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Yours Truly
Yours Truly

The Open Space Authority of Santa Clara Valley recently published an article featuring my year long quest to paint and Preserve Coyote Valley. I didn’t know about several other like minded artists also featured, and we certainly need to get together!

You can read the article here…

http://news.openspaceauthority.org/blog/community-connections-coyote-valley-artists

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.

July – Foggy Farming

July — Foggy Farming, 18×24, oil on canvas

Fog rolls in frequently during the summer months along much of the northern coastline of California. The frequency of fog is due to a particular combination of factors peculiar to the region. Morning sun heats the ground further inland with temperatures reaching into the 90’s and 100’s. The hot inland air rises and the heavier cold ocean air rushes in to replace it. This flow from the high to the low pressure zone pulls the marine layer through the inland valleys. The marine layer is basically a layer of fog which hangs out in the Pacific Ocean.

Spina Farms sits on the corner of Santa Teresa Blvd, and Bailey Avenue in Coyote Valley. With roots going back three generations, the family owned farm has been a community mainstay offering pumpkins in the fall, firewood, produce, train rides and other activities.  

My fourth painting in the Preserve Coyote Valley Quest, another studio work, depicts the fog clearing in the valley.  As it clears, the morning sun pokes through and illuminates the hillsides, and eventually completely dissipates.   Spina Farms sits in the foreground.  I did use a little artists license and moved things around plus eliminated quite a bit for a more pleasing composition. As usual, I might touch this up a bit later, but will leave it as-is for now.

June – Coyote Creek

June, Coyote Creek, 24×18. oil on canvas

Third in my yearlong Preserve Coyote Valley Series.

Although called a creek, it is actually a river, and larger than the Guadalupe River which also runs through the San Francisco south bay area. Starting on Mount Sizer and the Diablo Range, running through two reservoirs, then flowing through much of Coyote Valley, Coyote Creek is the largest watershed in the Santa Clara Valley, also known as Silicon Valley.

A number of local conservation groups are working to clean up and restore Coyote Creek to it’s original state where steelhead trout and other species thrived years ago. It’s an uphill battle with urban, suburban and other forces such as homeless camps keep polluting the waters. Santa Clara County Creeks Coalition and South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition are the forefronts in this battle. I am always amazed at all the volunteer activity organized by Steve Holmes and others to help keep the south bay creeks clean.

My third painting in this quest is a studio piece rather than painting on location. I have painted Coyote Creek many times, but rarely in the studio. I visited it five times in my yearlong quest to paint “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley“. You can read about some of it here and here. During the quest I painted Coyote Slough here, a homeless camp here, and on Christmas day here.

I did this painting from photo studies and depicts Coyote Creek as it meanders through  Anderson Lake County Park just below Anderson Reservoir

As usual, I might touch it up a bit later on, and not entirely satisfied with the lower part, and the entire painting looks a little too ‘busy’, but will leave it as is for now.





May – Kalana Avenue

Kalana Avenue, 24×12, oil on canvas

Second in my yearlong Preserve Coyote Valley Series.

Coyote Valley, a large expanse of farmlands, orchards, and scattered homes has been the subject of a war between the developers and conservationists for years. I am spending a year painting at least once a month a scene in the valley, either en plein air (on location), or studio paintings. You can read about my first painting in this year long quest here, and a video here.

We have had an unusual number of storms coming through the San Francisco Bay area the last week or so. For the second Coyote Valley painting, I decided to make it as much about the sky as the valley.

The painting is a barn along Kalana Avenue, a short street just over a mile long in the valley. I started this piece en plein air (on location), but finished it in the studio…probably about 70-30. I took a little artists license and moved some trees around, shortened the barn, but overall it’s about what it looked like.

Below are a few shots of the day.


Stay tuned for more. I still have to report on the Carmel Art Festival with some great drone video along the California coast!

Wild Hokkaido

Shimadomarigyo Harbor
Shimadomarigyo Harbor. 8×10, acrylic on canvas

Hokkaido is the northernmost, second largest, and least developed of Japan’s four main islands. The winters are harsh with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures and frozen seas, while in summer it does not get as hot and humid as in the other parts of Japan.  With unspoiled nature, Hokkaido attracts many outdoor lovers, including skiers and snowboarders in the colder seasons. Hikers, cyclists, and campers come during summer and fall.  It is considered to have some of the best snow powder in the world.

