Twentythree: Fi-na-lee! Quimby!!


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

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Finally! More streams are running! We are in the midst of another series of storms bringing rain to much of parched California.

I have been patiently waiting for this particular creek to start running, as it is very special. The creek is dry much of the year, but flows once we start getting winter rains. Since moving to my home of 30 years in the Evergreen area of San Jose, I have driven by this spot near my house thousands of times (by calculations, easily over 9 thousand times). Each time I tell myself it would make a great little painting…but never painted it. I was too busy painting the Sierras, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, Yosemite, and other ‘scenic places’ to sell in the art galleries who represent me.

This spot was the genesis of the idea to start this project to paint the Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley. Right at the corner of bustling Capitol Expressway and Quimby road, across the street from a major shopping mall, surrounded by tract homes, smack dab in Silicon Valley suburbia, is this little scene. It’s not spectacular, but with proper treatment, as good as scene as you can find to paint. Click this link for a map of all painting locations.

It’s Thompson Creek, and about half a mile from painting number One: It Begins. I painted it between two major storms hitting San Jose. The skies were gorgeous and again, besides painting the creek, wanted to include the stormy skies.

As soon as I started painting, a young Chinese couple came by inquiring about my painting, so they accommodated me by taking a few pictures.

You might notice some pictures have water running, and some don’t. Thompson Creek was a raging torrent for a few days, then the day I went out to paint, was dry again. I had to use my recollections from the day before to paint the water. While I was painting, a maintenance crew was walking the creek checking for what I don’t know. My guess is there is some flow control upstream, but not sure where.

Finalee, Quimby, 8x10, oil on board
Finalee, Quimby, 8×10, oil on board

As I was painting, it looked like the next front was coming in, loaded with rain, so I finished the last part in the studio. The next day, writing this, I drove by Quimby and Capitol, and Thompson Creek was again a raging torrent.

Twentytwo: The Tall Stick


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

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In 1769 Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola hiked over a small range of coastal mountains, saw a beautiful bay, and camped under a giant redwood tree on the banks of a creek in order to explore the area further. He called the tall redwood tree El Palo Alto, which means ‘tall stick’ in Spanish. The land is now called California, the mountains are now called the Santa Cruz Range, the bay is San Francisco Bay, and the creek named San Francisquito Creek. Years later a town would spring up in the area named after the landmark tree, Palo Alto, and a famous university called Stanford started. You can read more about Palo Alto history here.

El Palo Alto in 1875.  Note how much of a landmark it was in the old days.
El Palo Alto in 1875. Note how much of a landmark it was in the old days.

I did painting number Twentytwo under the same 1,035 year old redwood tree Portola camped, which still grows along the bank of San Francisquito Creek. It is also right next to El Camino Real, where the original “Kings Highway” passed connecting California’s 21 missions. Incidently, paintings seven and eight were painted in Portola Valley, named after the explorer.

Palo Alto could be called the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Growing up together with bordering Stanford University, the town of about 64,000 residents has fueled the high-tech industry with it’s garage startups galore. Many books have been written about all the startups and other high-tech companies in the area, so won’t go into that here.

As mentioned, I did the painting right under the historic “Palo Alto” redwood tree. Click this link for a map of all painting locations. A plaque from 1926 is there commemorating the historic place. A train trestle was built within feet of the tree and Caltrain rumbles up and down the peninsula carrying passengers to and fro. I wanted to try to capture the tree, trestle, and creek in one small horizontal painting, no small task, especially considering the creek is in a ravine about twenty feet below. I finally settled on a partial composite view of all three with just glimpses of each element.

The Tall Stick, 8x10,oil on board
The Tall Stick, 8×10,oil on board

The painting turned out to be an almost abstract quilt work of steel girders and organic material.

I did the painting last Monday afternoon after Twentyone: Baylands Fun, but felt this deserved a separate blog post. I also wanted to touch the trestle up a bit under different light and after drying a bit. Prior to this quest, I don’t think I have ever painted a train trestle, and so far there are three in the collection!

Twentyone: Baylands Fun

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

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180 degree panorama from the Lucy Evans Center
180 degree panorama from the Lucy Evans Center

Ringing the lower San Francisco Bay is a wonderland of estuaries, marshes, ponds, tidal and fresh water habitats, accompanied by an amazing amount of small animals and particularly rich in bird life. It is a major migratory stopover on the Pacific Flyway and one of the best bird watching areas on the west coast.

The Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is the largest remaing tract of undisturbed marshland in the San Francisco Bay area. Over the years, actually since the 1850’s, much of the bay’s shoreline had been converted to salt evaporation ponds for the production of sea salt. These are really quite pretty from the air. Much of that is being restored now to its natural state, but some still remain.

Once again, the Los Gatos group was out painting a place on my “to-do-list”, so I joined them again! We painted close to the Lucy Evans Nature Center. There was a good painting everywhere you turned. One friend in the Los Gatos group asked if this qualifies as a Creek or River in Silicon Valley. Most assuredly yes, I replied. The water is the estuaries formed by the San Fransiquito and Matadero Creeks as they empty into the bay.

Click this link for a map of all painting locations.

