Twelve: With the Los Gatos Elves

The Los Gatos Plein Air Group was out painting today by Coyote Creek, so I joined them for painting number twelve. They meet every Monday morning, and I used to paint with them fairly frequently, but haven’t much the last few years. It was great to see old friends again, and I think the first hour was spent just chatting and catching up! BTW, I would have liked to title them ‘Masters’ in this blog entry, but trying to keep up the cutsey rhyming titles…we are all elves.

We painted by Coyote Creek about ten miles upstream from Eleven: Christmas Day, also on Coyote Creek, but in a more rural area. This is probably the furthest south I will paint for this project, even though some consider Silicon Valley to extend even further south to the agricultural towns of Morgan Hill, San Martin and, Gilroy, which have become bedroom communities for Silicon Valley. These towns reside in Coyote Valley, considered a narrowing of Santa Clara Valley (AKA Silicon Valley), and the watershed for Coyote Creek.

Nearby, is IBM’s, Silicon Valley Lab (formerly known as the “Santa Teresa Lab”), of which and I have a number of friends either working, or have worked there.

Click here for a map of all painting locations.

It was a relatively small crowd for the Los Gatos Group with about half a dozen of us. Here are a few shots–

One of the Los Gatos Group painting by one of the ponds fed by Coyote Creek.
One of the Los Gatos Group painting by one of the ponds fed by Coyote Creek.
A local horse stops to see Rebeccah's painting.
A local horse stops to see Rebeccah’s painting.

A painting of the large pond which Coyote Creek flows into and out of would have been nice, but decided to stick to the stream for project’s name sake.

I painted the spot where Coyote Creek flows out of the pond.
I painted the spot where Coyote Creek flows out of the pond.
The Los Gatos Elves,  8x10, Oil on panel
The Los Gatos Elves, 8×10, Oil on panel

The group has a couple more stream locations on their agenda coming up soon, and I hope to join them again as weather and locations permit.

I may have picked the wrong year to do this project! By this time, the valley usually gets a few Pacific storms dumping enough rain to start many of the smaller streams, but so far this year it has been totally dry. But, like I said in the beginning, there is no lack of subject matter, and that still holds true. Even though we have had wonderful weather, I am hoping for rain!

Eleven: Christmas Day


Continuing the ”Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” year long quest.

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With our only son out of the country, and the family get-together set for later today, I decided to go out and do a morning painting fairly close to the house. Coyote Creek is actually a river and the largest watershed which flows through Santa Clara Basin, AKA Silicon Valley. I painted right by Hellyer Park, right under the Hellyer Avenue bridge.

Since it is Christmas Day, I’ll keep this post short with just a few pictures. I will be painting more of Coyote Creek, so will talk about it more in the future.

My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park
My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park
Painting Coyote Creek under the Hellyer Avenue Bridge
Painting Coyote Creek under the Hellyer Avenue Bridge
Christmas Day, 8x10, oil on panel
Christmas Day, 8×10, oil on panel

Nine, Ten: Charlie Chaplin

Most know the story of Charles Chaplin who went to Hollywood in the early days of the motion picture industry, invented the “Little Tramp” character, and went on to be one of the biggest all time stars in cinema, at least in that era. Right? Well, not exactly. Charlie actually filmed “The Tramp” movie and others under Essanay Pictures in Niles, California in 1915. The iconic shots of the little tramp walking down a dirt road and along the railroad tracks was actually filmed in Niles Canyon. You can watch the entire movie here.

At the time, Niles Canyon with it’s railroad, Alameda Creek and other interesting terrain, was a major draw, and maybe close to becoming the film capital of the world, but Charles settled in Hollywood and Niles eventually became a suburb of Fremont. The railroad tracks though the canyon were the western termination of the transconinental rail of the US, and is still used today.

Train Trestle in Niles Canyon.
Train Trestle in Niles Canyon.

If Portola Valley is the bucks and brains of Silicon Valley, then Union City, Fremont and Milpitas could be called the valley factory. This is where many of the manufacturing and warehouses for the area are located…at least before much of it was shipped off to China!

I spent the day in Niles Canyon and did two paintings. One of my biggest problems in this project I am battling is getting access to the water. In the entire 6 mile drive between Sunol and Niles, there are only a few spots not marked “No Stopping”, “No Parking”, “No Tresspassing”, and/or fenced off.

