Thirty: Chavez Legacy


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

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Controversy followed Cesar Chavez much of his life. Born in Arizona and growing up as a migrant farm worker, he became a civil activist, union leader, and labor organizer for farm workers rights, founding the National Farm Workers Association, later called the United Farm Workers union.

Whether you agreed with him or not, he had a huge impact on farm worker rights and is considered, arguably, the second most influential civil rights activist after Martin Luther King. Maybe surprising to some today, he was against illegal immigration, and actively protested the US lax immigration enforcement. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1994 by President Clinton. More info can be found here.

Chavez spent much of his life in San Jose, in the barrio Sal Si Puedes, or “Escape if you can”, in what is now known as East San Jose, Mayfair neighborhood. In this dangerous, rough and tumble area of the city, he raised a family of eight children. He had spent younger years picking fruit in the San Jose area when it was called the “Valley of Hearts Delight’ and full of fruit orchards prior to becoming a nationally known activist. Being poor his entire life, he never made more than $5000 a year. He certainly “walked the talk”. A movie was just released about his life which is showing in theaters as this is being written.

I did painting Thirty just around the corner from where Chavez lived in San Jose. Although 44 Scharff Ave is marked as the ‘home’ of Chavez, in reality, the family later tore his house down and built a larger one on the same lot.

I painted right on the San Antonio Street bridge as it passes over Lower Silver Creek, once again behind a chain link fence. Upper Silver Creek, a few miles away, was the first painting of this quest “One Down, Fifty One to Go”. Here the creek meanders slightly in a man made channel. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Here is a panorama shot I did of the location–

A 180 degree panorama of my painting spot along San Antonio Street
A 180 degree panorama of my painting spot along San Antonio Street

And the final painting–

Chavez Legacy, 8x10, oil on board
Chavez Legacy, 8×10, oil on board

The bridge on the upper right is a pedestrian bridge, a number of which can be found crossing the creeks in the neighborhood.

Coming up…spring flowers!


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.


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TwentyNine: Stevens Auto Line


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

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Stevens Auto Line, 8x10, oil on board
Stevens Auto Line, 8×10, oil on board

If you google Stevens Creek, you will probably first come up with BMW, Toyota, Audi, Nissan, Lexus, Ford, Acura, Honda, Subaru, and other auto makers. That’s because Stevens Creek Blvd is auto row for Silicon Valley, at least one of several auto rows. All who live in the South Bay know Stevens Creek Blvd. It starts near the western foothills, runs due east, and near it’s eastern end are the shopping mecca’s of upscale Valley Fair Mall, and trendy Santana Row, where the Silicon Valley workers come for happy hour, dining, smoozing, people watching, and whatever else young people do after work nowadays.

Yes, there is an actual creek, and I have never quite figured out how the boulevard got its name, as it does not follow the creek, but only crosses it at it’s far western stretch. Originally named Arroyo San José de Cupertino, it is now named after Capt. Elisha Stephens, an early settler of the valley. I am not sure why the two names are spelled differently. Beginning in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Stevens Creek flows through Stevens Canyon, then through the cities of Cupertino, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View, on its way to join the San Francisco Bay. Stevens Canyon is one of the little jewels of the south bay. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures–

I previously painted the creek where it empties into San Francisco Bay in TwentySix: Home of the Airships. This piece was done where Stevens Creek starts to emerge from Stevens Canyon, and into the suburban sprawl of Silicon Valley proper. A huge Fremont Cottonwood stood sentinel over the creek with it’s large branches stretching far and wide.


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.


We have been having beautiful weather here, and probably seen the last of any major storms. Many of the smaller creeks did not flow, except maybe right during what little rain we had.

I have added a section to my webpage listing all the identified creeks. I have now at least painted one in all the watersheds according to the Santa Clara Valley Water District maps.

TwentyEight: The Tollgate


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

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The Pacific Congress Springs Resort Hotel around 1900
The Pacific Congress Springs Resort Hotel around 1900

Starting in 1847, the little pioneer town nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains of Santa Clara Valley had been called Arroyo Quito, Campbell Creek, Campbell’s Gap, Tollgate, McCartysville, and Bank Mills over the years. In the middle of the Civil War, the townspeople came together to decide a permanent name. Just upstream from their town was a spring which had almost the same chemical content as Congress Springs, of Saratoga Springs, New York, so they named their small town Saratoga, and it remains today.

Once an industrial town, producing lumber from the nearby hills, flour mills, paper, cardboard, furniture, tanneries, much of the power was derived from Saratoga Creek. A large resort was constructed at Pacific Congress Springs, , which burned down in 1903. More history can be found here.

Today, Saratoga is one of the upscale communities in Silicon Valley, with its small town feel of tony boutiques, little shops and high-end restaurants. In it’s short downtown of about 5 blocks it is, in my opinion, the highest concentration of the best rated restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area. The winding roads in the surrounding hills reveal estates with personal vineyards, horse stables, and other indications of affluence.

Riding through Saratoga on my Harley-Davidson Road King every few months into the Santa Cruz Mountains, I always love to see Saratoga Creek as it runs year round…even through all the recent droughts.

It would have been nice to paint the Congress Springs area, but it is now grown over, and access is limited. (Based on my observations from the road, with it’s chain link fence, it is probably used as a water source for Saratoga.) I painted Saratoga Creek downstream from there as it flows through Wildwood Park in the middle of town.

Below is the finished piece, an intimate scene of Saratoga Creek—

The Tollgate, 8x10, oil on board
The Tollgate, 8×10, oil on board

Click this link for a map of all painting locations.


TwentySeven: Korakuen


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

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Korakuen, 8x10, oil on board
Korakuen, 8×10, oil on board

One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan is called Korakuen (Kōraku-en). Located in Okayama, Japan, it was built in 1700 by Ikeda Tsunamasa. Korakuen means “garden of pleasure after”, which is a reference to a saying attributed to Confucius—explaining that a wise ruler must attend to his subjects’ needs first, and only then should he consider his own interests. Once a playground for the elite, in 1884 Okayama Prefecture took Korakuen over and opened it to the public.

In 1957 Okayama and San Jose became sister cities. San Jose built it’s own garden in 1965, called the Japanese Friendship Garden, patterned after Korakuen, and in 1966 it’s koi ponds were stocked with koi sent from Okayama. Although koi live over 50 years with some reports of over 200 years, unfortunately in 2009 a virus wiped out much of the koi in the gardens.

A video from 1958 of San Jose Mayor Doerr visiting Okayama gives you a little idea of the friendship and culture in years gone by….


Although I have only been to Okayama twice, just passing through on a Shinkansen (bullet train), the city has become a little more of personal interest to me. My son has been teaching English there in four different grade and junior high schools for much of the past year. He has had a wonderful time soaking in the Japanese culture, making new friends and loving his work, which he calls getting paid to play with school kids all day.

I decided an artificial stream is still a stream, and what better place to paint spring blossoms than a Japanese Garden, so painted the waterfall in the Japanese Friendship Garden. It was a beautiful spring day as the rains had just cleared and there was certainly a freshness in the air!

Click on any picture to view the full size–

I painted the scene basically as is, almost entirely in shadow, however added a little more blossoms which were all around me in the garden, except right by the falls.

I will be at the Plein Air Convention in Monterey next week, so there won’t be any new Creeks paintings for awhile. I am on the Faculty once again this year, and will be out demoing plein air painting for attendees around the beautiful Monterey Peninsula. I’ll try to do some weblog entries about the convention while there.