FortySix: Don’s Sunrise Pix


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

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The nation’s first urban national wildlife refuge wraps around the southern end of San Francisco Bay, and with over 23,000 acres, proclaims itself the largest urban wildlife refuge in the country. The refuge, created in 1974, was largely the result of grassroots efforts by the local community to protect the San Francisco Bay ecosystem.   Located along the Pacific Flyway, the Refuge hosts over 280 species of birds each year.

Following the California gold rush in 1849, a population boom created explosive development on sensitive lands in the the San Francisco Bay Area.  As I mentioned in Twentyone: Baylands Fun, the salt industry converted tens of thousands of acres of salt marsh into commercial salt ponds.  Nearly 85% of the bay’s original marshes and shorelines have been altered.  The San Francisco Bay Area still hosts one of only two sea salt works in the entire United States, as some still remain.

Spearheaded by local citizens, Congressman Don Edwards, worked with Congress to create the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge which was later renamed to Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Its mission, is to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat; protect migratory birds and threatened and endangered species; and provide opportunities for wildlife-oriented recreation and nature study for the surrounding communities. More info can be found here.

 

Leaving before the crack of dawn to beat the bay area traffic, the skies were partly cloudy. Soon after I left the house, the sun peeked over the eastern hills and the sunrise was wonderful. Not knowing what kind of skies there would be after the 45 minute drive to the refuge, I stopped and made some color notes. When I got to the refuge, it was somewhat overcast, so took some artistic license to combine the mornings sunrise with the view of the marsh.

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

I painted 46 close to the refuge’s headquarters located at the edge of industrial Newark of La Riviere Marsh, named after Florence La Riviere who was instrumental in forming the refuge. There are so many cross channels in this area, it is hard to identify which creek feeds these marshlands, but it is part of the Sanjon de los Alisos Creek watershed, and close to that creek, so will record it as such. Historically, this creek would carry off waters when Alameda Creek flooded out of its banks. It now carries urban runoff into Newark Slough.

Don's Sunrise Pix, 8x10, oil on board
Don’s Sunrise Pix, 8×10, oil on board

I was almost finished with the piece when a friendly ranger told me I was illegally parked and should move, even though I carefully checked that there weren’t any ‘No Parking’ signs along the road there. So I quickly packed up and forgot to take a picture of the painting on the easel.

 

 

What a great place to paint! I could spend a week just in the area around the headquarters as it is full of great scenes… besides the marshes, estuaries, wildlife, and bay views, there are plenty of old buildings and historical structures. My next blog entry will be another painting that morning in the same area. I had a short conversation with the Public Affairs Officer, and he liked the idea of seeing more artists in the area painting…so all you bay area artists, check it out!

Here’s a few more scenes of the area to wet your appetite—
Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

Stay tuned for more about that last picture in the next weblog…

 

 


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FortyFive: Santa Clara


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

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Mission Santa Clara around 1910
Mission Santa Clara around 1910

Much of the early history of Santa Clara Valley, AKA Silicon Valley, centers around the mission town of Santa Clara. Mission Santa Clara de Asís, the eighth Spanish mission built in California, was founded on January 12, 1777 and the town incorporated in 1852. Santa Clara University, the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of California was built around the mission. Called the “Georgetown of the West”, my son graduated cum laude from Santa Clara University in 2011.

Santa Clara is located in the center of Silicon Valley and is home to the headquarters of many high-tech companies. Affymetrix, Agilent Technologies, Applied Materials, Atheros, Extreme Networks, Intel,, McAfee, National Semiconductor, Nvidia, OmniVision Technologies, Palo Alto Networks, PMC-Sierra, Synaptics, Marvell Technology Group and Trident Microsystems are among the companies headquartered in Santa Clara. Great America, the go to amusement park of the bay area is also located in the town.

Beginning in the 2014 National Football League season, the San Francisco 49ers will play their home games at just built Levi’s Stadium, which opened on July 17, 2014. The stadium is scheduled to host Super Bowl 50 in 2016.

Saratoga Creek flows through the towns of Saratoga, Cupertino, San Jose, and Santa Clara where it joins San Tomas Aquino Creek (FortyOne: Afternoon Sun) shortly before joining the Guadalupe Slough and south San Francisco Bay by Alviso (ThirtyThree: Sin City).

