Eighteen, Nineteen: Mercury Sheen

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

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New Almaden Smelter 1863
New Almaden Smelter 1863

The native Ohlone Indians called it cinnabar. The early pioneers called it quicksilver. Today we call it mercury, the liquid metal. The southern part of Silicon Valley was once home of the most productive mercury mine in the US. Mercury was produced at the New Almaden mines from 1845 until 1976. It is used to extract gold from ore and was in great demand during the California gold rush years.

The mines are now shut down and the area was made into a county park named, you guessed it, Almaden Quicksilver County Park. There is a lot of history here and some of the houses date back to the mid 1800’s. The hills are dotted with remains of the old mining equipment, closed mine shafts, and a museum is housed in an old mansion, The Casa Grande built in 1854.

The names cinnabar, quicksilver, and mercury are seen everywhere and the local San Jose newspaper is still called The Mercury News.

The Los Gatos group was out again painting along Alamitos Creek in the general area I painted Fifteen: The Hard Drive Machine. Alamitos Creek flows right through New Almaden. The last five days we have been experiencing a Pineapple Express, a moisture drenched series of storms originating around Hawaii in the Pacific, so I expected the creek to be flowing quit readily, but, it was basically dry! Since this is the first real rain all season, it takes some time for the parched earth to saturate enough for the streams to flow and the reservoirs to start filling.

I set up virtually under the Almaden Expressway bridge close to where it ends at Harry Road. It was still overcast from the recent storms, but the sun did peek out a few times. Click this link for a map of all painting locations.

Here are a few photos of the morning’s work. You can now click on a thumbnail, then scroll directly from picture to picture—

Here is the painting. I edited out quite a few of the trees and brush as I wanted a clearer view of the skies.

Mercury Sheen I, 8x10, oil on board
Mercury Sheen I, 8×10, oil on board

I planned on staying in the area the afternoon for another painting, so after wolfing down a sandwich, I drove around the New Almaden area, and finally decided to join a ‘holdout’ from the mornings paintout, Teresa, who was painting the Almaden Valley at the corner of Harry Road and Camden Ave. I wanted to do more of a sky scene to document we finally got some rain! A picture from the afternoon painting session–

Painting Almaden Valley along Harry Road.
Painting Almaden Valley along Harry Road.

This is the first painting where the creek is not the main focus as I wanted to mark the first big storm of the season. New Almaden is in the distant hills and to the lower left is Arroyo Calero Creek.

Mercury Sheen II, 8x10, oil on board
Mercury Sheen II, 8×10, oil on board

These are the first paintings I have done in almost three weeks as I was in East Texas due to my father’s passing. I am still well ahead of schedule but plan on doing one more this week.

2 thoughts on “Eighteen, Nineteen: Mercury Sheen”

  1. Pingback: Donald Neff Weblog » Blog Archive ThirtyThree: Sin City » Donald Neff Weblog

  2. Pingback: Donald Neff Weblog » Blog Archive » FiftySeven: Sycamore Haven

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