scene.  There was still a lot of fall color in the tree to the left.
A little closer shot focusing on the specific scene. There was still a lot of fall color in the tree to the left.
By the time I was done, the sun was getting pretty low.
By the time I was done, the sun was getting pretty low.
To my left is busy Capitol Expressway.
To my left is busy Capitol Expressway.
Silver Creek 8x10 OIL
Silver Creek 8×10 OIL

The painting took a little over an hour to complete. I did use a little artistic license by moving in a few red trees which were just to my right in the Raging Waters Parking lot!

So, if you don’t see any new stream paintings posted from me in awhile, shoot me an email with a gentle reminder to encourage me keep me going!

BTW, these paintings will not be for sale until the entire year is complete.