Flooded!

All of you have by now heard about the flooding in my hometown of San Jose around Coyote Creek, the largest watershed in Silicon Valley. During my year long quest to paint “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” I did 18 paintings in the Coyote watershed, and 5 of Coyote Creek itself. That was also during one of the worst droughts California experienced in years. Now Coyote Creek is above flood stage.

Today, during a break between storms, the creek has subsided a bit, so I did a mini-tour of some of the locations I painted from San Jose down to Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill. Below are pictures before, now, plus the painting I did at the time. I also included a couple videos and a link to the original weblog at the time of the original painting.


Christmas Day – Coyote Creek in Hellyer Park
The original blog post — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/eleven-christmas-day/

 
Then:

My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park

 
Now:
This is a picture from the bridge, the creek is up to the top of the banks…way over my head from where I originally painted…

Coyote Creek at flood stage
Coyote Creek at flood stage

 
Now:
A short video from the bridge…

 
The original painting:

Christmas Day, 8×10, oil on panel


Thompson Creek
The weblog entry is here — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/two-three-woz-way/

 
Then:

Along the banks of Thompson Creek

 
Now:
Thompson Creek was much fuller, but not overflowing.

Thompson Creek
Thompson Creek

 
The original painting:

Thompson Creek 8×10 oil on board


Evergreen – Fowler Creek confluence
The original blog post about man’s first controlled flight — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/sixteen-the-evergreen/

 
Then:
You can’t see much of the creek as it was just a trickle–

My easel towards the end of the painting.
My easel towards the end of the painting.

 
Now:
Not flooding, but lots of flow–

 
The original painting:

The Evergreen, 8x10,oil on panel
The Evergreen, 8×10,oil on panel


El Toro – Coyote Creek Below Anderson Dam
I wasn’t able to get to the original painting location as it was roped off and guarded by park officials. I was able to get fairly close, though.
The original blog post — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/thirtysix-el-toro/

 
Then:

 
Now:
Water from the spillway is flowing into the Coyote Creek channel

Water from the spillway flowing into the Coyote Creek channel
Water from the spillway flowing into the Coyote Creek channel

 
Now:
A short video just downstream from the original painting location…

 
The original painting:

El Toro, 8x10, oil on board
El Toro, 8×10, oil on board

 
 
For those concerned, I live in the Coyote Creek watershed, but up in the hills enough to avoid flooding!

Drenched

Most of you know California is getting drenched, and much of the rest of the US is getting heavy snow. I ventured out today to check a spot I painted three years ago Christmas morning, along Coyote Creek, to see what it looked like. You can read more about when I painted it December 25, 2013, on my weblog here. The creek was low, but flowing nicely, and looked like this–

My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park
Painting Coyote Creek under the Hellyer Road Bridge

Here is the plein air painting I did that day–

Christmas Day, 8×10, oil on panel

A year later it was bone dry (This photo was taken just a few miles upstream November 1, 2014)

Coyote Creek
Coyote Creek

Today it looked like this…

Coyote Creek 1/9/16
Coyote Creek 1/9/16

    
You can still see some of the fall color I painted in the upper left, and the trees on the right are in about 3-4 feet of water.

More rain is on the way, so hopefully I can check out some of the other creeks which were dry just a year ago!


Don Edwards SF Bay NWR Center Reception


Continuing the ”Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” year long quest.

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Technically, it’s Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Education Center, which is quite a mouthful. There are selected paintings from “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” currently on display at the center. Today, they sponsored a reception and ‘meet the artist’. It turned out to be quite fun! We had some nice refreshments, then I talked for awhile, visited, and answered a wide range of questions. Some took a guided nature hike through part of the Refuge. I talked about art, indian legends, magic, ghosts, history, flight, conservation, the environment, but mostly about the creeks and waterways in Silicon Valley. My goal was for everyone to look ‘under the surface’ of what is around them in Silicon Valley to appreciate what used to be called “The Valley of Heart’s Delight”. From what I could tell no one fell asleep, and everyone seemed to have a good time!

Just a few pictures of the afternoon courtesy of my friend, past work associate, and great photographer, Scott Loftesness. If you haven’t seen some of Scott’s photos, you should check them out here and here.

The exhibit will be up until the late fall and we don’t really have an end date yet. If you haven’t seen it, or been out to the center, it is certainly worth the trip!

Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge Exhibit

During my quest of painting the creeks of Silicon Valley, stuff I painted in many places, medicine but almost all the creeks end up in the marshes of the San Francisco Bay in what is now called the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge encompasses most of the southern portions of the bay, generic and is a wonderful reclamation of land once used for industrial purposes.

