Sixty: …and Evening


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


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"...and Evening",  8x10, oil on boardMorning…Afternoon…and Evening. We had an almost full moon rising around dusk today, so what better way to end this quest with a view of Silicon Valley with a full moon rising over the eastern foothills. I am not as familiar with the western foothills of Santa Clara County where I wanted to paint this, so took me quite a bit of time on Google Earth, and just driving around, to find this scene. I also wanted it to be by a creek I had not painted yet.


I settled on a view from Peacock Court in the foothills above Cupertino. In the distant valley you can see downtown San Jose. The creek is Swiss Creek and is a tributary of Stevens Creek, which I have painted several times in this quest. We were above Permanente Quarry and I could hear the equipment in the distance below. As soon as I turned onto Peacock Court, guess what I saw….a peacock!

The rising moon was spectacular. In the pictures, it almost looks like a rising sun. I stayed until it was too dark to paint, and touched the painting up in the studio.

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

 

This ends the year long quest, but there is much more coming up! Just the painting part is over!

I have a special surprise coming in a few days, and there is much more after that, so stay tuned!

 


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FiftyNine: …Afternoon…


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

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"...Afternoon...", 8x10, oil on board
“…Afternoon…”, 8×10, oil on board

 

I am releasing the final three paintings in this quest as a trio, and here is number two. “…Afternoon…” was painted late in the day and since we just went off daylight savings time, the sun sets early around 5 o’clock.

Most of you know I own and ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Metcalf Road, as a backroads way going home, is a favorite ride. It’s a country road, and the first part, painted here, is steep and full of hairpin turns. You can see just a hint of the road on the right side. At the top of the hill, behind me, is the Metcalf Motorcycle Park for motocross dirt bikers.

Metcalf Creek empties into Coyote Creek, one I have painted multiple times in this quest. The far hills are the coastal range of California, and you can barely make out the iconic radar building at the top of Mt Unumhum.

Down below, you can see settlement ponds which is part of the Coyote Creek engineered system. You can also barely make out Hwy 101. I showed just a glimpse of Metcalf Creek at the bottom of the hill. Just to the right in the valley glare, you can barely make out the southernmost suburban area of San Jose. It seems every year, this line creeps further south as new neighborhoods are built. Just to the left in the valley, but not shown, is the Metcalf Transmission Substation which made national news awhile back with a sophisticated sniper assault.

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

 

 

An artists note: I painted almost the entirety with a #10 filbert brush, Silver Ruby Satin brand, about 3/4 of an inch wide. Since the entire painting is in the distance and late in the day, I wanted a soft look throughout. The larger the brush you can use, the better! Also, some of the brightest parts on the hillsides are ‘take-aways’. I tone my canvas with Transparent Red Oxide, and lifting the paint reveals part of the undertoned canvas.

This is quite an expansive view, and a little hard to fit on a small 8×10 canvas. It’s on my list for a large painting later on!


Just one more painting to go, and…

I have a special surprise coming next week when the quest is over. Stay tuned!


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FiftyEight: Morning…


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


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Morning... ,  8x10, oil on boardMorning…, a view of Randol Creek in the Almaden Valley area. I previously painted in this area with Fifteen: The Hard Drive Machine and Eighteen, Nineteen: Mercury Sheen and you can read a bit of the local history by clicking on those links. The creek has been dry all summer, but with a good downpour, it is now running just a bit, and I was out painting this right when the morning storm started to clear. Randol is a tributary of Alamitos Creek, which flows into the Guadalupe and on to San Francisco Bay, right in the middle of a newer suburban neighborhood at the southwestern edge of San Jose.

Trees are starting their fall color in the valley, as they did when I started this quest almost a year ago. Unlike last year, though, the creeks are much drier and some which normally run year round are completely dry.

