Month: March 2014

TwentySix: Home of the Airships

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

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USS Macon and Hanger 1
USS Macon and Hanger 1

Covering 8 acres, the size of 6 football fields, Hanger 1 at Moffett Field has always been a marvel to see driving by on busy Highway 101. Moffett Field was commissioned in 1933 as a Naval Air Station and over the years has been the base for airships, maritime patrol craft, NASA Ames Research Center, Satellite Control Network (AKA ‘Blue Cube’), and a host of other activities. An aerospace industry grew up around it in the towns of Mountain View and Sunnyvale. Moffett is now a joint civil-military airport.

A relic from the past, Hanger 1 was built in 1933 to house the airship USS Macon and is one of the worlds largest freestanding structures. Two other hangers nearby, appropriately called #2 and #3, are some of the world’s largest freestanding wood structures. currently, Hanger 1 is going through a restoration, removing asbestos and other dangerous materials.

Stevens Creek originates in the Santa Cruz Mountains, flows through the towns of Cupertino, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View. It flows by and empties into the San Francisco Bay right next to Moffett Field. On the other side of the creek is the world headquarters of a company called Google and a smaller company called LinkedIn. The Shoreline Amphitheater is nearby, one of the main concert venues in the bay area..

Of course, if you use the internet, you know who Google is. Their buildings (called the Googleplex) occupy blocks and blocks of buildings adjacent to Moffett Field. Recently, they have leased much of Moffett, and taken over the restoration of Hanger 1.

Click on any picture to view the full size–

I did the painting on a pedestrian bridge over Stevens Creek. Another sky painting, in front is Moffett Field with Hanger 1 on the left. The large building on the right is the intake for the worlds largest wind tunnel. Hanger 1 is a little hard to see in the photos as it currently has it’s outer skin removed and looks like a silver skeleton. I wanted to paint it as it usually looks, so put the skin back on.

Home of the Airships, 8x10, oil on board
Home of the Airships, 8×10, oil on board

As painting number twenty-six, this marks the halfway point in this quest, at least as far as the number of paintings. I am about 6 paintings ahead of schedule and will probably do more than the original 52 painting goal.

Coming up:
We are getting a series of Pacific storms, so am going to scout around for some of the smaller, seasonal streams. Also on the agenda, Chavez and Korakuen.

The Painting of TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive

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

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I recently bought a GoPro camera and used it to take some time lapse photography of painting number TwentyFive.

5627 individual photos were taken at one per second for a total duration of 94 minutes. The photos were then sped up to 10 per second to produce the video. The camera was never stopped the entire time, even when I was talking with passersby.

TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive

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

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Where Redwoods Thrive, 8x10, oil on board
Where Redwoods Thrive, 8×10, oil on board

One of the most beautiful and unique trees in the world are the redwood trees of the west coast of North America. The native habitat of Sequoia Sempervirens is only in the Northern California coastal forests ecoregion and several miles into Oregon. The redwood Hyperion Tree in Northern California is the tallest tree in the world. It’s close cousins, the Sequoia only grow on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the General Sherman Tree is (arguably) the largest in the world by volume. When I bought my house in 1984, six redwoods were planted, and due to various reasons only two remain.

Twentyfive was painted in the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos by Adobe Creek. Los Altos is one of the more affluent bedroom communities of Silicon Valley.
Click this link for a map of all painting locations.

14 mile long Adobe Creek originates in the Santa Cruz Mountains, flows through the cities of Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, and Palo Alto. It is joined along the way by three seasonal creeks in Los Altos Hills, Moody Creek, Purissima Creek, and Robleda Creek.


The two founders of Adobe Systems lived along the creek and named their company after the waterway. In the 1980’s, Adobe revolutionized the printing business by teaming with Apple Computer and producing the first desktop publishing system. The rest is history, so they say. Adobe’s fingerprints are all over technology today… the PDF (Portable Document Format), Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, to name a few. Virtually every image and every web page you see is touched by an Adobe product.

About the painting, although it is supposed to run year round, and we have had recent rains, Adobe Creek was virtually dry, so I used a little artistic license and added some water, although I am debating about taking it out. BTW, This is the third redwood depicted in this quest, the other two are Seven and TwentyOne.

Coming up:
A new twist for this quest…hint, think GoPro. Also, the afternoon’s painting where no art has gone before…think blimps and Google. On the upcoming painting schedule: Chavez and Korakuen.

A Brief Hiatus

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

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The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley
The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley

I am currently out of town attending to my late father’s estate, so there won’t be any new works for several weeks. In the meantime, I prepared this post ahead of time just to keep things going.

When I first started this project, it was just a simple idea to paint the creeks and rivers of Santa Clara Valley, AKA Silicon Valley, and was debating whether to even tell anyone about it, at least publicly, until the year was over. After all, I might end up with a lot of terrible paintings! I never realized it would develop like it has. Along the way, I started researching and writing about a lot of the interesting history and other little known facts of the locations I was painting. The cutesy rhyming titles just sort of happened.

I thought I would answer some questions posed to me over the course of the project so far.

