Month: January 2014

I Sure Picked the Best Year

Well, it seems I picked a really good year to paint the streams and rivers of Silicon Valley! So far we are in the biggest drought since California became a state! With the rest of the country drenched in snow, we have had no appreciable rain so far this winter, and things are as dry as I have ever seen.

I planned on painting some of the smaller creeks which run mostly during the winter and spring, but of course none are running yet. Hopefully we will eventually get some rain so it is a wait and see situation, but dry creeks are still creeks, and can be just as compelling a painting without water. I have been compiling a list of places to paint since starting this project, and I will never get to all of them, drought or no drought.

As a side note, I spent the first part of the week in Tyler Texas sleeping on a roll away bed and living in a hospice room with my ailing father, who passed away Tuesday night. No paintings will be forthcoming this week nor possibly in the next week or two. I am plenty ahead of schedule.

Seventeen: The Eggo Team

Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ project.


The Eggo frozen waffle was invented by three brothers in San Jose. Marketing it in 1953, they first called it ‘Froffles‘, but people started calling them Eggos because of the egg like taste. In 1968, Kellogg’s purchased the brand. Their advertising slogan – “L-eggo my Eggo” is now well known.

Miguelita Creek flows out of the east foothills of Silicon Valley, joins Lower Silver Creek, right past the Kellogg’s plant where Eggos are made, and then empties into Coyote Creek. I painted number Seventeen by the Kellogg factory entrance at the junction of Eggo Way and Wooster Avenue (yes there really is an Eggo Way). The factory is near the junction of Hwy 101 and Mckee Road, just northeast of downtown San Jose. Click here for a map of all painting locations.

I originally planned on painting a sunset scene looking towards the west, but when I got there, the opposite direction was more compelling to me. The old abandoned Western Pacific railroad tracks run right by there crossing an old wooden trestle. This rail branch used to run from Niles to San Jose. You may remember Niles was the location of paintings Nine and Ten.

Below are some pictures from the afternoon. You can now click on a thumbnail, then scroll directly from picture to picture

Below is the finished painting. Just on the other side of the trestle, you can see Hwy 101 (known locally as the Bayshore Freeway) overpass. I indicated a few cars and trucks whizzing by.

The Eggo Team, 8x10, oil on panel
The Eggo Team, 8×10, oil on panel

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Sixteen: The Evergreen

Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ project.

Many don’t believe Orville and Wilbur Wright did the first heavier than air controlled flight. They think John Joseph Montgomery did and there is quite a bit of evidence to back them up. Montgomery, who some have called the ‘father of aviation’, did many of his flight tests on a hill in the Evergreen area of San Jose. Montgomery Hill Park, behind Evergreen College stands as a monument to his efforts. “The Evergreen” was the name of his aircraft, and he was eventually killed in it, albeit somewhat of a freak accident. You can read the entire story here. Glenn Ford starred in a 1946 movie also telling the story, “Gallant Journey“.

The Evergreen area of San Jose has also been my home for thirty years. Originally settled by Antonio Chaboya in 1833 and named Rancho Yerba Buena, it was fertile orchards, vineyards, and farmlands until the second half of the last century when suburbia took over and is now primarily a bedroom community of Silicon Valley. Even the Mirrasou Winery started in 1854 (which was still here when I moved to the area) is gone now. Here is a short history of the area.

Fowler Creek flows down from the hills Montgomery once glided, into Thompson Creek, then Silver Creek, Coyote Creek which empties into the San Francisco Bay. I did this little painting right where Fowler flows into Thompson, behind a strip mall which also happens to be where I get my favorite Indian takeout cuisine! Click on any picture to view a larger version.

The light area in the distance is San Felipe Rd. Click here for a map of all painting locations.

I named the painting after Montgomery’s glider–

The Evergreen, 8x10,oil on panel
The Evergreen, 8×10,oil on panel

Fifteen: The Hard Drive Machine

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

The hard disk drive, found in virtually every computer in the world and many other devices, was invented at the IBM San Jose Research Center in the mid 1950’s. The center is one of IBM’s nine worldwide research labs, and now located in Almaden Valley. This tranquil little valley, bordered by smaller ridges, is in the southern part of San Jose and also a bedroom community of Silicon Valley.

