A Brief Hiatus

Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ year long project. (Click here for complete info.)

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The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley
The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley

I am currently out of town attending to my late father’s estate, so there won’t be any new works for several weeks. In the meantime, I prepared this post ahead of time just to keep things going.

When I first started this project, it was just a simple idea to paint the creeks and rivers of Santa Clara Valley, AKA Silicon Valley, and was debating whether to even tell anyone about it, at least publicly, until the year was over. After all, I might end up with a lot of terrible paintings! I never realized it would develop like it has. Along the way, I started researching and writing about a lot of the interesting history and other little known facts of the locations I was painting. The cutesy rhyming titles just sort of happened.

I thought I would answer some questions posed to me over the course of the project so far.

How long does it take you to do each painting?
Most artists loath this question, and many artists retort with what Picasso reportedly once said “It took me forty years to do this painting”. The idea is that the painting is the expression of forty years of experience (or however long you have been painting).

I don’t mind answering as it relates to this project. Virtually all paintings are done in under two hours. Most are done entirely on location with little or no touchup afterwards in the studio. In a few cases, I have worked on a painting later in the studio, and each time indicate it on my blog along with the reason why.

The two hours of actual painting, is only the tip of the iceberg. I spend many more hours, probably 6-8 in researching, exploring, writing, photographing, traveling, etc. for each actual painting finished.

How do you find your locations to paint?
After living in the San Francisco Bay area for 35 years, I am fairly familiar with all the waterways, especially in the Santa Clara Valley. However, I usually spend quite a bit of time with Google Earth and other resources to find access points, etc. A lot of the creeks are fenced off with limited access points. You might notice I have painted behind chain link fences in many instances. Driving around exploring also helps a lot!

I also keep finding new resources on the internet. For example, I just now found the Santa Clara Water District has a set of Google Earth ‘layers’ which maps and names every waterway in the valley, from rivers all the way down to underground drainage culverts. They also have a historical overlay where you can see how a stream ran before mankind diverted and reworked the landscape.

What materials are you using?
I generally have a fairly traditional palette of colors, mostly using Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Red Medium, Sap Green, Transparent Iron Oxide, Cadmium Orange, Yellow Ochre, and Cadmium Yellow Medium. I occasionally use other colors, but this is my primary palette. I generally stick with Gamblin oils, but have other manufacturers in my paint box occasionally.

For brushes, I generally use Silver Ruby Satin brights and filbert sizes 6-12. In fact am still using the exact same two brushes I started with, a bright and a filbert size 8.

I am using exclusively Raymar Oil panels, all 8×10.

My easel is a Soltek. I have other outdoor equipment, pochade boxes, etc but this is my primary easel.

Finally, why are you doing this?
As stated in my weblog introducing this project and on my website, there is so much natural beauty we miss, even in the urban life. Silicon Valley is thought of as being some big industrial complex grinding out computer chips and software, but it’s not. It used to be called the “Valley of Hearts Delight” for it’s lush agrarian landscape, which for the most part has been paved over. I have been painting the area for years, and thought by formalizing it into a project, more attention could be brought.

Although I have not yet pursued anything, I hope to show the entire collection at some local venue when the year is up. The above montage of 14 of the 24 works so far gives you an idea of what the exhibition might look like. If current progress holds true, I will have many more than 52 paintings by the end of the year. There are just too many good places to paint!

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more paintings.

2 thoughts on “A Brief Hiatus”

  1. Shirley Henderson

    Hi Don,
    I’m so enjoying your blog on the creeks and rivers series – esp the anecdotal information accompanying it. I particularly enjoyed your most recent blog with all your trade secrets.

    At the end of Feb I was driving up to SF from LA and passed the San Luis Reservoir about 4 in the afternoon and the light and colours of the late winter sun thru the surrounding hills and over the water was just spectacular – shades of blues and pinks and purples. I thought of you immediately and what a stunning painting that would make! I realise it is a bit of a stretch of your waterways of Silicon Valley brief (my knowledge of the geography of that area is sketchy at best) but wondered if you’d ever painted it before. I so wish I had stopped to at least photograph it.

  2. Shirley, I have driven by the San Luis Reservoir probably hundreds of times, and it would make a good painting in the right light. I am always in a hurry tho, usually to Yosemite or back home! Since it is not part of the Santa Clara Valley, watershed, wouldn’t qualify in my current quest.

    Thanks for the note!


    PS. Next time you drive up to SF, let me know.

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