I wrote a number of times about the area in FortySix: Don’s Sunrise Pix, FortySeven: Hunter’s Heaven, and Fifty: Ghost City

We put up 18 paintings specifically from the Coyote Creek Watershed in their Education Center today. The paintings will be on display now until the fall. A special event is scheduled for September 5, which is free, but you must sign up here.

More info can be found here.

FiftyNine: …Afternoon…


Continuing the ”Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” year long quest.

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"...Afternoon...", 8x10, oil on board
“…Afternoon…”, 8×10, oil on board

 

I am releasing the final three paintings in this quest as a trio, and here is number two. “…Afternoon…” was painted late in the day and since we just went off daylight savings time, the sun sets early around 5 o’clock.

Most of you know I own and ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Metcalf Road, as a backroads way going home, is a favorite ride. It’s a country road, and the first part, painted here, is steep and full of hairpin turns. You can see just a hint of the road on the right side. At the top of the hill, behind me, is the Metcalf Motorcycle Park for motocross dirt bikers.

Metcalf Creek empties into Coyote Creek, one I have painted multiple times in this quest. The far hills are the coastal range of California, and you can barely make out the iconic radar building at the top of Mt Unumhum.

Down below, you can see settlement ponds which is part of the Coyote Creek engineered system. You can also barely make out Hwy 101. I showed just a glimpse of Metcalf Creek at the bottom of the hill. Just to the right in the valley glare, you can barely make out the southernmost suburban area of San Jose. It seems every year, this line creeps further south as new neighborhoods are built. Just to the left in the valley, but not shown, is the Metcalf Transmission Substation which made national news awhile back with a sophisticated sniper assault.

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

 

An artists note: I painted almost the entirety with a #10 filbert brush, Silver Ruby Satin brand, about 3/4 of an inch wide. Since the entire painting is in the distance and late in the day, I wanted a soft look throughout. The larger the brush you can use, the better! Also, some of the brightest parts on the hillsides are ‘take-aways’. I tone my canvas with Transparent Red Oxide, and lifting the paint reveals part of the undertoned canvas.

This is quite an expansive view, and a little hard to fit on a small 8×10 canvas. It’s on my list for a large painting later on!


Just one more painting to go, and…

I have a special surprise coming next week when the quest is over. Stay tuned!


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.
Click on this link for a Pinterest catalog of all paintings so far.


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FiftyOne: Cleanup’s Never Done


Continuing the ”Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” year long quest.

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A great cleanup crew.  Photo curtesy Steve Holmes.
A great cleanup crew. Photo curtesy Steve Holmes.

 

San Jose is the southernmost major U. S. city with known salmon spawning runs. In past years, their progress had been blocked primarily by the culverts, wide concrete channels, and other features installed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Much of the spawning grounds have been choked with trash from citizen dumping, human waste, and other pollutants, primarily by homeless camps (painted in FortyEight: ‘The Jungle’ Fate).

During this quest, I have been pleasantly surprised to see that in recent years many citizen volunteers and organizations are working to restore the creeks and rivers of Santa Clara Valley. Due to their efforts, the trash which for decades accumulated and clogged the creeks has slowly been cleared out to make room for salmon runs and other aquatic animals. These volunteers have also lobbied and worked with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to modify structures and policies to allow salmon to migrate. Naturally this brings in more wildlife, like wild beaver in downtown San Jose (painted in ThirtyNine: Beaver Sign!)

 

This painting is dedicated to the volunteers clearing the creeks of Silicon Valley and their tireless efforts.

 

Organizations such as The Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Group (SSRG), Friends of Los Gatos Creek, Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, Friends of Guadalupe River, Santa Clara County Creeks Coalition, and Friends of Coyote Creek Watershed have worked to restore the waterways of the “Valley of Heart’s Delight”. Many have regular cleanup days where citizens volunteer their time and sweat to keep the waterways clean.

Foremost of these citizens is Roger Castillo, dubbed “The Watchdog of the River”, who I wrote about in Twentyfour: Roger, Let’s Soar.

I especially want to thank Steve Holmes, founder of several of the above groups, who has helped me in this quest by giving some valuable ‘creek advice’, spreading the word, and his efforts in preserving our waterways.

Give it up and cheers to all the volunteers!

Painting 51 was done during one of Friends of Guadalupe River cleanup operations. Steve Holmes invited me out for the morning where I was ‘allowed’ to just sit and paint without picking up trash.

