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.

Adventures in Fairyland

2019YRHw


Watch this:


Once again, I was honored to have a painting in the Yosemite Renaissance Exhibition. This juried art show opens at the Yosemite Museum, and then travels around California for a year.  The show also starts around the time of year for the annual Firefall event in Yosemite Valley, and I don’t need much of an excuse to visit!

The opening reception was Friday, February 22 this year, so I arrived a day early, Thursday afternoon.  Lodging prices in Yosemite were quite high for winter season (possibly because the Firefall is getting ever more popular), so for the first time, I elected to stay outside the park in El Portal, which is right at the entrance. 

After checking into my motel, I headed into the park.  A series of recent snowstorms had hit the area, and it was like driving around in a winter fairyland.  I wouldn’t have much time to paint, so just drove around for a few pictures, then headed to the Firefall.  I won’t go into that experience  here, as I posted a weblog entry you can read here.  If you haven’t seen my short Firefall video, you should watch it:


I won’t go into detail on my visit, but it was very cold, barely getting above freezing most days, so my painting activities were a bit limited.  Plus, with all the recent heavy snow, many pullouts and parking lots were unavailable, and those available quickly taken up by the unusually large winter crowds.  


Here are a few pictures from the trip.  Click on the thumbnails to get a larger picture and description.

Yosemite Renaissance 34 will be on display at the Yosemite Museum from February 23rd through May 5th, 2019.  The Museum Gallery is open daily 10 am to Noon, and 1 pm to 4 pm. The 2019 Traveling Exhibit will be displayed at the following venues. We will confirm specific dates and times as they become available.

Kings Art Center, Hanford, CA. (June through July)

Carnegie Art Center, Turlock, CA. (August through October)

Gallery 5 at Gallery Row, Oakhurst, CA (October through November)

Devil’s Slide

We have had a pretty wet last couple of weeks, but during a break between storms, I headed out to Half Moon Bay to meet with an old college days friend for lunch.  Of course, I have to make it a day with some painting and droning along the way!

After waiting for rush hour traffic to die down, took off for the hours drive to Half Moon Bay.  By the time I arrived, it was only about an hour before lunch, so explored a bit, took pictures, and a couple drone flights.

After a long lunch, I headed up the coast to an area called Devil’s Slide.  Recently, Caltrans built a tunnel bypassing the slide area, but the last turnout allows walking access to the old road, so decided to do a painting right there.  By that time I only had a couple hours to paint before the parking lot closed.

I didn’t really get a finished painting as I was enjoying the scenery as much as working.  I am still trying to decide if I should finish the painting in the studio, or start a new one sometime in the future.

Below are a few pictures of the day.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger view.

 

There was no droning allowed right there, so I drove back down the coast and took some arial shots.  Enjoy this short video above the beautiful California Coast entitled “Coastal Soothe“…

 

If you saw my last post, FOAM, most of that was videoed during the visit.

Thanks for stopping by, and stay tuned for more developments!

Foam

I was painting along the California coast yesterday, and of course, flying my drone.  I stayed until sunset and captured some amazing aerial shots around Half Moon Bay, and north towards Pacifica at the Devils Slide area and the new tunnels.  It inspired me to throw together this more artsy video which includes shots from yesterday, and others from the past year.  I think it is my favorite drone video so far…

 

I recorded other amazing video while painting, so stay tuned for more spectacular viewing, and maybe a painting!

A Year’s Drone Journey

WOW! What a year has it been!

I purchased a DJI Mavic Pro drone about a year ago and having a blast ever since!  The Mavic is a ‘prosumer’ level drone, that is, marketed to consumers but has many professional level features.

I originally hadn’t considered doing much painting from it, but can’t resist doing some.  First, enjoy the very best video segments of a year droning all over the beautiful California coast, painting with art groups, the high Sierras, deep blue Lake Tahoe, spectacular Big Sur, quaint Carmel, Horse Shoe Bend AZ, Springdale (Zion), and maybe a few biker shots!

Some of my first flights was to do “The World’s First Plein Air Drone Selfie” you can read about here.

First Drone Selfie, 12x16, oil on board

Later on, I couldn’t resist doing another painting which I took from a video frame captured above Davenport, CA.  titled “176′ Above Davenport” you can read about here.

176' Above Davenport, 24x36, oil on canvas
176′ Above Davenport, 24×36, oil on canvas

I am planning on doing more drone based paintings in 2019, so stay tuned!