I just returned from a couple weeks in Japan visiting my son, who recently moved to Sapporo, the capital and largest city in Hokkaido.  After 5 years living in SW rural Japan, he wanted a change of scenery so moved to northern Japan and one of the snowiest metropolis’s in the world. Sapporo hosted the first ever Olympics in Asia, the 1972 Winter games.  

Sapporo
Sapporo


I won’t turn this weblog entry into a travelogue (More photos can be found on my Facebook Page,) but I did have a chance to do some painting.  We spent a lot of time doing the normal tourist things, and it was a little rainy and cloudy off and on our entire visit.  I normally paint in oils while at home, but as usual, I brought my acrylic travel kit which is much easier to handle on international trips.  BTW, in case you missed it, some time ago, Plein Air Magazine published an article about my traveling with acrylic paints, you can see here.

Soon after we arrived, we realized it would be raining in a few days, so we took advantage of the sunshine, rented a car, and drove around the Hokkaido countryside for a couple days.  Our first daytrip was south of Sapporo where we enjoyed rural Hokkaido and visited a couple lakes.  The lakes in this area are all caldera lakes, that is, they are ancient volcanos. 

The first was Lake Shikotsu-ku  We spent some time at the visitors center (we were in a national park), and I did a quick 90 minute study, plus a drone flight.  The lake is very reminiscent of Lake Tahoe, except without all the boulders along the shore.  

We then went on to Lake Toya, which was just as pretty, but it was getting late in the day, so flew the drone, and then headed home.


The next day, Justin and I headed to the Shakotan coastal area.  What a spectacular coastline!   It is much like the coastal areas of California, but with little Japanese fishing villages scattered throughout.  We drove to the fishing village of Shakotan, had lunch, and then backtracked to a place I had spotted on our drive there to paint. 

Shimadomarigyo Harbor is a small fishing harbor along the coast with a view of Candle Rock, an unusual natural monolith.  It was a beautiful view, but the winds were around 20mph with gusts up to 40.  Even my tubes of paint were being blown away.  I moved to a boat shed to get out of the wind, but it was still too much to handle, so I made a quick study to finish the painting later.

The final painting is at the top of this weblog entry.  Here are a few shots of the area…

I was disappointed the strong winds prevented me from flying my drone and capturing this amazing place from above, so this area is definitely on my list for the next visit!


There doesn’t seem to be as many temples and shrines in Hokkaido as in other parts of Japan.  My assumption is this is because Hokkaido was the last area where the Japanese people populated.  Prior to that, the Ainu indigenous people inhabited the area. 

However, there was a little Buddhist shrine a few blocks from Justin’s apartment, called Nantoku Shrine, so I spent a few hours painting it.

The shrine in the painting looks a little askew, so will correct that when I have time.


One of the largest parks in Sapporo, Nakajima Park, is within walking distance of Justin’s apartment, and it was still Sakura (cherry blossom time), so I painted there twice.

The next day was still nice, so I went back to the same place and did another painting facing a different way.

 


Overall it was a wonderful journey and we saw new parts of Japan.  I was a little disappointed I wasn’t able to fly my drone more, but when we were at places where it is allowed, the weather didn’t cooperate. 

More photos can be found on my Facebook Page, and I’ll be making a short video in the next week or two, so stay tuned.

Up next week is the Carmel Art Festival, so stay double tuned!!

 

The Coyote War

Trail to Coyote Valley, 8x16, oil on board
Trail to Coyote Valley, 8×16, oil on board

The war rages on.

Coyote Valley, just south of San Jose, CA, has been the object of a decades long war between the developers and the conservationists.  It is the last vestige of what Santa Clara Valley used to be called, “The Valley of Hearts Delight’, now dubbed Silicon Valley.   Measuring 7×2 miles, it is an expanse of orchards, farmlands, and homes, which has been targeted for urban development since the early 60’s amongst much controversy.  Numerous organizations are fighting back to preserve this last remaining undeveloped valley floor in the San Francisco Bay area.  