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

 

 


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FiftySeven: Sycamore Haven


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


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Sycamore Haven,   8x10,   oil on boardPlatanus racemosa, commonly called the California Sycamore is native to California and ranges from Baja northwards to the Sacramento Valley and up into the Sierra Nevada foothills. It grows in riparian areas, canyons, floodplains, at springs and seeps, and along streams and rivers. The trunk generally divides into two or more large trunks splitting into many branches.

Like the Eucalyptus tree, featured in ThirtySeven: Missions, Creeks, Trees, Bubbles, and Painting artists love to paint it because the white bark reflects much of the local color.

The stream is Guadalupe Creek. Originating just east of the peak of Mount Umunhum in the California coastal range, and flows through Cañada de los Capitancillos before joining Los Alamitos Creek (painted in Fifteen: The Hard Drive Machine and Eighteen, Nineteen: Mercury Sheen). This confluence forms the Guadalupe River, painted in #2, 6 , 24, 33, 39, and 51, through downtown San Jose and enters the bay at Alviso Slough. Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) have spawned historically in Guadalupe Creek.

This painting of a California Sycamore along Guadalupe Creek was close to the corner of Coleman Rd and Meridian Ave in San Jose along the Guadalupe Creek Trail. The creek was flowing just a ways upstream, but dry here, so I indicated just a little water in the creek bed.

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


 


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FiftySix: “But I Go On Forever”


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

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"But I Go On Forever", 8x10, oil on board
“But I Go On Forever”, 8×10, oil on board

 

The Babbling Brook
Lord Alfred Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally,
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorps, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

 


 

Evergreen Creek.

 


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FiftyFive: The Shrek Donkey, Live


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

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The Shrek Donkey, Live, 8x10, oil on board
The Shrek Donkey, Live, 8×10, oil on board

 

OK, so there is no donkey in the painting, but here is the story…

When Dreamworks Animation was looking for a real life model for the irrepressible and quirky donkey in their upcoming animated movie Shrek, they did not have to go far. A miniature donkey named Pericles, better known as Perry, was in the nearby Palo Alto neighborhood of Barron Park. The Dreamworks animators fell in love with him.

The donkeys at Barron Park.
The donkeys at Barron Park.

Barron Park has been home to donkeys since the 1930s, when this pasture was part of the Bol farm. Generations of donkeys have been visited here by their friends for nearly 80 years. The tradition has been continued through the generosity of local landowners James Witt and John Klimp, over 25 volunteers who oversee their feeding and welfare, and gifts from the donkeys’ many supporters. There are currently two donkeys, Perry, and Miner 49er. They are taken to Bol Park each Sunday morning, where they can be visited by children while they graze on the lawn. You can watch a video of them here.

Just a few blocks away is Barron Creek which originates in the lower foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Los Altos Hills, and courses northerly through the cities of Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, and Palo Alto, before joining Adobe Creek (painted in TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive). It is the most modified creek in the Lower Peninsula Watershed, with 67% of its course classified as “hardened”, meaning that most of it is a concrete channel or underground culvert.

There is a stretch where it emerges from underground just east of Gunn High School in a little more natural, earthen channel. It provides a nice little setting and here I painted #55, about 3 miles from Stanford University. The creek had water in it, but I don’t think was really running much.

Just a couple pictures of the day–
Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

A panorama of the area–

Gunn HS is on the left, my easel in the middle, and car on the right.
Gunn HS is on the left, my easel in the middle, and car on the right.

 

You can volunteer or donate to the donkeys welfare with more information on their website here.
 


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FiftyThree: Rain Free


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


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Rain Free,  8x10, oil on boardUvas Reservoir (Spanish for “grapes”), which is just above Morgan Hill (painted in ThirtySix: El Toro) and San Martin, just south of San Jose. This reservoir is on Uvas Creek, and almost empty. I drive by the reservoir frequently throughout the year as it is on one of my favorite Harley ride routes, so see it in all stages of capacity. McKean/Uvas Road is a mecca for cyclists, both motor and pedal powered.