The Los Gatos Plein Air group was out painting a stream in Almaden Valley, so once again I joined them. This time we painted Alamitos Creek which flows through Almaden Valley and eventually joins the Guadalupe River which then flows to San Francisco Bay.

We painted in Pfeiffer Park which runs along the creek. The IBM center was in the hills behind us about a mile away. Below are a few pictures from the morning. Click on any photo to see a larger version.

And finally, I had someone take a picture of me painting! When I do small works, I usually sit in a camping chair and hold the painting in my hand much of the time. This is to save my back from too many visits to the doctor–

The Hard Drive Machine, 8x10, oil on board
The Hard Drive Machine, 8×10, oil on board

Around noon, the group adjourned to a local pizza place for lunch and fellowship. It was a great time talking painting, places to paint, and enjoying good food.

Since I was in the area, I stayed the afternoon and painted Randol Creek, a tributary of Alamitos Creek. I wanted to paint the sunset again, but only got about halfway through. There is a lot of history in the area, so I plan on going back to finish Randol Creek and do other paintings. Stay tuned!

Fourteen: The Los Gatos Stream

Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ year long project. (Click here for complete info.)

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Los Gatos Creek originates in the Santa Cruz mountains, flows northward through Santa Clara Valley, and eventually feeds the Guadalupe River. As it flows through the small suburban town of Campbell, the creek feeds percolation ponds that are part of the groundwater recharge system built by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Water held in the ponds seeps or “percolates” through the earth’s layers until it reaches underground aquifers.

The Los Gatos Plein Air group was out today painting around the creek and the percolation ponds, so once again joined them. We were very close to the intersection of highways 17 and 85. There were more painters than last Monday, around ten or so.

Click here for a map of all painting locations.

This is a wonderful place to paint! Within a hundred yard radius, you had your choice of a creek, ponds, mountains, a wide variety of trees, ducks, egrets, geese…you get the idea…all in a Silicon Valley suburb! It was somewhat overcast, but the sun would peek out frequently to light up the landscape.

I chose to paint on a pedestrian bridge that spans Los Gatos Creek. Below, a small dam backs up the water and creates a nice slow flowing spot in the creek. Others chose to paint the percolation ponds. Here are a few pictures of the day. You can click on any picture for a larger version.

Some painted along the percolation ponds.
Some painted along the percolation ponds.
Some painted from the pedestrian bridge.
Some painted from the pedestrian bridge.

My easel is on the left.

A view of the bridge I was painting from.
A view of the bridge I was painting from, along with the small dam on Los Gatos Creek.
An egret takes wing by one of the percolation ponds.
An egret takes wing by one of the percolation ponds.

Just beyond the pond you can see California Highway 17, otherwise known as the Santa Cruz highway.

Here is plein air painting number fourteen:

The Los Gatos Creek 8x10, oil on panel
The Los Gatos Creek 8×10, oil on panel

I chose to include the office building in the background to indicate we were right by an office park. The building was the offices of South Bay Development Company. In the middle ground, the flat top of the levee is the Los Gatos Creek Trail.

It was a great day painting, and I hope to join the group again next Monday painting Alamitos Creek.

Thirteen: Adieu Twenty Thirteen; Bienvenu, Twenty Fourteen

Tuesday afternoon, it suddenly hit me I should paint the last sunset of 2013, and then finish it in 2014. We had a New Year’s party to go to later, but I had enough time to go out, set up, get the basic color notes, watch the sunset, and then finish the painting the next day in 2014. Painting sunsets en plein air is tricky as right after the best part, it becomes too dark to paint! You have to make color notes, and then finish the painting another time.

I went to Norwood Creek at the corner of White Road and Norwood Avenue. Most of Norwood Creek flows under Norwood Avenue, but emerges at this intersection, where it is just a channel and terminates in Thompson Creek. Some of you know I started and sold a software company in the nineties, and our offices were on this corner, behind where I was painting. It’s also about the closest ‘creek’ to my home.

My easel set up on White Road.
My easel set up on White Road.
Looking across White Road.  You can see my easel right behind the light pole.
Looking across White Road. You can see my easel right behind the light pole.
The scene as I painted.
The scene as I painted.

Eastridge Shopping Mall is in the far distance.

Below is the finished painting.

Adieu 2013; Bienvenu, 2014 8x10 oil on panel
Adieu 2013; Bienvenu, 2014 8×10 oil on panel

Happy New Year Everyone!

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