The Quest

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The quest started as a simple idea. I didn’t even know if I would, or even could finish it.  After all, it was a commitment for a year.  

I didn’t know if any of it would turn out any good, or just a bunch of bad paintings for the scrap heap.  I didn’t know if anything would be interesting or worth looking at.  

I didn’t know I would eventually paint ghost towns in Silicon Valley, or haunted springs, or wild beaver sign in a metropolitan city, or the worlds largest homeless camp, or the world’s first ‘plein air selfie’.  

I didn’t know eventually strangers would walk up to me, give me a hug, and say I brought back their fond childhood memories.  

I also didn’t know it would snowball in scope and public interest way beyond my first simple idea.

Four years ago today, I started the year-long quest to paint a different “Creek and River of Silicon Valley” each week en plein air, or on location.

At the time, even finishing the year successfully was not known, but I ended up with 60 paintings of 43 different creeks all over the South San Francisco Bay area.  Little did I know it would grow with articles written by international art publications, multiple showings in various venues, and a book.  Discover about the quest, including a short documentary video, interactive map, and other information here–

http://www.donaldneff.com/creeks.html

The collection of 60 paintings is still intact and will be for the foreseeable future.  I am still seeking venues both local and nationally for showings, so if any of you have ideas for venues, please let me know!

Hot! Hot! Hot!

AKA Painting the Los Gatos Plein Air Festival

My panel at the show
My panel at the show

I was honored to once again participate in the Los Gatos Plein Air Art Festival which is sponsored by the Los Gatos Morning Rotary. It’s a plein air event where we have about 4 days to produce paintings which are then sold off Friday night and Saturday. It is also a charitable event as proceeds help local schools and art programs. This show is a little easier as it is local, and I don’t have to travel, plus have the advantage of my home studio for touch-up and framing, etc.

 


Tuesday

Cowell, 16x8, oil on panel, plein air
Cowell, 16×8, oil on panel, plein air

After getting my canvases stamped, I headed to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I had done a redwood scene for the recent Carmel Show, and it turned out well, so I thought I would do one for this show. I love the backlit giant redwoods with light filtering and spotlighting the colorful trunks. I ended up painting in the exact same spot I had many years ago, however did an entirely different scene and canvas orientation. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

After finishing up, I still had time to make Hakone Gardens in Saratoga before it closes at 5. I had been doing a Japan studio series, so wanted to put in a Japanese like painting in the show. I also wanted to make it a continuation of my recent vertical water series. Another painter buddy in the show, Mark Monsarrat was there. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

Hakone Pals, 24x12,oil on canvas
Hakone Pals, 24×12,oil on canvas

 


Wednesday

The Old Swing, 8x10, oil on panel
The Old Swing, 8×10, oil on panel

Wednesday morning I touched up the prior days paintings, then headed out to Penitencia Creek to a spot I had painted for The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley year long quest a few years ago. The place had totally changed in the last three years! Besides felling some trees, the creek was different, probably because of the record wet winter we just had. The scene I had painted was no longer there! The creek was still there, of course, and flowing well after our wet winter. I did find another spot just up the creek which satisfied my tastes. There was also an old swing, somewhat of a trapeze, which made for a good story. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Silicon Valley View, 12x16, oil on panel
Silicon Valley View, 12×16, oil on panel

That evening I went up the hill behind the house and did a nocturne of downtown San Jose and Silicon Valley. I had painted a sunset at this location not too long ago, and it is just high enough to see all the way across the Santa Clara Valley. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Thursday

Vasona, 11x14, oil on panel
Vasona, 11×14, oil on panel

Thursday morning I touched up the prior days paintings and then headed back to Los Gatos for a luncheon the Rotary was putting on for the artists. The Rotary always treats us artists well, with receptions, lunches, and plenty of wine! Later in the afternoon, I went to Vasona Park to do the final painting for the show. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Friday

Friday morning was touchup and framing time. The empty spot in the lower left of the Hakone painting bugged me a bit, and there were a lot of turtles in the pond, and I wanted more koi…then the thought struck to combine them and re-title the painting. I put the turtle and koi eyeing each other as pals in the pond. Their shadow on the bottom of the pond also gave the water a look of more depth.

My wife also suggested I add some ducks to the Vasona painting, so I put in a Canada Goose, and some goslings, which were all over the place while I was painting.

Ready to hang!
Ready to hang!

Friday evening was a VIP Gala in Los Gatos, so I headed over about mid afternoon to try to beat the Friday rush hour(s). We had to put up our one ‘best’ painting for the event, so I chose the Hakone piece. The gala was at the Los Gatos Hotel. It was outside, and hot, but still had a great time relaxing and chatting with the other artists and collectors. They had a delicious buffet and Hors d’oeuvre, plus plenty of wine! (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Saturday

Today was the main event where all paintings are put up for sale to the public in downtown Los Gatos at the Town Plaza Park. Crowds seemed a little lighter than past years, probably due to the heat wave. Besides discouraging people to come outside to the park, many in our valley head to the coast clogging up traffic going through Los Gatos. I did sell two paintings, however, so I was pleased about that! (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


All-in-all, the Rotary once again put on a wonderful show, and a great big thanks to them for their work!

