Month: April 2023

Salinas Valley Morning

Salinas Valley, California, is a picturesque region known for its rich agricultural heritage and stunning natural beauty. Stretching from the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains to the fertile agricultural fields, Salinas Valley is often referred to as the “Salad Bowl of the World” due to its extensive production of lettuce, strawberries, and other crops. The region’s mild Mediterranean climate, fertile soil, and abundant water supply make it an ideal location for farming. Salinas Valley is also famous for being the birthplace and inspiration for renowned American author John Steinbeck, who vividly depicted the region’s landscape and agricultural lifestyle in his novels, capturing its unique charm and character. With its blend of agricultural productivity and scenic vistas, Salinas Valley is a captivating destination for visitors and a vital agricultural hub in California.

The above was generated by ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence application which has been getting a lot of buzz on the internet.

The Salinas Valley is only a few miles from our home in Marina. Last Tuesday, I went out to East Garrison, a new housing development in the old Ft Ord, just minutes away, to paint the Sailnas Valley.  The area has expansive views from the bluffs overlooking the valley.  With our record breaking wet winter, wildflowers were in abundance from California Poppies to blue Lupin. I had in mind an upcoming show which I already had a piece or two lined up to enter, but wanted something more in line of the theme of the show.  I’ll talk about the show in a later blog (if I get in), and as yet, not even sure I will enter this painting. 

It started out as a cloudy, hazy morning, and as I painted for a couple hours, the sun finally broke through.  

Salinas Valley Morning, 9×12, oil on panel

Here are a few more pictures of the day after the sun came out.

Painting Old Monterey

At first I thought it would be a good challenge, a little out of my comfort level, but maybe some fun.  Later on, wondered what I might be getting myself into! 

I volunteered to paint with the Monterey Bay Plein Air Painters at the Old Monterey Foundation Downtown festival in conjunction with the Monterey Museum of Art Block Party and  the Monterey History and Art Association’s Jo Mora Day, yesterday, April 15th.   Downtown Monterey is checkered with old buildings, adobes, and secret and not-so-secret gardens, some centuries old.

We were supposed to paint around Old Town Monterey, and then display the paintings in the afternoon at the block party.  Architecture, buildings, etc. is not usually what I paint, nor do I consider my self proficient at it.  As a son once said many years ago, “Dad, your buildings suck, but you are getting better”.  As we got closer to the event, the instruction sheet says they will assign us a location to paint!  Uh-oh!! I don’t even get to choose where to paint!!!

Arriving for check-in on a cloudy morning, my assigned spot was Casa del Oro Garden.   I had actually not been to this garden, but as it turned out, there were several spots appealing to me to paint.  I chose the old adobe wall and gate behind the Pacific Hotel, and close to Debra Nichols, Membership Chair of MBPAPA.  About 15 MBPAPA artists were participating.

Since it was overcast, but supposed to clear, I took my time the first few hours, painting everything but sunlight until the sun came out, and then finished the painting in a little over 3 hours.  They also opened the gate, showing the inside garden, which I decided to paint in, and enhanced the piece.  It was probably too late to start another painting, so left it at that.

The festival coordinators didn’t specify if we should frame the paintings or not, but I only had one frame in the studio for the size of the canvas, so framed it. As it turned out, the painting and frame seemed to really go together, and later on a number of spectators remarked as such.

Dropping off the piece at the festival for display, it was quite an active event!  The downtown block party was jammed with people, display booths of all sorts, food galore, and live music.  

My piece won first place, and also sold! Maybe I should start painting more architecture!


Before 1994, the only people who could see this viewpoint were US soldiers.  Overlooking the Salinas Valley from Fort Ord, in the distance is the old community of Spreckels.  

Spreckels, 22×28, oil on canvas

Most Americans have used or heard of Spreckels Sugar.  I remember it a staple in our pantry growing up.  The town of Spreckels was established by Claus Spreckels in 1898 as a company town to provide a complete community (including store, school, hotel, church, theater, etc.) for employees of the Spreckels Sugar Company.   When built, the Spreckels Factory #1 was the largest and most innovative sugar beet factory in the world. It operated here from 1898 to 1982, and was demolished in 1992. 

After decommissioning Ft Ord in 1994, it was gradually turned into a national monument with over 86 miles of paved roads, dirt roads, and trails.  Viewpoints of the monument abound of Monterey Bay, the surrounding communities, along with Salinas and the Salinas Valley.  Promoters call the Salinas Valley “the Salad Bowl of the World” for the production of lettuce, broccoli, peppers and numerous other crops. 

Since last May, I have been riding my RAD Rover 6+ electric bike all over Ft Ord National Monument, usually with several friends.  This painting is from one of those rides along Sandstone Ridge Road overlooking the Salinas Valley with Spreckels in the background.  The farming area below the ridge is Merrill Home Ranch, started in 1916, and grows a wide variety of produce.

I post a few biking pictures on Facebook from time to time, but for those who missed it, here are a couple…

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