Some pictures of the day. You can now click on a thumbnail, then scroll directly from picture to picture—

I love the abstract shapes of the marshes with their islands of grass and the water reflecting the sky, so that was the focus of my painting. This is the first painting in the series which actually shows San Francisco Bay.

Baylands Fun, 8x10,oil on board
Baylands Fun, 8×10,oil on board

The distant shore is the East Bay Foothills above the Newark/Fremont area, and to the left going out of frame would be the Dumbarton Bridge. On the right distant shoreline, I indicated a few of the huge salt piles (which were really there). My guess is these are over 50 feet high. San Francisco Bay is the water just in front of the distant shore.

I plan on painting more around the bayshore before the project is finished. In fact will be painting on the distant shoreline looking back this way soon enough.

Twenty: The Trestle Charity

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

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Willow Glen Trestle
Willow Glen Trestle

1921 was the year the trestle was built. In it’s day the rails carried cargo wrapping around the southern end of San Jose and up over the trestle I painted in number Seventeen: The Eggo Team.

Although the railroad tracks are long gone, it has stood the test of time until recently when the San Jose city council voted to tear it down and put in a new steel trail bridge for the Lost Gatos trail system. Citizens rose up and are demanding the trestle be kept and restored. I agree. The 90 year old trestle is solid, and the Friends of the Willow Glen Trust have now sued the city to stop it’s destruction. You can find some local reports and opinions here, and here. They also have some Facebook pages here, and here. There is a charity event coming up on February 22.

For the last year or so I have wanted to paint the trestle, and figured I better do it now if it is torn down. So here is number twenty in my Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley. I visited the site about a year ago, and along the creek, it was pretty junky, with a few homeless encampments nearby. This is only a few miles from “The Jungle”, the largest homeless camp in the US. I’ll save commentary on that for another day. Today, most of the junk was gone right around the trestle I think from volunteers cleaning the area up.

A few pictures. You can now click on a thumbnail, then scroll directly from picture to picture—

Here’s the painting–

The Trestle Charity, 8x10, oil on board
The Trestle Charity, 8×10, oil on board

For better effect, I took out about half of the pylons, otherwise it would have looked like a jumbled mess. This is the only painting I did not complete entirely on site. With some of the noise coming from the homeless camps, I felt a little unsafe being there all alone, so finished about half of it in the studio. My heart goes out to the truly homeless, but many are drug addicts or other problems, and the camps can be dangerous places.

Oh, almost forgot…that’s Los Gatos Creek!

Click this link for a map of all painting locations.

Addendum. Oops…forgot to mention the Save the Trestle website here.

Eighteen, Nineteen: Mercury Sheen

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

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New Almaden Smelter 1863
New Almaden Smelter 1863

The native Ohlone Indians called it cinnabar. The early pioneers called it quicksilver. Today we call it mercury, the liquid metal. The southern part of Silicon Valley was once home of the most productive mercury mine in the US. Mercury was produced at the New Almaden mines from 1845 until 1976. It is used to extract gold from ore and was in great demand during the California gold rush years.

The mines are now shut down and the area was made into a county park named, you guessed it, Almaden Quicksilver County Park. There is a lot of history here and some of the houses date back to the mid 1800’s. The hills are dotted with remains of the old mining equipment, closed mine shafts, and a museum is housed in an old mansion, The Casa Grande built in 1854.

The names cinnabar, quicksilver, and mercury are seen everywhere and the local San Jose newspaper is still called The Mercury News.

The Los Gatos group was out again painting along Alamitos Creek in the general area I painted Fifteen: The Hard Drive Machine. Alamitos Creek flows right through New Almaden. The last five days we have been experiencing a Pineapple Express, a moisture drenched series of storms originating around Hawaii in the Pacific, so I expected the creek to be flowing quit readily, but, it was basically dry! Since this is the first real rain all season, it takes some time for the parched earth to saturate enough for the streams to flow and the reservoirs to start filling.

I set up virtually under the Almaden Expressway bridge close to where it ends at Harry Road. It was still overcast from the recent storms, but the sun did peek out a few times. Click this link for a map of all painting locations.

Here are a few photos of the morning’s work. You can now click on a thumbnail, then scroll directly from picture to picture—

Here is the painting. I edited out quite a few of the trees and brush as I wanted a clearer view of the skies.

Mercury Sheen I, 8x10, oil on board
Mercury Sheen I, 8×10, oil on board

I planned on staying in the area the afternoon for another painting, so after wolfing down a sandwich, I drove around the New Almaden area, and finally decided to join a ‘holdout’ from the mornings paintout, Teresa, who was painting the Almaden Valley at the corner of Harry Road and Camden Ave. I wanted to do more of a sky scene to document we finally got some rain! A picture from the afternoon painting session–

Painting Almaden Valley along Harry Road.
Painting Almaden Valley along Harry Road.

This is the first painting where the creek is not the main focus as I wanted to mark the first big storm of the season. New Almaden is in the distant hills and to the lower left is Arroyo Calero Creek.

Mercury Sheen II, 8x10, oil on board
Mercury Sheen II, 8×10, oil on board

These are the first paintings I have done in almost three weeks as I was in East Texas due to my father’s passing. I am still well ahead of schedule but plan on doing one more this week.