I eventually found a turnout with a highway call box, so of course you could park there!

Painting under the highway in Niles Canyon
Painting under the highway in Niles Canyon

Here is a short video of Alameda Creek by where I painted. You could be almost anywhere in the wilds, but I was just a few miles from Silicon Valley suburbia! What an office!

Here is the painting. I kept some of the bridge in and am pretending it is a railroad trestle, as there actually was one right around the corner. You can click on any picture to view a larger size.

Charlie Chaplin I , 8x10, oil on board
Charlie Chaplin I , 8×10, oil on board

Lunch was in downtown Niles (now part of Fremont), where some of the buildings from Chaplin’s era are still standing, most of them turned into antique and memorabilia shops.

Niles, California
Niles, California

The next painting was right at the mouth of the canyon as it opens into the town of Fremont, and the greater bay area. This was a little easier access as there is a little park and a parking lot, called the Niles Staging Area.

Along Alameda Creek at the entrance to Niles Canyon
Along Alameda Creek at the entrance to Niles Canyon
I set up the easel on the Alameda Creek bike trail
I set up the easel on the Alameda Creek bike trail
Charlie Chaplin II , 8x10, oil on board
Charlie Chaplin II , 8×10, oil on board

Niles Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the bay area and it is sad due to man’s carelessness and abuse that most of it is now blocked from the public. I used to live nearby and drive through the canyon coming and going to the Sierras for painting and camping, all the while thinking this little canyon is as pretty as anyplace in the wilderness.

This is about as far north as I will paint on the eastern side of the bay, and probably the upper limit of what they call Silicon Valley. A map of each painting location can be found here.

Seven: Nuclear Heaven, Eight: Venture Capital State

Portola Valley seems like a sleepy little valley town with it’s equestrian centers, trails, redwood groves, quaint small shops, old wooden bridges, rural roads, and wonderful little creeks. In reality, it is an affluent bedroom community for the bucks and brains of Silicon Valley. You would never know just a couple miles over the hill is the brain trust and money bags of Silicon Valley. It was recently rated one of the top Elite Zips in the US which you can find here. The valley is situated just west of Interstate 280 (Locally known as the Juniper Serra, “The worlds most beautiful freeway”), close to Stanford University, and Sand Hill Road, where many of the big venture capital firms reside. The Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC for short), is right next door where they smash nuclear particles to determine the origin of the universe. It’s also right on top of the San Andreas Fault Line, the main earthquake generator in California!

I did two paintings in the area, the first of a little creek, which I didn’t know the name of, but was close to the west end of the two mile long SLAC.

In Portola Valley close to the Stanford Linear Accelerator
In Portola Valley close to the Stanford Linear Accelerator
My easel along Portola Road.
My easel along Portola Road.

I couldn’t set up right by the scene I was painting which was from the bridge you see on the left, so had to set up across the road and occasionally walk over to get details on what I was painting.

Lunch was at the Alpine Inn, best described as a biker bar, where they serve deliciously greasy hamburgers and other fare.

Alpine Inn on Alpine Road, Portola Valley
Alpine Inn on Alpine Road, Portola Valley

My second painting was of Los Trancos Creek where I happened upon an old, little used, but in seemingly good repair, footbridge. A local stopped by and told me the name of the creek, otherwise I would have never known!

Los Trancos Creek, Portola Valley
Los Trancos Creek, Portola Valley
My almost finished painting along Los Trancos Creek.
My almost finished painting along Los Trancos Creek.

Below are the two paintings of the day. There is still a lot of fall colors around, especially on the ground now in the form of decaying vegetation.

Nuclear Heaven, 8x10, oil on panel
Nuclear Heaven, 8×10, oil on panel
Venture Capital State, 8x10, oil on panel
Venture Capital State, 8×10, oil on panel

I will probably return here before the project is complete, and paint down San Francisquito Creek which runs easterly through Palo Alto, by Stanford University and into the San Francisco Bay. Like I said in the beginning, the least of my problems in this project is finding places to paint! This is also as far north up the San Francisco Peninsula I will paint, at least for the time being.

I just returned from a week in Denver, attending an art workshop by Jay Moore, and visiting my brother and family. I am still a couple paintings ahead of schedule, though. During some of these outings which are a bit of a drive (like today), I will probably do a couple paintings.