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.

FiftyTwo: Valley View


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

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I thought it might be appropriate to do an expansive painting of Santa Clara Valley for painting #52. Although I have reached the total count of one painting a week for a year, help I am not finished, but more about that later.

Yesterday, a small storm front arrived late in the day, and the first clouds arriving in the bay area produced a nice sunset shown above. The camera really distorts the color as the bare sky was not nearly as yellow as depicted. Once again, as in most the sunsets I have done for this quest, I painted in several sessions. During and after the sunset, I made color notes, then went out the next day and finished the painting.

The view is from Mt Hamilton Road. Mt Hamilton Road, was built in 1875 in anticipation of carrying materials to build Lick Observatory which I wrote about in ThirtyEight: Late. The road offers stunning vistas of the entire Santa Clara Valley, AKA Silicon Valley. You can see all the way from San Francisco down to Gilroy…the extent of all the paintings in this quest. It was just wonderful sitting there watching the sun go down over the valley. Sounds of horses, cows, wild turkeys, and an occasional motorcycle wafted up from miles away. I am surprised I actually got any painting done!

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

 

 

Here is a panorama of my painting location on Mt Hamilton Rd. The sunset was a little different than the evening before which I used in the painting. Click to open up the full picture.

A panorama of my painting location.
A panorama of my painting location.

 

The scene would be better treated with a larger, wider canvas, but kept with the 8×10 format for the quest. Perhaps I will do a large canvas at a later date. At least half of the painting locations done in this quest is in view, although I used a little artistic license in squeezing in some of geography on the small canvas. In the distance is the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can see downtown San Jose in the middle. On the left is Lake Cunningham where Painting Number One was done at the start of this quest. On the right is the southern tip of San Francisco Bay where I painted Alviso in ThirtyThree:Sin City.

The creek is North Branch South Babb Creek. Although it is dry, I indicated just a pool of water in the lower valley.

 

Valley View, 8x10, oil on board
Valley View, 8×10, oil on board

 


 

The original goal of this quest was to do one painting a week for a year. I am now at painting 52, but there are still several months on the calendar to complete the year. Some times when I had to drive a distance, I did two in the same area. Even with traveling and other commitments, have stayed about 8 paintings ahead for the last several months. I am going to continue for the full year as I want to bring it full circle to fall time. At the end, I will probably have around 56-60 paintings. So far I have painted 36 out of the 60 creeks listed on my website here. Due to the dry year, many creeks never actually ran. I might slow down a bit, and wait to see if we get any rain which might run some of the smaller creeks I have not yet painted.

I am now starting to seek venues in which to show the entire collection, preferably a local public venue, museum, or other major space. If anybody reading this has suggestions, please send me an email to: donald@donaldneff.com .


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.

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.

Forty: Plein Air Selfie


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

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Plein Air Selfie, 8x10, oil on board
Plein Air Selfie, 8×10, oil on board

The world’s first true plein air selfie**. No mirrors or photographs were used in painting this self portrait of me in the landscape, but it was painted on location by myself, actually looking at myself. It is certainly the first hi-tech plein air selfie!

Most artists in their lifetime paint at least one self portrait which takes many forms, usually an actual portrait, or for some landscape artists, themselves in the landscape. One of my favorites is Norman Rockwell’s triple self portrait–

Norman Rockwell Triple Self Portrait
Norman Rockwell Triple Self Portrait

I generally don’t paint people, so have never attempted any self portraits and really had no great desire to. What prompted me to do this was my son, Justin, and, well, maybe a little hi-tech fun. Justin has always wanted me to do a self portrait, so last year as he was jetting off to Japan to teach English for several years, he made me promise to do a self portrait, at least a landscape or something with me in it, sometime in the next year or so. So to fulfill a promise, here goes…

So, how did I do this? No photos. No mirrors. Alone. It’s all in the latest hi-tech gear. I used a a GoPro camera, and an iPad. The GoPro camera is a high definition video sports camera taking the sports world by storm with it’s crisp videos of surfers, skydivers, skateboarders, divers, high flying drones, and just about any other sport you can name. A GoPro was used to record the time-lapse video in The Painting of TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive. The videos produced are amazing, with a whole new class of amateur and professional videography emerging. You can see a lot of more them here.

The tiny GroPro camera itself has no viewfinder or LCD screen, but you can control and see through the lens live via an iPhone, iPad, or other smart phone, tablet, etc. transmitting via WiFi (a wireless network).

I effectively was using the GoPro as a remote closed circuit high definition camera. The GoPro camera was set on a tripod at the scene and basic viewpoint to be painted. Since I was to be in the scene, I first scoped everything out setting my easel up where I wanted to be in the scene and had to move the easel back and forth a bit during the painting. Below are a sequences of pictures to show you from different cameras how I did it.

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

The creek is Calabazas which I also painted in ThirtyOne: A Setting Sun. The previous painting was a tonal sunset right by the bay, but today’s painting reflects how pretty this little creek is, channelled to the bay. The creek was still running in spite of the severe drought. The location is close to Hwy 101, Mission College, and the Mercado shopping area. As I was finishing, a group of locals walking the trail stopped and mentioned how they and their kids had grown up in the area, playing along the creek, and how much the Calabazas meant to them. I can see why.

So, what next? Drones with GoPro cameras are all the rage…hmmm…a plein air from a drone? Naaa.

Justin, this one is for you!

Everyone have a great Fourth of July!


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.



**If someone disputes this, please let me know!

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

ThirtyNine: Beaver Sign!


