ThirtySix: El Toro


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

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El Toro, 8x10, oil on board
El Toro, 8×10, oil on board

When Silicon Valley residents head south on Highway 101, the first town they encounter after leaving San Jose is Morgan Hill. Morgan Hill sits at the north end of Coyote Valley, considered a narrowing of Santa Clara Valley, and still considered part of Silicon Valley.

As drivers pass through, off to the right above the town is a prominent hill, that many, including myself for many years, thought must be the hill they named after Morgan…whoever he was!

Well, wrong.

Morgan Hill was named after a fellow called Hiram Morgan Hill. Hiram married one of the daughters of the owner of most of the land in the area, who’s father was one of the first pioneers to cross the Sierra Nevada and settle the area. Later, the train station was popularly referred to as Morgan Hill’s Ranch stop, and the town name shortened to Morgan Hill when they incorporated in 1906. More history of Morgan Hill can be found here and here. Oh, the name of the hill is El Toro.

Morgan Hill
Morgan Hill

Morgan Hill still has a small town agrarian feel, however suburbia from Silicon Valley is quickly taking over.

I painted in Morgan Hill today along Coyote Creek in Anderson Lake County Park just below Anderson Reservoir. It is one of the few waterways still flowing after our dry winter. Coyote Creek is actually a river and the largest watershed which flows through Santa Clara Basin, AKA Silicon Valley. It is fed by Anderson Reservoir, so flows year round…at least so far!

I previously painted Coyote Creek in Eleven: Christmas Day and Twelve: With the Los Gatos Elves.

Rather than include a few pictures, here is a short video along Coyote Creek…this location being one of the little waterway jewels of the bay area–


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


ThirtyFive: A Harley Ride


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

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Tularcitos Creek flows for just a few miles from the eastern foothills above Milpitas, California, and as soon as it hits suburbia, is channeled into an underground culvert, and not seen again. It’s dry most of the year, as is most of the streams coming out of the eastern foothills of Silicon Valley and only runs when it rains. (I wrote a little bit about Milpitas in my last blog post.)

I frequently take my Harley-Davidson Road King out to paint. When I do, I am not sure what I like more…riding the Harley, or painting! Combining both is heaven! Growing up in East Texas, I owned several Cushman motor scooters, and went through a couple Hondas, but always wanted a Harley, so bought one in 2003, a Hundred Year Anniversary Edition. My website details what I take on the Harley as I ride and paint. For you bikers, heres a bit about my bike and accessories.

Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

A Harley Ride, 8x10,oil on board
A Harley Ride, 8×10,oil on board

My goal, was to show a glimpse of Silicon Valley from the eastern foothills. This painting is from Old Calavaras Road along the southern tributary of Tularcitos Creek. It was difficult to find a parking spot to get a good composition and view along the narrow road, so I took elements from up and down the road near me to do the painting. I also eliminated the road! The creek was not flowing, but had a few puddles along the way. The painting shows the southern end of San Francisco Bay. In the distant left is Moffett Field and Hanger 1 which I portrayed in painting TwentySix: Home of the Airships. Just to the left of that would be Alviso portrayed in ThirtyThree: Sin City. Also in view are where I painted TwentyOne: Baylands Fun and ThirtyOne: Setting Sun, all along the bay shore.

I plan on doing more paintings on two wheels, however a bicycle. Some of the places on the agenda, although in or near suburbia take awhile to get to, but there is usually a bike trail nearby.


For those following my rhyming titles, I considered “ThirtyFive: A Harley Drive” which may have been a better rhyme, but you just don’t drive a motorcycle…you ride it!


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


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ThirtyFour: Sunsets Galore


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

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Sunsets Galore, 8x10, oil on board
Sunsets Galore, 8×10, oil on board

We had another storm front blow in this week. Although we didn’t get much rain, the sunset was great again. I generally haven’t painted many sunsets, as they can quickly become cliché, but this is the third sunset I have done in this series. Fairly soon, we will have the cloudless days of summer, so thought I would paint them as they come. As mentioned before, painting sunsets is tricky as right after the best part, it’s dark! Once again, I made color notes of the sunset from my home, then finished the painting the next day.

