Twentytwo: The Tall Stick


Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ year long project. (Click here for complete info.)

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In 1769 Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola hiked over a small range of coastal mountains, saw a beautiful bay, and camped under a giant redwood tree on the banks of a creek in order to explore the area further. He called the tall redwood tree El Palo Alto, which means ‘tall stick’ in Spanish. The land is now called California, the mountains are now called the Santa Cruz Range, the bay is San Francisco Bay, and the creek named San Francisquito Creek. Years later a town would spring up in the area named after the landmark tree, Palo Alto, and a famous university called Stanford started. You can read more about Palo Alto history here.

El Palo Alto in 1875.  Note how much of a landmark it was in the old days.
El Palo Alto in 1875. Note how much of a landmark it was in the old days.

I did painting number Twentytwo under the same 1,035 year old redwood tree Portola camped, which still grows along the bank of San Francisquito Creek. It is also right next to El Camino Real, where the original “Kings Highway” passed connecting California’s 21 missions. Incidently, paintings seven and eight were painted in Portola Valley, named after the explorer.

Palo Alto could be called the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Growing up together with bordering Stanford University, the town of about 64,000 residents has fueled the high-tech industry with it’s garage startups galore. Many books have been written about all the startups and other high-tech companies in the area, so won’t go into that here.

As mentioned, I did the painting right under the historic “Palo Alto” redwood tree. Click this link for a map of all painting locations. A plaque from 1926 is there commemorating the historic place. A train trestle was built within feet of the tree and Caltrain rumbles up and down the peninsula carrying passengers to and fro. I wanted to try to capture the tree, trestle, and creek in one small horizontal painting, no small task, especially considering the creek is in a ravine about twenty feet below. I finally settled on a partial composite view of all three with just glimpses of each element.

The Tall Stick, 8x10,oil on board
The Tall Stick, 8×10,oil on board

The painting turned out to be an almost abstract quilt work of steel girders and organic material.

I did the painting last Monday afternoon after Twentyone: Baylands Fun, but felt this deserved a separate blog post. I also wanted to touch the trestle up a bit under different light and after drying a bit. Prior to this quest, I don’t think I have ever painted a train trestle, and so far there are three in the collection!

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