35 volunteers showed for the cleanup, one of several scheduled that day in the valley. The Guadalupe was completely dry which made it easier to clean and get trash from areas that normally might be under water or mud. One Boy Scout leader, whose troup had adopted this stretch of the river, brought special tools just to get an old TV and 6 cylinder car engine block out of the dry riverbed which normally would be impossible if the river was running. The area was not quite as trashy as other places I have seen along the waterways, but there was plenty to clean up, and there were 115 large trash bags collected!

 

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

 

This is the first time I have painted beyond the ubiquitous chain link fence and “no trespassing” signs which guards much of the waterways of Silicon Valley from the abuse of humanity. The river stretch beyond the fence by Guadalupe is just wonderful, and as I painted, imagined a time in the future when many of these areas might be opened up to be enjoyed by the public without being ruined. These volunteers, I think are working towards that goal..

 

 

Cleanup's Never Done, 8x10, oil on board
Cleanup’s Never Done, 8×10, oil on board

 

About the painting…
Overall, I wanted to portray one thought about the volunteers cleaning up the area, but there are a number of points of interest in the piece. In the back is Capital Expressway as it crosses the Guadalupe River in south San Jose (Capitol Auto Mall) close to the intersection of Almaden Expressway. On the left are a few volunteers picking up trash in the riverbed, and on the right are the large accumulated trash bags. In the forefront, I painted a homeless pad (which was actually under the bridge), plus the usual trash you see in these areas. It indicates the job is not yet done. The riverbed is dry reflecting the drought California is experiencing this year.

Despite many efforts by many entities to improve Silicon Valley’s streams, their health still remains in in the balance, but greatly improving. As in the title, it seems their cleanup is never done.

 

If you want to volunteer, go to the above mentioned websites. Detailed information about some cleanup events are here.


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.
Click on this link for a Pinterest catalog of all paintings so far.


***Email subscribers may not see all pictures. Just click on the title for a link to the online version.

Fifty: Ghost City


Continuing the ”Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” year long quest.

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There is a bonafide ghost town right smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley!

Many don’t know about the little town of Drawbridge, a once thriving community located on the cusp of southern San Francisco Bay in what is now Fremont, California. It is now a ghost town sinking into San Francisco Bay.

 

 

Beginnings
Drawbridge got it’s start in 1876 when a narrow-gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad was built from Santa Cruz to Alameda. The ‘town’ initially consisted of one small cabin on Station Island for the operator of the railroad’s two drawbridges (they were actually swing bridges, but the name stuck), crossing Mud Creek Slough and Coyote Creek Slough.

It didn’t take long for others to join him for some drinking, hunting, and fishing, and soon it became a regular train stop. By the 1880s, upwards of a thousand would come on weekends for the abundant hunting and fishing. Soon 10 stops a day was common for passenger trains up and down the track, which was the only way into town other than by boat.

 

 

By the 1920s, the town had reached its heyday, growing to about 90 buildings including a couple hotels and restaurants, many with wells and electricity. During prohibition, the town gained a reputation for having speakeasies, gambling, brothels, and heavily armed residents. The residents were split into two communities: The Protestants lived in North Drawbridge, and the Catholics resided in South Drawbridge. While there was quite a bit of feuding, they also had “tide parties” where residents would row to neighbors’ houses for socials at high tide.

In 1955 the trains no longer stopped in Drawbridge, and all but two last residents moved away. The last resident left around 1979.

 

 

There is quite a bit of information on the Internet if you google “drawbridge ca”. Some of the better links are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Huel Howser’s Golden California TV Series did an episode on it which can be found here.

A video from a trespasser can be found here.

 

Today
Drawbridge is now part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (painted in FortySix: Don’s Sunrise Pix and FortySeven: Hunter’s Heaven) and they are letting it slowly sink into the wetlands. There are about 20 buildings left, many had burned down, some are sinking into the mud, but a few remain high and dry.

It is now closed to the public, and hefty fines can be levied if caught there, however, people do go there all the time, mainly kids I think, looking for an adventure, gather relics, and to leave graffiti. A rave party was reportedly broken up there awhile back. The closest legal way to see Drawbridge (other than from a train) is trekking over two miles on the Mallard Slough Trail from the Alviso end (painted in ThirtyThree: Sin City) of Don Edwards Preserve.

The location of the ghost town can be found on my interactive map here. (Look for the red X right in the middle).

 

Reconnaissance
Drawbridge has been on my list from almost the start of this quest and I spent more time researching it than any other painting. Since it is closed to the public, and can be dangerous, I asked special permission from the Public Affairs Officer of the Wildlife Refuge to go paint it for a day, but the Manager of the Refuge turned me down. Although they were quite interested in my quest, the answer was eventually no. Time for Plan B.