Laguna Creek flows out of the east hills of the San Francisco Bay area, through various channels in the city of Milpitas. Milpitas, Spanish for “Place of little cornfields”, sits in the southeast side of the bay, and is a combination of industrial zones and homes. The corporate headquarters of Maxtor, LSI Corporation, Flextronics, Adaptec, Intersil, Fireeye, Cisco Systems, JDSU, KLA-Tencor, and SanDisk are in Milpitas. Many in the region equate Milpitas with the Great Mall of the Bay Area, a huge mall built in the shell of an old Ford assembly plant where Ford Mustangs, among other names, used to be built.

Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

I painted the creek down a little dirt road in a small park by the wetlands, behind miles of office parks & buildings full of high tech companies. Once again, behind a chain link fence.

I am off to the Carmel Art Festival next week, so no new paintings in this quest will be forthcoming. I’ll try to post about the Carmel show either here on this weblog, or on my Facebook page. You can find my Facebook artist page here, so be sure to Like my page so you will get periodic updates!


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


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ThirtyThree: Sin City


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

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Alviso, the Port of San Jose
Alviso, the Port of San Jose

Well, ok, I am not talking about that Sin City. I’m talking about an all but forgotten settlement on San Francisco Bay in Silicon Valley, a little town called Alviso. (If you live in Alviso, apologies for the title, just making a rhyme about the past…read on.)

Settled in the early 1800’s, started in 1836, and incorporated as a town in 1852, it was once the bustling Port of San Jose. Steamships regularly plowed their way between San Francisco and Alviso carrying passengers, shipping agricultural products from Santa Clara Valley, the “Valley of Hearts Delight’, hides, tallow, grains, redwood timber, and mercury from the New Almaden mines. (I did paintings Eighteen and Nineteen near the old Almaden mines).

On April 11, 1853, a boiler on the steamboat, the Jenny Lind exploded, killing 31 passengers. Soon a railroad was built between San Jose and San Francisco, being much cheaper to operate soon doomed the Port of San Jose.

Over the years a number of notable industries were built here, including the third largest cannery in the world, the Otay Watch Company, flour mills, and more. AP Giannini, the founder of Bank of America, grew up and attended a one-room schoolhouse there.

However, in the Roaring Twenties and then the Great Depression (the 1920’s and 30’s for you youngsters), Alviso became sin city with saloons, dog tracks, bordellos, Filipino taxi-dance halls, and casinos. More history can be found here, and here. here. Well, it made a catchy title.

Listed as a National Historic District, Alviso is now part of the city of San Jose. High tech companies are being built right up to the town, and the residents don’t really like it. TiVo, Foundry Networks, and others are now listed under Alviso.

The old harbor fell into disuse except for a few boats, has mostly silted in, and filled with rushes and other natural vegetation. It is still used today for a few small boats. However, it is the mecca for naturalists who want to kayak, hike, and otherwise enjoy the nature of the southern tip of San Francisco Bay.

The Guadalupe River terminates here and empties into San Francisco Bay. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Below are a couple panorama photos I took with my iPhone. Click on each photo to get the entire view—

The old Port of San Jose (Alviso Marina) now silted in and choked with vegetation.
The old Port of San Jose (Alviso Marina) now silted in and choked with vegetation.
A 180 view of the dock where I was painting.
A 180 view of the dock where I was painting.

I haven’t painted many boats, but for variety’s sake, did one today. It was an old shrimper boat called the Sea Dive. Although there is a ‘do not enter gate’ on the boardwalk/pier, a path right around it on the grass let me get on the dock to do the painting.

Sin City, 8x10, oil on board
Sin City, 8×10, oil on board

For the artists, a word about technique and brushes. I painted the entire boat with a #8 bright brush, which is about 2/3 inch across. The brand was Rosemary, which I have been trying out since purchasing a few at the Plein Air Convention, but my normal Silver Ruby Satin brushes would have worked just as well. You don’t need tiny brushes to paint details…in fact, the larger the brush you use the better.


