July – Foggy Farming

July — Foggy Farming, 18×24, oil on canvas

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.

June – Coyote Creek

June, Coyote Creek, 24×18. oil on canvas

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.

My third painting in this quest is a studio piece rather than painting on location. I have painted Coyote Creek many times, but rarely in the studio. I visited it five times in my yearlong quest to paint “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley“. You can read about some of it here and here. During the quest I painted Coyote Slough here, a homeless camp here, and on Christmas day here.

I did this painting from photo studies and depicts Coyote Creek as it meanders through  Anderson Lake County Park just below Anderson Reservoir

As usual, I might touch it up a bit later on, and not entirely satisfied with the lower part, and the entire painting looks a little too ‘busy’, but will leave it as is for now.





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