September – First Rain

First Rain, Malech Road, 16×20, oil on canvas

Sixth in my Preserve Coyote Valley Quest.

Having spent my adolescent and twenties in East Texas, I am always enchanted by the beautiful skies and clouds when I go back to visit. Huge thunderheads, magnificent in their awesome power would bring refreshing, but short bursts of moisture during the summer months. Huge puffy cumulus clouds would fill the sky rolling slowly past in no hurry to get anywhere.

In my younger days working outside in the the hot summer sun, the cloudbursts would bring a short refreshing cool break to the heat, but in an hour or two there would be no evidence of the downpour.

Here in the San Francisco Bay area, we rarely see such wonder in the skies. Being close to the Pacific, the skies are usually a non-event. The exception is just after a winter storm. 

A bit of unusual weather for this time of year, we had our first rain of the season, and the skies were wonderful with puffy cumulus clouds and rain squalls passing through, and I always take notice. Generally we don’t get this type of weather until our somewhat mild winter season.

The painting is a view from Malech Road which runs along the eastern foothills of Coyote Valley.  Looking west, the distant foothills is where I started the first painting in this quest from the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. 

In the foreground, Coyote Canal zigzags around the hills.  Built in 1936, this canal originally carried water from Anderson Lake to fill percolation ponds and irrigation ditches around Santa Clara Valley. Water was deliberately routed around Coyote Valley to keep groundwater levels there from becoming too high.  Today, the Coyote Canal delivers water only a short way to where it is then channeled through underground pipes.

Soon, if this rain keeps up, the golden grass of the California coastal hills will turn emerald green towards the end of year…and I will have to adjust my artist’s palette!

August – Malaguerra

Malaguerra, 12×24, oil on canvas

Fifth in my Preserve Coyote Valley Quest.

The Malaguerra Winery was set on the eastern edge of Coyote Valley and the foothills of the Diablo Range.  Erected in 1869 for Swiss immigrant Jose Maria Malaguerra, it is the oldest extant winery structure in Santa Clara County.  Constructed of stones hauled from nearby Coyote Creek, it was completely stuccoed, but much of the stucco is now falling off revealing the original stones.

Cultivation of grapes on a commercial basis began in this area during the early 1850s, and by 1860 Malaguerra was one of twenty-six vintners in the county.  A national depression during the mid-1890s and over-production of grapes resulted in many local wineries closing. Among these was the Malaguerra Wine operation which stopped in 1898.  The winery was revived and expanded at the turn of the century, and remained in operation until 1950.

When he was 48 years old, Jose Maria Malaguerra married 20 year old Alvina and they built a house in the flat area near the winery building.  Over the next 20 years, Alvina gave birth to twelve children. After Jose died in 1902 from bronchitis, Alvina moved off the land, settling in Palo Alto with various daughters. She was 90 years old when she died.

On the National Register of Historic Places, at one time, it was reportedly being renovated into a museum, but I saw little signs of that now.

Painting number five in my Preserve Coyote Valley Quest is a studio painting of what’s left of the old Malaguerra Winery. Having quite a bit of very hot days recently, I wasn’t in the mood to paint en plein air. I painted this using photo studies from visiting the site.