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


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ThirtyTwo: Field with a View


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

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Field with a View, 8x10, oil on board
Field with a View, 8×10, oil on board

It’s springtime in Silicon Valley! The wildflowers are out! Due to the drought, this year might be a little short on flowers, but we had enough rains for the flowers to bloom.

As the official California state flower, the California Poppy ranges in most of the far western states plus Mexico, and has been transplanted to South Africa, Argentina, and especially flourishes well in Chile.

I had been searching for a location by a creek in Santa Clara Valley which had some California Poppies growing. Since the California Poppy grows mainly in well drained, sandy, poor soil, you won’t find many by a stream bank, so, I decided to paint in Rancho San Antonio County Park, where a field of poppies is close to Permanente Creek.

Permanente Creek starts in the east flank of Black Mountain, courses though the cities of Los Altos, Mountain View, and into San Francisco Bay.

Most of you have probably heard of Kaiser Permanente, the huge health care conglomerate mainly in the western United States. The name Permanente came from Permanente Creek, which flowed past Henry Kaiser’s first cement plant on Black Mountain near Cupertino. Kaiser’s first wife, Bess Fosburgh, liked the name.

This is the first (and probably last) painting in this quest where you can’t actually see the water in the creek. Although Permanente Creek was running, it is completely surrounded by impenetrable brush in this area, and you can only get a glimpse from the several pedestrian bridge crossings. The line of trees in the middle ground shelters the creek as it passes through the area. I did paint in a few more flowers than actually were there…something called ‘artistic license’.

Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Besides the deer, a coyote passed by just as I was arriving but couldn’t catch it on camera. The wild turkeys were out gobbling around the valley…heard, but not seen, at least by me.

If you watched my time-lapse video The Painting of TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive this painting just kinda fell into place and was also done in about 90 minutes. When I got home, though I didn’t like the foreground, so changed it some, and still not sure if I like it. Might be a little too ‘busy’. Anybody have an opinion?


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


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ThirtyOne: A Setting Sun


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

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A Setting Sun, 8x10, oil on board
A Setting Sun, 8×10, oil on board

Another Pacific storm blew in for several days last week. Although the forecast was for light rain, we ended up with some pretty good downpours, but not nearly enough to put a dent in the California drought. As the storm was clearing late in the day, we had a spectacular sunset, which doesn’t happen often in Silicon Valley!

This blog entry is more about painting, the painting process, and tonalism. I have mentioned before, sunsets are difficult to paint plein air as by the time the best part comes, it is quickly over, and you are in the dark. You must quickly make color notes, and maybe finish it later from memory. I previously used this technique for painting Thirteen.

I didn’t have time to get out to a creek to paint the sunset, but made some color notes and painted much of the sky portion from my home. I then went out today by Calabazas Creek as it nears San Francisco Bay, and painted the foreground part combining different elements of the landscape on location. While not an alla prima work (done in one sitting, or all at once), which I have been doing for all the other works in this quest, it was done en plein air.

A few photos along Calabazas Creek– Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

A note about the photos– I would have included a picture of the sunset, but the feeble attempt from my iPhone was not representative at all of what it really looked like.

About the painting–Tonal paintings or Tonalism is an art term usually referring to moody paintings with a limited palette and design. I kept the general colors of the sky and sunset throughout the painting, ignoring the colors, but keeping the values I saw before me. I don’t do tonal paintings often, but for a little variety in this quest decided this would make a good one. As mentioned, it is somewhat of a composite of sky, sunset, and Calabazas Creek.

Oh, almost forgot, about the creek, Calabazas Creek originates on Table Mountain in Saratoga, California, and courses through the cities of Saratoga, San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale prior to emptying in San Francisco Bay. A company called Yahoo (along with a number of Internet companies you never heard of) is about a mile down the road on Caribbean Drive, from where I painted.

Coming next, and painted the same day…California Poppies.


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


***Email subscribers may not see all pictures. Just click on the title for a link to the online version.