 

Having spent my adolescent years in East Texas, I am always enchanted by the beautiful skies and clouds when I go back to visit. Huge thunderheads, magnificent in their awesome power would bring refreshing, but short bursts of moisture during the summer months. Huge puffy cumulus clouds would fill the sky rolling slowly past in no hurry to get anywhere. In the hot summer sun, an hour or two would show no evidence of the previous downpour.

Here in the San Francisco Bay area, we rarely see such wonder in the skies. Being close to the Pacific, the skies are usually a non-event. The exception to this is just after a storm. Such a day was today, as the first substantial rain since April moved through the area. The skies were so beautiful, I decided to make it a center of interest in the painting.

We need many such storms before we are rid of this drought. The streams are still not running as it will take quite a bit of rain to soak the parched ground so runoff can start.

 

To give you a little perspective, Uvas Dam is 105 feet high and I am almost a mile away in the below pictures. The water level would normally be at the tree line in the far shore. Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

 


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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, 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 .


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Fifty: Ghost City


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

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There is a bonafide ghost town right smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley!

Many don’t know about the little town of Drawbridge, a once thriving community located on the cusp of southern San Francisco Bay in what is now Fremont, California. It is now a ghost town sinking into San Francisco Bay.

 

 

Beginnings
Drawbridge got it’s start in 1876 when a narrow-gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad was built from Santa Cruz to Alameda. The ‘town’ initially consisted of one small cabin on Station Island for the operator of the railroad’s two drawbridges (they were actually swing bridges, but the name stuck), crossing Mud Creek Slough and Coyote Creek Slough.

It didn’t take long for others to join him for some drinking, hunting, and fishing, and soon it became a regular train stop. By the 1880s, upwards of a thousand would come on weekends for the abundant hunting and fishing. Soon 10 stops a day was common for passenger trains up and down the track, which was the only way into town other than by boat.

 

 

By the 1920s, the town had reached its heyday, growing to about 90 buildings including a couple hotels and restaurants, many with wells and electricity. During prohibition, the town gained a reputation for having speakeasies, gambling, brothels, and heavily armed residents. The residents were split into two communities: The Protestants lived in North Drawbridge, and the Catholics resided in South Drawbridge. While there was quite a bit of feuding, they also had “tide parties” where residents would row to neighbors’ houses for socials at high tide.

In 1955 the trains no longer stopped in Drawbridge, and all but two last residents moved away. The last resident left around 1979.

 

 

There is quite a bit of information on the Internet if you google “drawbridge ca”. Some of the better links are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Huel Howser’s Golden California TV Series did an episode on it which can be found here.

A video from a trespasser can be found here.

 

Today
Drawbridge is now part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (painted in FortySix: Don’s Sunrise Pix and FortySeven: Hunter’s Heaven) and they are letting it slowly sink into the wetlands. There are about 20 buildings left, many had burned down, some are sinking into the mud, but a few remain high and dry.

It is now closed to the public, and hefty fines can be levied if caught there, however, people do go there all the time, mainly kids I think, looking for an adventure, gather relics, and to leave graffiti. A rave party was reportedly broken up there awhile back. The closest legal way to see Drawbridge (other than from a train) is trekking over two miles on the Mallard Slough Trail from the Alviso end (painted in ThirtyThree: Sin City) of Don Edwards Preserve.

The location of the ghost town can be found on my interactive map here. (Look for the red X right in the middle).

 

Reconnaissance
Drawbridge has been on my list from almost the start of this quest and I spent more time researching it than any other painting. Since it is closed to the public, and can be dangerous, I asked special permission from the Public Affairs Officer of the Wildlife Refuge to go paint it for a day, but the Manager of the Refuge turned me down. Although they were quite interested in my quest, the answer was eventually no. Time for Plan B.

Last Saturday I took a tour sponsored by the Wildlife Reserve and conducted by Ceal Craig, president of the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society. After a historical presentation, the tour takes you via van to a viewpoint where you can see the remains across Coyote Slough. (If you are interested in a free tour, space is limited and you have to sign up, but do it early as they always sell out. Click here for more information.)