Last Saturday I took a tour sponsored by the Wildlife Reserve and conducted by Ceal Craig, president of the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society. After a historical presentation, the tour takes you via van to a viewpoint where you can see the remains across Coyote Slough. (If you are interested in a free tour, space is limited and you have to sign up, but do it early as they always sell out. Click here for more information.)

Here are a few pictures I took on the tour prior to going out and painting, using a zoom video camera to take some of these pictures– Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

 

There are plenty of other, better closeup pictures on the web, many taken by what I am guessing are trespassers. If interested, start here.

 

Painting
Since it wasn’t legal to go into town, I did the next best thing and painted it from across Coyote Slough. This greatly limited what I could do with the composition, but had to go with what was practical. It would have been nicer to paint right in the town for a better composition, but I wasn’t interested in getting caught by the feds!

On painting day, rode my bike the over two miles on the dirt levy trail to the viewpoint. They recently built some informational displays and a park bench, which came in handy. To keep light weight, I took my mini Open Box M pochade box and just sat on the bench and painted. Not another soul was seen the entire time I was there. It was really windy, and had to constantly monitor my materials to make sure they didn’t blow into the slough!

How great it was to be way out in the marshlands with only the sounds of the tide going out and an occasional waterfowl winging by! I probably spent as much time just sitting there soaking the environment as painting!

Here’s a few pictures on painting day– Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

 

Here’s a 180 panorama of the scene. The railroad trestle on the left replaced the old swing/drawbridge many years ago. Click on the picture to view a larger version–

Panorama of Coyote Slough.
Panorama of Coyote Slough.

 

Ghost City, 8x10, oil on board
Ghost City, 8×10, oil on board

It’s a little tough to paint what should be an expansive scene on an 8×10 canvas, but tried to include as much as I could without it looking too ‘busy’. In the back upper left is the entrance to Niles Canyon painted in Nine, Ten: Charlie Chaplin. The city of Fremont is also in the background, and we could see the new Tesla Plant with the naked eye. I made sure to include the train tracks on the left, as that is why the town is there. There is just a peek of Coyote Slough at the bottom which Coyote Creek empties into. This is the fifth painting in this quest of Coyote Creek as it is a major creek and one of the few which runs year round.

 


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.
Click on this link for a Pinterest catalog of all paintings so far.


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FortyEight: ‘The Jungle’ Fate


Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ year long quest.

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The largest homeless camp in the United States is right in the heart of affluent Silicon Valley*. Situated just south and less than a mile away of downtown San Jose, there are up to 350 residents living in “The Jungle”, as it is locally called. Just a few yards away, across Story Road, is the beloved kiddie amusement park and zoo, Happy Hollow, and is one long block from the city’s municipal ballpark and San Jose State University’s stadium. The Japanese Friendship garden painted in TwentySeven: Koraken is less than a block away.

The Jungle in essence is a city for the homeless on the banks of Coyote Creek. (Coyote Creek was previously painted in this quest at other stretches in Eleven: Christmas Day, Twelve: With the Los Gatos Elves, and ThirtySix: El Toro.) Driving by on Story Road, you would never notice the despair below under the trees as cars, buses, and minivans of families head to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo.

Most of the residents are San Jose locals. Snaking trails wind through trees and bushes, with Spanish-speaking sections and neighborhoods like Little Saigon, where Vietnamese residents have dug large rooms into steep hillsides. There are makeshift shelters, tents, hand-dug latrines, tree houses, piles of human waste, cast-off clothing, lots of shopping carts, car parts, and discarded food rots. There are cats and kittens, dogs large and small, chickens, ducks, even a bunny. There is a large drug culture in parts of the camp.

There are numerous other camps all over Santa Clara County, some at times get cleared and cleaned out, but The Jungle is entrenched. Santa Clara County has the dubious honor of having the fifth-highest homeless population in the nation. A report, released by the city of San Jose, found 7,361 homeless individuals around the county with 4,770 people identified in San Jose.

Many more news and other articles are available about The Jungle, a few are here, here, and here.

A number of government and private groups are helping. You can read about a few here, and here.

 

Here are some of my personal photos of The Jungle, albeit mainly around the perimeter–
Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

To see more inside and closeup click this link, for some better photos right in The Jungle. It is startling.

 

Painting The Jungle has been on my list almost from the beginning of this quest. Besides showing the beauty of the creeks in Santa Clara Valley, I wanted to show some of the grit along the waterways. I have reconnoitered the area several times, but never actually gone in. While doing research, a knowledgable friend strongly advised me not to go into it and do a painting by the creek. The area is lawless and not safe, including a lot of drug trafficking. Although groups of aid and other workers visit, I didn’t really want to bother anyone to form a posse of bodyguards, so put on my scraggiest clothes (actually my normal plein air garb) and walked around parts of the perimeter and in a little ways to get a feel for the place, take pictures, and color notes, etc.