Thousands of commuters pass it everyday on their way to and from bedroom communities such as San Martin, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy. During the Cold War, IBM built a facility here, presumably to be out of nuclear strike zones.  It is also a critical open space buffer between south San Jose, and the next town south, Morgan Hill, as a wildlife corridor.   Tule elk, puma, coyote, bobcat, badgers and other animals use it as safe passage.

I am beginning a new quest of spending a year painting the valley.  Perhaps I should call this a mini-quest, as it will not be nearly as ambitious as my “Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” I did some years ago.  The last quest was more about the past, but this one is about the future.   Not to be too cliche, but I am painting it “before it’s gone”.

I have painted in the valley numerous times, including several for “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley”.    I plan on doing about one painting a month over the next year, resulting in at least a dozen or so paintings, including both plein air and larger studio works.  I also will vary the size, unlike the strict 8×10 size during the creeks quest.  There really isn’t much in the way of seasons, but the grass in the surrounding hills goes from emerald green to a golden savanna beige and back to green as we progress through the year.

My first painting is a plein air (painted on location) piece shown above, painted in the Coyote Valley Open Preserve on the west side of the valley.  I wanted to start in the spring when the wildflowers were in full bloom.  There weren’t any wildflowers at the exact spot I painted, but used a little artists license to put them in.  Greens are one of the hardest colors for artists, especially the subtle value and color shifts when there is a lot of green in the painting, so I hope I did it justice.

I am working on a short video which will be out in a couple days.  In the meantime, here’s a few pictures from the day—

For further reading —

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyote_Valley,_California

https://www.openspaceauthority.org/visitors/preserves/coyotevalley.html

http://www.discovercoyotevalley.org

https://protectcoyotevalley.org

The Lone Tree

Well, this is pretty much about nothing.  It’s definitely not about art. You might be wasting your time reading this.  Anyway, here is the story…

I bought my house in 1984 , a new tract home, when it was still being built.  Awhile after I moved in, and during my daily trek home from work, I always looked up to the hills behind the house.  Through the seasons, the coastal hills of California turn from a deep Irish green to golden fields of dry grass.  Scattered around are plenty of oak trees. 

Looking up, I began to notice a tree at the crest of a hill on the skyline which was all by itself.  It was a little odd shaped like it was windswept bending over to the right.  Most every day I would glance up as somewhat of a beacon to the way home. In my mind, I called it “The Lone Tree”.  

My original intent was to eventually move up to a bigger house, although this one is plenty big.  As time passed, I got married, had a son, and pretty much settled in.

Through the years, the tree was always there, beckoning me home.  One day I was driving home with my son, and he just blurted out, “Dad, have you ever noticed the Lone Tree?”.  So, I’m not the only one who noticed it, and my son is also observant!  I answered, yes, I look at it most every time I drive home.

Some years ago, when I had more free time, I began to wonder if I could drive or hike up to the tree.  I looked for it on Google Earth, and tried to see if there was an easy way up.  I would occasionally drive up in the hills nearby to paint,  but couldn’t see it from those vantage points.  It must be on fenced private property, so never did try to visit it.

A year ago, I purchased a fairly nice drone, a DJI Mavic Pro, and if you follow my adventures have seen my many drone videos the last year.  You can see them all here.  

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations has a limit of 400 feet altitude AGL (Above Ground Level) for drones.  It is built into the drone software, and it will stop you from flying higher.  I might have missed something, or DJI changed the software, but recently discovered you can set the limit much higher, about 1500 ft, even though it is breaking regulations to fly that high.

I didn’t want to break any FAA rules, but if I keep the drone close to the hillside, it will never be 400 feet above the ground, which is legal. From my takeoff point in nearby Groesbeck Hill Park, the Lone Tree would be much higher, but the rule is above ground level where ever the drone is, not from where it took off.  So I took the drone on a journey up the hill to find the Lone Tree.  Here is a short video clip of the drone’s journey…

It looks like an Oak Tree, and looks like it might be dead.  Perhaps I will do another reconnaissance in several months to see if there are any spring leaves.  BTW, the tree is about 1350 feet above our neighborhood.

So, this blog entry is pretty much about nothing…possibly reminiscing the passing of time.  Maybe a little about observation of your surroundings.  Perhaps it’s just about a tree with a couple of admirers.  Perhaps I have too much time on my hands to write blogs like this.