Here are a few pictures I took on the tour prior to going out and painting, using a zoom video camera to take some of these pictures– Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

 

There are plenty of other, better closeup pictures on the web, many taken by what I am guessing are trespassers. If interested, start here.

 

Painting
Since it wasn’t legal to go into town, I did the next best thing and painted it from across Coyote Slough. This greatly limited what I could do with the composition, but had to go with what was practical. It would have been nicer to paint right in the town for a better composition, but I wasn’t interested in getting caught by the feds!

On painting day, rode my bike the over two miles on the dirt levy trail to the viewpoint. They recently built some informational displays and a park bench, which came in handy. To keep light weight, I took my mini Open Box M pochade box and just sat on the bench and painted. Not another soul was seen the entire time I was there. It was really windy, and had to constantly monitor my materials to make sure they didn’t blow into the slough!

How great it was to be way out in the marshlands with only the sounds of the tide going out and an occasional waterfowl winging by! I probably spent as much time just sitting there soaking the environment as painting!

Here’s a few pictures on painting day– Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***

 

 

Here’s a 180 panorama of the scene. The railroad trestle on the left replaced the old swing/drawbridge many years ago. Click on the picture to view a larger version–

Panorama of Coyote Slough.
Panorama of Coyote Slough.

 

Ghost City, 8x10, oil on board
Ghost City, 8×10, oil on board

It’s a little tough to paint what should be an expansive scene on an 8×10 canvas, but tried to include as much as I could without it looking too ‘busy’. In the back upper left is the entrance to Niles Canyon painted in Nine, Ten: Charlie Chaplin. The city of Fremont is also in the background, and we could see the new Tesla Plant with the naked eye. I made sure to include the train tracks on the left, as that is why the town is there. There is just a peek of Coyote Slough at the bottom which Coyote Creek empties into. This is the fifth painting in this quest of Coyote Creek as it is a major creek and one of the few which runs year round.

 


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FortyNine: Fog Time


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

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San Francisco peeking above the fog.  Photo courtesy Scott Loftesness*
San Francisco peeking above the fog. Photo courtesy Scott Loftesness*

 

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.

Although some have attributed this quote to Mark Twain, he probably didn’t say it. Anyone who has lived in San Francisco or visited during the summer agree with that old saying.

 

Much of the coldness can be attributed to the fog which rolls in almost daily during the summer months along much of the coastline of California. The frequency of fog is due to a particular combination of factors peculiar to the region. San Francisco is bordered on three sides by water. 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 Golden Gate passage and into the bay. The marine layer is basically a layer of fog which hangs out in the Pacific Ocean.

I painted 49 by the Docktown Marina in Redwood City. Docktown consists of about 60 floating houses which are not quite houseboats and not quite houses, but they do float on the water. Lately the marina’s longevity has come under a cloud and it’s days may be numbered as Redwood City would really like to get rid of it. Redwood City used to have three waterfront communities where people lived aboard their boats or in floating homes, and Docktown is the last that remains.

Docktown sits at the mouth of Redwood Creek, a 9.5-mile-long stream which starts in the Santa Cruz mountains, and flows through the towns of Woodside and Redwood City before discharging into San Francisco Bay.

Signs of Silicon Valley are all around. Lowlands are being converted to houses and condos, with high tech companies popping up all over. Oracle, the worlds second largest software company, is just down the road. Oracle software is used to store much of the information on the Internet.

 

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture***

Although it was quite overcast when I got to Docktown, the fog and clouds quickly dissipated. I have been wanting to include more wildlife in some of these works, so painted a white heron which was scouting nearby. The sun was just starting to peek through the fog.

 

Fog Time, 8x10, oil on board
Fog Time, 8×10, oil on board

 

    Coming up: Ghosts!

 


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*Photo courtesy of long time friend and excellent photographer, Scott Loftesness. You can see more of Scott’s photos on his weblog here, or Flickr stream here.

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