I spent as much as I could on-site gathering information, but this painting is not plein air, and is the first, and hopefully only non-plein air painting in this quest. I would have liked to paint right on the creek, and wanted to include it in my quest, so painted it alla prima (all at once) in my normal plein air style in the studio.

 

"The Jungle" Fate, 8x10, oil on board
“The Jungle” Fate, 8×10, oil on board

 


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.
Click on this link for a Pinterest catalog of all paintings so far.



*Considered by most as the largest, but the population varies.
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ThirtySix: El Toro


Continuing the “Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” year long quest.

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El Toro, 8x10, oil on board
El Toro, 8×10, oil on board

When Silicon Valley residents head south on Highway 101, the first town they encounter after leaving San Jose is Morgan Hill. Morgan Hill sits at the north end of Coyote Valley, considered a narrowing of Santa Clara Valley, and still considered part of Silicon Valley.

As drivers pass through, off to the right above the town is a prominent hill, that many, including myself for many years, thought must be the hill they named after Morgan…whoever he was!

Well, wrong.

Morgan Hill was named after a fellow called Hiram Morgan Hill. Hiram married one of the daughters of the owner of most of the land in the area, who’s father was one of the first pioneers to cross the Sierra Nevada and settle the area. Later, the train station was popularly referred to as Morgan Hill’s Ranch stop, and the town name shortened to Morgan Hill when they incorporated in 1906. More history of Morgan Hill can be found here and here. Oh, the name of the hill is El Toro.

Morgan Hill
Morgan Hill

Morgan Hill still has a small town agrarian feel, however suburbia from Silicon Valley is quickly taking over.

I painted in Morgan Hill today along Coyote Creek in Anderson Lake County Park just below Anderson Reservoir. It is one of the few waterways still flowing after our dry winter. Coyote Creek is actually a river and the largest watershed which flows through Santa Clara Basin, AKA Silicon Valley. It is fed by Anderson Reservoir, so flows year round…at least so far!

I previously painted Coyote Creek in Eleven: Christmas Day and Twelve: With the Los Gatos Elves.

Rather than include a few pictures, here is a short video along Coyote Creek…this location being one of the little waterway jewels of the bay area–


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.


Twelve: With the Los Gatos Elves

The Los Gatos Plein Air Group was out painting today by Coyote Creek, so I joined them for painting number twelve. They meet every Monday morning, and I used to paint with them fairly frequently, but haven’t much the last few years. It was great to see old friends again, and I think the first hour was spent just chatting and catching up! BTW, I would have liked to title them ‘Masters’ in this blog entry, but trying to keep up the cutsey rhyming titles…we are all elves.

We painted by Coyote Creek about ten miles upstream from Eleven: Christmas Day, also on Coyote Creek, but in a more rural area. This is probably the furthest south I will paint for this project, even though some consider Silicon Valley to extend even further south to the agricultural towns of Morgan Hill, San Martin and, Gilroy, which have become bedroom communities for Silicon Valley. These towns reside in Coyote Valley, considered a narrowing of Santa Clara Valley (AKA Silicon Valley), and the watershed for Coyote Creek.

Nearby, is IBM’s, Silicon Valley Lab (formerly known as the “Santa Teresa Lab”), of which and I have a number of friends either working, or have worked there.

Click here for a map of all painting locations.

It was a relatively small crowd for the Los Gatos Group with about half a dozen of us. Here are a few shots–

One of the Los Gatos Group painting by one of the ponds fed by Coyote Creek.
One of the Los Gatos Group painting by one of the ponds fed by Coyote Creek.
A local horse stops to see Rebeccah's painting.
A local horse stops to see Rebeccah’s painting.

A painting of the large pond which Coyote Creek flows into and out of would have been nice, but decided to stick to the stream for project’s name sake.

I painted the spot where Coyote Creek flows out of the pond.
I painted the spot where Coyote Creek flows out of the pond.
The Los Gatos Elves,  8x10, Oil on panel
The Los Gatos Elves, 8×10, Oil on panel

The group has a couple more stream locations on their agenda coming up soon, and I hope to join them again as weather and locations permit.

I may have picked the wrong year to do this project! By this time, the valley usually gets a few Pacific storms dumping enough rain to start many of the smaller streams, but so far this year it has been totally dry. But, like I said in the beginning, there is no lack of subject matter, and that still holds true. Even though we have had wonderful weather, I am hoping for rain!