How long does it take you to do each painting?
Most artists loath this question, and many artists retort with what Picasso reportedly once said “It took me forty years to do this painting”. The idea is that the painting is the expression of forty years of experience (or however long you have been painting).

I don’t mind answering as it relates to this project. Virtually all paintings are done in under two hours. Most are done entirely on location with little or no touchup afterwards in the studio. In a few cases, I have worked on a painting later in the studio, and each time indicate it on my blog along with the reason why.

The two hours of actual painting, is only the tip of the iceberg. I spend many more hours, probably 6-8 in researching, exploring, writing, photographing, traveling, etc. for each actual painting finished.

How do you find your locations to paint?
After living in the San Francisco Bay area for 35 years, I am fairly familiar with all the waterways, especially in the Santa Clara Valley. However, I usually spend quite a bit of time with Google Earth and other resources to find access points, etc. A lot of the creeks are fenced off with limited access points. You might notice I have painted behind chain link fences in many instances. Driving around exploring also helps a lot!

I also keep finding new resources on the internet. For example, I just now found the Santa Clara Water District has a set of Google Earth ‘layers’ which maps and names every waterway in the valley, from rivers all the way down to underground drainage culverts. They also have a historical overlay where you can see how a stream ran before mankind diverted and reworked the landscape.

What materials are you using?
I generally have a fairly traditional palette of colors, mostly using Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Red Medium, Sap Green, Transparent Iron Oxide, Cadmium Orange, Yellow Ochre, and Cadmium Yellow Medium. I occasionally use other colors, but this is my primary palette. I generally stick with Gamblin oils, but have other manufacturers in my paint box occasionally.

For brushes, I generally use Silver Ruby Satin brights and filbert sizes 6-12. In fact am still using the exact same two brushes I started with, a bright and a filbert size 8.

I am using exclusively Raymar Oil panels, all 8×10.

My easel is a Soltek. I have other outdoor equipment, pochade boxes, etc but this is my primary easel.

Finally, why are you doing this?
As stated in my weblog introducing this project and on my website, there is so much natural beauty we miss, even in the urban life. Silicon Valley is thought of as being some big industrial complex grinding out computer chips and software, but it’s not. It used to be called the “Valley of Hearts Delight” for it’s lush agrarian landscape, which for the most part has been paved over. I have been painting the area for years, and thought by formalizing it into a project, more attention could be brought.

Although I have not yet pursued anything, I hope to show the entire collection at some local venue when the year is up. The above montage of 14 of the 24 works so far gives you an idea of what the exhibition might look like. If current progress holds true, I will have many more than 52 paintings by the end of the year. There are just too many good places to paint!

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more paintings.

Twentyfour: Roger, Let’s Soar

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

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Roger Let's Soar!, 8x10, oil on board
Roger Let’s Soar!, 8×10, oil on board

I had been planning this painting location for quite some time and this is the original lead in to this weblog entry which I was just about to publish…

What was once the 1800’s Rancho Potrero de Santa Clara and later onion fields, gradually became a landing strip for the budding aviation industry after World War I. In the late 1940’s the city of San Jose turned the private airfield into a municipal airport and in 1948 Southwest Airlines was the first to commercially fly passengers.

The Guadalupe River originates in the Santa Cruz Mountains, flows north right through downtown San Jose, continues by and forms the northeastern border of what is now called the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airportalso known as SJC. The river continues on north and empties into San Francisco Bay. It is the southernmost major U.S. river with a King salmon run.

After writing the above prelude, I googled “King Salmon Guadalupe” and the name Roger Castillo kept popping up. He is tirelessly dedicated to cleaning up the Guadalupe River to enable the King Salmon to spawn. My goal in this project is to make everyone, everywhere appreciate the little spots of nature around us whether in a big city, the suburbs or even the countryside. What better way to do that than dedicating this blog entry to Roger, the “Watchdog” of the Guadalupe, who appreciates this waterway for more than just the scenery. You can read about him here, and check their website out here. Incidently, Roger is the one who discovered mammoth bones along the river some years ago.

Anyway, about the painting–I wanted to paint the Guadalupe close to the airport, so walked across a field to the northeast corner of SJC. Click this link for a map of all painting locations. Since it was an airport, I also wanted to make this a sky painting as we have had some beautiful skies with the series of Pacific storms hitting the bay area. We had a wonderful sunset the evening before I did this painting, and I wasn’t sure what skies the next day would bring, so just in case made some color notes. Painting sunsets en plein air is tricky as right after the best part, it becomes too dark to paint! You usually have to make color notes, and then finish the painting another day. I ended up basically combining the prior day’s sunset with the location today.

Looking at the painting above, the overpass in the background is Highway 101 (AKA Bayshore Freeway), and the airport is immediately behind that. It was hard to see much of the airport from my vantage point so just indicated a few buildings, the one on the left being the parking garage for terminal A. I set up on the Guadalupe River Trail & right behind me was the office complex for some company called eBay. The airplanes were taking off toward the south, a little unusual for this airport, so I put one soaring in the distance.

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