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

I have been out most of the week camping at Morro Bay and this was painted last week the same day as FortyThree: Fruit Tree.

Santa Clara, 8x10, oil on board
Santa Clara, 8×10, oil on board

I painted Saratoga Creek previously in TwentyEight: The Tollgate closer to the western Santa Cruz Mountain range and in more of a natural setting. This painting was done from Benton Street right in the middle of suburbia, not far from the university and mission. Although in this area the creek is more of an engineered channel (you can see some of the concrete curbing along the right side of the creek) it is still one of those wonderful little scenes all over Silicon Valley right below our noses!


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FortyFour: 5s


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

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"5s", 8x10, acrylic on board
“5s”, 8×10, acrylic on board

So, how come I am doing a ‘plein air’ creek scene in only gold, silver, black, and white, of a creek that’s really not a creek, of a scene that really doesn’t exactly exist? Here’s the story…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to do a piece on Apple as it is probably the most internationally recognized brand name headquartered in Silicon Valley. There are no real creeks anywhere near Apple’s headquarters, however, there is an engineered channel which runs right by it between Infinite Loop Dr and Highway 280. It even has a name, Junipero Serra Channel.

The engineered drainage channel collects storm water from the area and diverts it to the Sunnyvale East Channel and Calabazas Creek. There was even a bit of water in it, although it wasn’t really flowing. The last painting, FortyThree: Fruit Tree was of the Sunnyvale East Channel, also an engineered channel, but a little prettier as it wasn’t just all concrete! I have also painted Calabazas Creek several times in ThirtyOne: A Setting Sun, and Forty: Plein Air Selfie.

After I painted it, was a little undecided whether to include it in the collection. I am not sure this should be counted as true plein air as it is a composite of the channel, and a part of Apple’s headquarters down the street. There was also a lot of pre-planning and later touchup in the studio. You could glimpse only a corner of the building, 3 Infinite Loop, through all the trees from where I was painting the channel, so painted the building from across the street about half a block away.

Since I was going off the reservation with this one, might as well go all the way and make it really different….by using only colors found in the iPhone 5s phones, gold, silver, and grey, plus black, and white (you can probably figure out how I got the grey). Acrylic would work better with a more iridescent gold and silver, and just happened to have those acrylic colors on hand. This is the first, and probably the last acrylic painting in the creeks quest.

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

I also did a couple Panorama’s of the busy thoroughfare–

A Pano on the corner of DeAnza Blvd and the I280 ramp.
A Pano on the corner of DeAnza Blvd and the I280 ramp.
A Pano from across DeAnza Blvd of Apple Headquarters.
A Pano from across DeAnza Blvd of Apple Headquarters.

Afterwards, thinking about it, maybe should have painted it like one of these…


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FortyThree: Fruit Tree


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

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Tell me; who has not had canned fruit cocktail in their lifetime…Del Monte, Libby…raise their hand!. Nobody? Thought so. All my life it was a dessert, or combined in other wonderful recipes. As a little guy, when my mom served it, we hoped our portion had a cherry, although in the syrup it all pretty much tasted the same! Now days, my wife is locally famous for her ambrosia which uses fruit cocktail and a number of other wonderful ingredients.

Silicon Valley used to be called the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” because of it’s fertile land, orchards, farms and ranches. Today, I painted in Sunnyvale, ground zero of the long gone fruit industry. I have painted in Sunnyvale before in ThirtyOne: A Setting Sun, and Forty: Plein Air Selfie.

Historically, as settlers came in, Sunnyvale continued to grow and in 1904, dried fruit production began. Libby, McNeill & Libby opened in 1907 and by 1922 became the world’s largest cannery, and you guessed it, the fruit cocktail was invented here.

During World War II, the war economy began a change from the fruit industry to the high-tech industry in Santa Clara County. Following the war, the fruit orchards and sweetcorn farms were cleared to build homes, factories and offices. In 1956, the aircraft manufacturer Lockheed moved its headquarters to Sunnyvale. Moffett Field, painted in TwentySix: Home of the Airships, was built nearby.

