Well, it seems I picked a really good year to paint the streams and rivers of Silicon Valley! So far we are in the biggest drought since California became a state! With the rest of the country drenched in snow, we have had no appreciable rain so far this winter, and things are as dry as I have ever seen.
I planned on painting some of the smaller creeks which run mostly during the winter and spring, but of course none are running yet. Hopefully we will eventually get some rain so it is a wait and see situation, but dry creeks are still creeks, and can be just as compelling a painting without water. I have been compiling a list of places to paint since starting this project, and I will never get to all of them, drought or no drought.
As a side note, I spent the first part of the week in Tyler Texas sleeping on a roll away bed and living in a hospice room with my ailing father, who passed away Tuesday night. No paintings will be forthcoming this week nor possibly in the next week or two. I am plenty ahead of schedule.
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.
It was a relatively small crowd for the Los Gatos Group with about half a dozen of us. Here are a few shots–
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.
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!
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With our only son out of the country, and the family get-together set for later today, I decided to go out and do a morning painting fairly close to the house. Coyote Creek is actually a river and the largest watershed which flows through Santa Clara Basin, AKA Silicon Valley. I painted right by Hellyer Park, right under the Hellyer Avenue bridge.
Since it is Christmas Day, I’ll keep this post short with just a few pictures. I will be painting more of Coyote Creek, so will talk about it more in the future.
Most know the story of Charles Chaplin who went to Hollywood in the early days of the motion picture industry, invented the “Little Tramp” character, and went on to be one of the biggest all time stars in cinema, at least in that era. Right? Well, not exactly. Charlie actually filmed “The Tramp” movie and others under Essanay Pictures in Niles, California in 1915. The iconic shots of the little tramp walking down a dirt road and along the railroad tracks was actually filmed in Niles Canyon. You can watch the entire movie here.
At the time, Niles Canyon with it’s railroad, Alameda Creek and other interesting terrain, was a major draw, and maybe close to becoming the film capital of the world, but Charles settled in Hollywood and Niles eventually became a suburb of Fremont. The railroad tracks though the canyon were the western termination of the transconinental rail of the US, and is still used today.
If Portola Valley is the bucks and brains of Silicon Valley, then Union City, Fremont and Milpitas could be called the valley factory. This is where many of the manufacturing and warehouses for the area are locatedâ€¦at least before much of it was shipped off to China!
I spent the day in Niles Canyon and did two paintings. One of my biggest problems in this project I am battling is getting access to the water. In the entire 6 mile drive between Sunol and Niles, there are only a few spots not marked “No Stopping”, “No Parking”, “No Tresspassing”, and/or fenced off.
I eventually found a turnout with a highway call box, so of course you could park there!
Here is a short video of Alameda Creek by where I painted. You could be almost anywhere in the wilds, but I was just a few miles from Silicon Valley suburbia! What an office!
Here is the painting. I kept some of the bridge in and am pretending it is a railroad trestle, as there actually was one right around the corner. You can click on any picture to view a larger size.
Lunch was in downtown Niles (now part of Fremont), where some of the buildings from Chaplin’s era are still standing, most of them turned into antique and memorabilia shops.
The next painting was right at the mouth of the canyon as it opens into the town of Fremont, and the greater bay area. This was a little easier access as there is a little park and a parking lot, called the Niles Staging Area.
Niles Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the bay area and it is sad due to man’s carelessness and abuse that most of it is now blocked from the public. I used to live nearby and drive through the canyon coming and going to the Sierras for painting and camping, all the while thinking this little canyon is as pretty as anyplace in the wilderness.
I did two paintings in the area, the first of a little creek, which I didn’t know the name of, but was close to the west end of the two mile long SLAC.
I couldn’t set up right by the scene I was painting which was from the bridge you see on the left, so had to set up across the road and occasionally walk over to get details on what I was painting.
Lunch was at the Alpine Inn, best described as a biker bar, where they serve deliciously greasy hamburgers and other fare.
My second painting was of Los Trancos Creek where I happened upon an old, little used, but in seemingly good repair, footbridge. A local stopped by and told me the name of the creek, otherwise I would have never known!
Below are the two paintings of the day. There is still a lot of fall colors around, especially on the ground now in the form of decaying vegetation.
I will probably return here before the project is complete, and paint down San Francisquito Creek which runs easterly through Palo Alto, by Stanford University and into the San Francisco Bay. Like I said in the beginning, the least of my problems in this project is finding places to paint! This is also as far north up the San Francisco Peninsula I will paint, at least for the time being.
I just returned from a week in Denver, attending an art workshop by Jay Moore, and visiting my brother and family. I am still a couple paintings ahead of schedule, though. During some of these outings which are a bit of a drive (like today), I will probably do a couple paintings.
Alum Rock Park sits in the foothills just east of San Jose. Founded in 1872 with its dozens of mineral springs, it soon became nationally famous as a health destination. Stone grottos were built around 20 springs, along with bath houses, hotels, saloons, a zoo, and other facilities over the years. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, San Jose residents and others could take the trolly from downtown east to commune with nature, partake of the mineral baths, and other attractions. All that is gone now except the stone bridges, grottos, and stairways. The park has basically ‘returned to nature’. More history can be found here. Here are a few historic photos of the park. Click on any image to see a larger version.
A historic photo of the Natorium in Alum Rock Park fed by the mineral springs.
The Trolley Station in Alum Rock Park. The trolley used to run from downtown San Jose into the park.
Alum Rock Park is a little over 7 miles from my home and Penitencia Creek flows through the park, the subject of painting number four. I painted one of the old stone bridges (built in 1913) in the afternoon. A few deer and a flock of wild turkeys kept me company for awhile. Here is a link to the location.
There is a lot to paint here and I would like to return soon before all the fall color is gone, but also need to start covering more streams!
Painting five is just outside the entrance of the park along Penitencia Creek. Eucalyptus trees always make great subjects as they reflect a lot of the local light. I painted right along Penitencia Creek Road. Here is a link to the location.
In the painting, you can see the road bed in the middle background, and a bit of suburbia in the background.
There are also a lot of good spots to paint along the creek outside the park, but will hold off as a backup in case I run out of ideas in other areas in Silicon Valley.
OK, I confess. I went to Alum Rock Park on Monday, but it was closed, so did painting number five just outside the park. I returned on Tuesday and did painting number four. I thought the title was catchy so reversed the order. I never said I would number them exactly chronologically!