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

 

Eight Days on a Bike

Zion Lodge View, 8x10, acrylic, plein air
Zion Lodge View, 8×10, acrylic, plein air

Here I was riding my Harley around the Southwest again. I recently did an eight day trip on my 2003 Road King, traveling around parts of the Southwest. We visited Yosemite NP, Cedar Breaks, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon NP, Zion NP, and points in between. I also took my drone, and captured some aerial footage.

I won’t go into a travelogue here, but if interested, here is a short video of the trip–

Although painting was not a priority on this trip, I brought my acrylic travel kit just in case. We spent several nights near Zion National Park, and I had the opportunity do a couple painting studies.

It was quite hot, getting up around 100. We caught the shuttle bus at the Zion visitors center, and rode to the end of the line in the spectacular canyon at a place called Temple of Sinawava for my first painting. After scouting around, I found a scene and a rock I could sit on, then sat down to paint.

Yikes! I left my canvas pad and palette back at my motorcycle! So, it was all the way back on the shuttle to the visitors center and retrieve my materials, wasting about an hour.

I then decided to just stay around the Zion Lodge and do a painting, as I was going to meet my biker buddy there for lunch. To capture the scene I wanted, I had to stand in the hot sun to do the painting, and it was a chore to keep the acrylics wet on my palette as my misting spray bottle wasn’t working. It took a little more than an hour and managed to do a pretty good study, which is shown above.

After lunch, I rode the shuttle back to a stop called Big Bend and started another study. The shuttle stop had enough benches and shade to spread out and paint out of the sun. It was getting mid-afternoon, the hottest part of the day and even though I was in the shade, the acrylics were ‘skinning over’ as soon as I squeezed some out of the tube, which made it even more challenging.

Big Bend View, 10x8, acrylic, plein air
Big Bend View, 10×8, acrylic, plein air

This one wasn’t as complete as the first, but I stopped because of the heat and challenging conditions. It turned out an OK study. Regardless, any day spent in Zion is a wonderful day, especially when you can sit and paint!

176′ Above Davenport

176' Above Davenport, 24x36, oil on canvas
176′ Above Davenport, 24×36, oil on canvas

As the summer morning fog clears along the California coast, many times the crashing waves, spray, wind, and lingering fog create an ethereal atmosphere of a misty soft landscape, or should I say seascape. I live within an hours drive of the coast, and visit often to paint, camp, and ride my Harley.

I was recently painting with the California Art Club along the coast near Davenport CA and produced a short video, you can see here–

and also a weblog entry you can see here.

Many of you know I purchased a drone earlier this year. I bought it mainly for fun and to give a different perspective to my painting, motorcycle, and other adventures. Although my main intent was not to do paintings from a drone’s perspective, I did do a plein air drone selfie you can read about here.

Reviewing the drone footage around Davenport, however, I couldn’t resist painting a scene far above the coast. The video frame I painted from is at about 0:47 on the above video. I wanted to create an atmosphere of morning mist still lingering around the coast and the sun starting to highlight parts of the coastal bluffs. I did sharpen and saturate the colors a bit from the video, and highlighted parts of the cliff more. Here is the frame I extracted and enhanced in Photoshop as my study:

Above Davenport study photo
Above Davenport study photo

As you can see, I painted it pretty much ‘as-is’. In the distance is the coastal hamlet of Davenport, about ten miles north of Santa Cruz. The drone was 176 feet above the bluff, so probably 250 feet above the ocean.

Perhaps I’ll look at my drone videos again, and maybe produce a drone painting series?!? Stay tuned!

More Paintin’ N Dronin’

First, enjoy this short video of spectacular aerial shots of the California coast–

Note: if the video doesn’t show up for email subscribers, click here.

The California Art Club was having a paintout near Davenport, CA, so I decided to join again with my drone. The last paintout I did a video you can find here.

It was a nice sunny day, and I set up my easel across Highway 1 from the coastal hamlet of Davenport. There were a few fellow artists scattered around the area. Later, I drove a few miles up the coast to Davenport Landing, and found most of the artists were painting there.

I wasn’t intent on painting a masterpiece, but more a quick value study in the morning light. I probably spent more time flying the drone than painting, just enjoying the day. Below is the painting on my easel, maybe an hours work…a poor picture as I was photographing into direct sunlight.

Davenport Beach, 8x16, oil on panel, plein air
Davenport Beach, 8×16, oil on panel, plein air