Some photos courtesy Ron Lykins.

At Martial’s

Morning at Martial's, 8x16, oil on board
Morning at Martial’s, 8×16, oil on board

 
The Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department is putting on a plein air paintout and show, which I found out about mid-way through the event. There was about two weeks to paint Martial Cottle Park en plein air for the show and since there was a little time left, decided to join in…partly because I am now known in the area as a painter of Silicon Valley due to my year long quest, “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley”…plus it’s only about a 20 minute drive from the house. I later I found out a lot of my artists friends didn’t find out about it either until it was half over.

Martial Cottle Park is one of the newest county parks, and one of the last remnants of the agrarian legacy in the Santa Clara Valley, once known as the “Valley of Hearts Delight”.

I went out last Monday to register and paint in the park, it was cloudy, with just an occasional thinning so the sun could break through a bit. I first decided to paint the main barn from a picnic area.

Here are a few shots of the morning (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)


 
Evening at Martial's, 11x14, oil on panel
Evening at Martial’s, 11×14, oil on panel

Later, I parked along Snell Ave, and painted the old home the Cottles used to live in. I don’t paint architecture much, so was a bit of a challenge. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)


 
At this time, I don’t know which, if any paintings will be in the show, but just dropped them both off. The paintings will be shown at the Santa Clara Government Center, Gallery at 70 West Hedding St. San Jose (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) which is the same gallery that exhibited “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” several years ago. There will also be a reception at the park May 6, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. More information can be found here.

An online display and voting for people’s choice award will be made available, so stay tuned!

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!


Flying in History

This blog is mainly about my paintings and painting adventures. However, I am also an avid videographer and editor, which is certainly an art also. Over the years, I have done official video’s for my son’s marching band, my class reunions, and almost too many trips and cruises to count, but it’s over fifty!

Here is my latest video to take you back with me to 1928 as we take a “Flight in History”. Especially for all you aviation buffs, pilots, and well, everyone who likes airplanes. Enjoy and share this short video…

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.

Los Gatos Plein Air 2015

I have been participating in the Los Gatos Plein Air almost every year since it’s inception. Since it is close to my house, I can stay home and paint the local area without worrying about all the travel expense and time.

During plein air competitions, artists have several days to paint and present for sale finished and framed paintings. The festival coordinators stamp the back of the canvas to ensure all work is done in the days allotted. We had our panels stamped on Tuesday morning, and had until Friday afternoon to produce the paintings.

I already posted some of these on Facebook, but for those who are not on social media, here are a few pictures from the show. Click on a thumbnail to view a larger picture Note: Email subscribers may not see all pictures. Just click on the title for a link to the online version.

Tuesday
After getting my canvas stamped, I headed out to Guadalupe Creek to paint a California Sycamore as I had been doing a series of these—

Wednesday
The next morning, it was out to Metcalf Road about 10 miles from my house. I drove around a bit and settled on this scene—

After lunch, I drove over to McKean road, south of San Jose, and after a little exploring decided to do a vista of Almaden Valley. I almost had to talk myself in tackling this painting as there is quite a bit to paint in a short time for a competition.

I only got about half way through the painting, so called it a day and would return tomorrow afternoon to finish it.

Thursday,
I was up early for the drive over to Almaden Reservoir. I had checked it on Tuesday, and even in this drought, it was close to full.

The Los Gatos Rotary Association was putting on a lunch for the artists, so I drove into Los Gatos, and had a pleasant meal with some of the other artists. I then headed to Los Gatos Creek. I knew in the hot midday it would be shady and cool…just right for a creek painting!

It was then back to McKean and Country View Dr to finish the Almaden Valley vista painting.

Friday,
I spent in touchup and framing. That evening was a ticketed reception, and I sold the California Sycamore painting.

Saturday
The next day was the main sale day to the public. I sold all but one of the five painted for the show.

My panel at the show.
My panel at the show.

Below are the five paintings I did for the show–

The Creeks Collection


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

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After a little touchup, sales varnishing, salve and re-shooting all the paintings in “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” quest, I made this short video of the entire collection. Enjoy it along with a little Celtic music! Click on the picture above or if not shown, this link to view the video.

 

Plein Air Magazine also wrote a short article for their weekly electronic newsletter and Plein Air Collector web site. Click here to read.

San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society posted an article about my painting of Drawbridge, an actual ghost town in Silicon Valley 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.