As part of Silicon Valley, high-tech companies such as Juniper Networks, Fortinet, AMD, NetApp, Spansion, Yahoo!, AppliedMicro and Ariba are headquartered here. Sunnyvale is also home to several aerospace/defense companies; Lockheed Martin has a major facility in Sunnyvale, and Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, Finisar, and Spirent.

For all the older geeks out there, Pong, the first video game was first installed here in Andy Capp’s Tavern….well, you know the rest of that story!

Today, the original Libby water tower is painted to resemble the first Libby’s fruit cocktail can label and marks the former site of the factory.

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

Painting 43 was done in Sunnyvale, not too far from the site of the Libby plant, of what is called the Sunnyvale East Channel. Originally, there were no natural creeks in this part of the valley. To prevent local flooding of this poorly drained area, Sunnyvale East and Sunnyvale West channels were excavated in 1967 to convey storm water to the bay. Except for the trash depicted, the painting could almost be anywhere, but it is a little fenced off jewel of a scene in Sunnyvale.

Fruit Tree, 8x10, oil on board
Fruit Tree, 8×10, oil on board

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FortyTwo: First Swimming Pool


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

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First Swimming Pool, 8x10, oil on board
First Swimming Pool, 8×10, oil on board

For centuries the native Ohlone people met in the hills west of what is now South San Jose every fall. One time when all the clans came together, tribal elders were concerned about a mysterious illness that was killing the people painfully in epidemic proportions.

While they met, a breeze blew up, and great storm clouds gathered. The sky rumbled, and lightning flashed when suddenly a beautiful woman dressed in black robes floated to earth out of the storm clouds. She calmly spoke to each of them that the great chief should pick up his bow and shoot an arrow high into the sky. Where the arrow would fall, the chiefs would find the solution to their problem.

The great chief did so while all the chiefs watched as the arrow glided to a landing on a larger boulder on the hillside. The boulder shattered in half, and out of it’s base flowed a bubbling fresh-water spring. The chiefs gathered the water and shared the water with everyone. The illness subsided, and the Ohlone once again became healthy.

So goes the legend. You can read a longer version here.

Years later, Jose Joaqui­n Bernal, a member of the 1776 De Anza Expedition, retired here in 1826, and he settled his family of eleven children near the spring. Joaquin Bernal was a Catholic who believed the Black Robed Lady to be Saint Teresa, so named his rancho and the spring after her. Santa Teresa Spring was thought to have healing powers, and the Bernal family later created a 35,000 gallon reservoir for their farming operations and also bottled and sold the water. This reservoir is noted as the first man made swimming pool in Santa Clara Valley.

Buildings from the old homestead are still there, now preserved in Santa Theresa County Park. You can read more here, and here.

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

I was really undecided on how to paint this. Initially, it was going to be a regular painting of the pond, but when checking it out prior to painting day, there was a family of turtles basking on a log in the middle. Then a closeup of the turtles seemed appealing as I want to include more wildlife in this quest. We also were close to a new moon, which was rising just before sunset, so then thought about doing a moon semi-nocturne tonal piece.

When I arrived to paint late in the day, the light on the bank of the pond was just glowing, so painted a bit of all three. You can see the three turtles silhouetted on the log in the foreground. The moon was up just over the eastern hills as depicted, but hidden a little to the right. So, I guess this painting is about a lot of things, which bends one of the ‘rules’ of painting plein air, which is to make your painting about one thing! However, the first rule of plein air, is you can break the rules!

BTW, the spring empties into Canoas Creek, so I am marking that as the creek painted.


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Art Map of the Waterways

Creeks Map

One of the neatest things online documenting the Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley quest is the online interactive map. Here, each painting location is shown, and when you click on each pin, the painting from that location pops up. It’s like taking an art tour of the waterways in Santa Clara Valley. You can see the map by clicking the link below–

http://mapsengine.google.com/map/viewer?mid=z_jyqfO8Eo2I.kQOAJUo5NEMQ

You might notice there is an empty space right in the middle in the cities of Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and Santa Clara. Historically, very few creeks made it across this stretch of the valley soaking into the porous alluvial soil of the flatlands. What few creeks did make it across, I have already painted in more scenic areas closer to the foothills. In the flatlands, what still flows is mostly in underground culverts or cement channels. I am still scouring the area for places to paint, so will see what comes up in the next couple months.