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

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California Golden Beaver
California Golden Beaver

Thar’s beaver in that thar valley! so the pioneer mountain men used to say. Yes, there are wild beaver right downtown San Jose, the “Capital of Silicon Valley”. First discovered in March 2013 by Roger Castillo, who I wrote about in Twentyfour: Roger, Let’s Soar, the downtown San Jose area is now locally called Beavertown.

The beaver is the largest rodent in North America and the second or third largest rodent in the world. Castor Canadensis Subauratus, or the California Golden Beaver was last seen in this area 150 years ago. The beavers are believed to have originated from the Lexington Reservoir above Los Gatos, where they were re-introduced in the early 1990s.

Turns out now they are all over the Guadalupe Watershed. Multiple families of beavers are living from Lexington Reservoir down to Alviso, which I painted in ThirtyThree: Sin City, This includes Los Gatos Creek painted in Twelve: With the Los Gatos Elves and Fourteen: The Los Gatos Stream; and the Guadalupe River painted in Two, Three: Woz Way, Six: The Downtown Sticks, and Twentyfour: Roger, Let’s Soar. They have not yet built any dams as much of the habitat has deep enough pools for their purposes. However, during this drought, they are being watched as the water reaches low levels.

Last summer a beaver was seen injured from trash in the river which wrapped around it’s body. It was captured, the trash removed, and returned to the wild.

There are some videos of the beaver you can watch here and here, plus some of the above links have more pictures and videos. BTW, the picture above of the beaver is not one of those in San Jose.

Here are some pictures of the day. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

I did the painting where the first beaver sign was discovered, right downtown San Jose in Guadalupe Park, next to SAP Arena where all the big venues in the area are held. This area is also locally called the confluence, as it is where the Los Gatos Creek joins the Guadalupe River. The beaver sign was still there, although it looked like it had been awhile since there was any gnawing on the trees. Of course I didn’t see any as they mainly come out at night. I did use a little artistic license and painted a beaver “V” in the water as if one was swimming by. I also indicated a downtown building in the background, and one of the concrete river channel walls.

Beaver Sign, 8x10, oil on board
Beaver Sign, 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.


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

ThirtyFive: A Harley Ride


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

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Tularcitos Creek flows for just a few miles from the eastern foothills above Milpitas, California, and as soon as it hits suburbia, is channeled into an underground culvert, and not seen again. It’s dry most of the year, as is most of the streams coming out of the eastern foothills of Silicon Valley and only runs when it rains. (I wrote a little bit about Milpitas in my last blog post.)

I frequently take my Harley-Davidson Road King out to paint. When I do, I am not sure what I like more…riding the Harley, or painting! Combining both is heaven! Growing up in East Texas, I owned several Cushman motor scooters, and went through a couple Hondas, but always wanted a Harley, so bought one in 2003, a Hundred Year Anniversary Edition. My website details what I take on the Harley as I ride and paint. For you bikers, heres a bit about my bike and accessories.

Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

A Harley Ride, 8x10,oil on board
A Harley Ride, 8×10,oil on board

My goal, was to show a glimpse of Silicon Valley from the eastern foothills. This painting is from Old Calavaras Road along the southern tributary of Tularcitos Creek. It was difficult to find a parking spot to get a good composition and view along the narrow road, so I took elements from up and down the road near me to do the painting. I also eliminated the road! The creek was not flowing, but had a few puddles along the way. The painting shows the southern end of San Francisco Bay. In the distant left is Moffett Field and Hanger 1 which I portrayed in painting TwentySix: Home of the Airships. Just to the left of that would be Alviso portrayed in ThirtyThree: Sin City. Also in view are where I painted TwentyOne: Baylands Fun and ThirtyOne: Setting Sun, all along the bay shore.

I plan on doing more paintings on two wheels, however a bicycle. Some of the places on the agenda, although in or near suburbia take awhile to get to, but there is usually a bike trail nearby.


For those following my rhyming titles, I considered “ThirtyFive: A Harley Drive” which may have been a better rhyme, but you just don’t drive a motorcycle…you ride it!


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


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

TwentyEight: The Tollgate


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

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The Pacific Congress Springs Resort Hotel around 1900
The Pacific Congress Springs Resort Hotel around 1900

Starting in 1847, the little pioneer town nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains of Santa Clara Valley had been called Arroyo Quito, Campbell Creek, Campbell’s Gap, Tollgate, McCartysville, and Bank Mills over the years. In the middle of the Civil War, the townspeople came together to decide a permanent name. Just upstream from their town was a spring which had almost the same chemical content as Congress Springs, of Saratoga Springs, New York, so they named their small town Saratoga, and it remains today.

Once an industrial town, producing lumber from the nearby hills, flour mills, paper, cardboard, furniture, tanneries, much of the power was derived from Saratoga Creek. A large resort was constructed at Pacific Congress Springs, , which burned down in 1903. More history can be found here.

Today, Saratoga is one of the upscale communities in Silicon Valley, with its small town feel of tony boutiques, little shops and high-end restaurants. In it’s short downtown of about 5 blocks it is, in my opinion, the highest concentration of the best rated restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area. The winding roads in the surrounding hills reveal estates with personal vineyards, horse stables, and other indications of affluence.

Riding through Saratoga on my Harley-Davidson Road King every few months into the Santa Cruz Mountains, I always love to see Saratoga Creek as it runs year round…even through all the recent droughts.

It would have been nice to paint the Congress Springs area, but it is now grown over, and access is limited. (Based on my observations from the road, with it’s chain link fence, it is probably used as a water source for Saratoga.) I painted Saratoga Creek downstream from there as it flows through Wildwood Park in the middle of town.

Below is the finished piece, an intimate scene of Saratoga Creek—

The Tollgate, 8x10, oil on board
The Tollgate, 8×10, oil on board

Click this link for a map of all painting locations.