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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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—