BTW, I also have all the creeks paintings on Pinterest you can see here.

FortyOne: Afternoon Sun


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

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Afternoon Sun, <a href=
look 8×10, oil on board” width=”500″ height=”403″ class=”size-full wp-image-2978″ /> Afternoon Sun, 8×10, oil on board

Back to a simple stream painting!

This is San Thomas Aquino Creek which flows north through the cities of Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos, Campbell, Santa Clara and San Jose before its confluence with the Guadalupe Slough in south San Francisco Bay (close by where ThirtyThree: Sin City was painted). Historically, San Tomas Aquino Creek formed the eastern boundary of the 1841 Rancho Quito and the western boundary of the 1840 Rancho Rinconada de Los Gatos land grants. It now forms the border between the towns of Saratoga and Los Gatos.

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture***

It was painted right where Mistletoe Creek joins San Thomas Aquino, at the corner of Quito Road and Old Adobe Rd in Saratoga. I wrote about Saratoga in TwentyEight: Tollgate. Even though you are in the middle of upscale suburbia of Silicon Valley, Quito Road meanders through a wooded area along the creek. You would never know you are right by a large metropolitan area.

There was a slight flow to both creeks, and with the severe drought that is becoming harder to find as the summer wears on in the valley.


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Forty: Plein Air Selfie


Continuing the ˜Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley™ year long quest.

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Plein Air Selfie, 8x10, oil on board
Plein Air Selfie, 8×10, oil on board

The world’s first true plein air selfie**. No mirrors or photographs were used in painting this self portrait of me in the landscape, but it was painted on location by myself, actually looking at myself. It is certainly the first hi-tech plein air selfie!

Most artists in their lifetime paint at least one self portrait which takes many forms, usually an actual portrait, or for some landscape artists, themselves in the landscape. One of my favorites is Norman Rockwell’s triple self portrait–

Norman Rockwell Triple Self Portrait
Norman Rockwell Triple Self Portrait

I generally don’t paint people, so have never attempted any self portraits and really had no great desire to. What prompted me to do this was my son, Justin, and, well, maybe a little hi-tech fun. Justin has always wanted me to do a self portrait, so last year as he was jetting off to Japan to teach English for several years, he made me promise to do a self portrait, at least a landscape or something with me in it, sometime in the next year or so. So to fulfill a promise, here goes…

So, how did I do this? No photos. No mirrors. Alone. It’s all in the latest hi-tech gear. I used a a GoPro camera, and an iPad. The GoPro camera is a high definition video sports camera taking the sports world by storm with it’s crisp videos of surfers, skydivers, skateboarders, divers, high flying drones, and just about any other sport you can name. A GoPro was used to record the time-lapse video in The Painting of TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive. The videos produced are amazing, with a whole new class of amateur and professional videography emerging. You can see a lot of more them here.

The tiny GroPro camera itself has no viewfinder or LCD screen, but you can control and see through the lens live via an iPhone, iPad, or other smart phone, tablet, etc. transmitting via WiFi (a wireless network).

I effectively was using the GoPro as a remote closed circuit high definition camera. The GoPro camera was set on a tripod at the scene and basic viewpoint to be painted. Since I was to be in the scene, I first scoped everything out setting my easel up where I wanted to be in the scene and had to move the easel back and forth a bit during the painting. Below are a sequences of pictures to show you from different cameras how I did it.

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show.

The creek is Calabazas which I also painted in ThirtyOne: A Setting Sun. The previous painting was a tonal sunset right by the bay, but today’s painting reflects how pretty this little creek is, channelled to the bay. The creek was still running in spite of the severe drought. The location is close to Hwy 101, Mission College, and the Mercado shopping area. As I was finishing, a group of locals walking the trail stopped and mentioned how they and their kids had grown up in the area, playing along the creek, and how much the Calabazas meant to them. I can see why.

So, what next? Drones with GoPro cameras are all the rage…hmmm…a plein air from a drone? Naaa.

Justin, this one is for you!

Everyone have a great Fourth of July!


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**If someone disputes this, please let me know!

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