ThirtySeven: Missions, Creeks, Trees, Bubbles, and Painting


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

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Mission San Jose
Mission San Jose

Missions
Mission San Jose, founded in June 1797, is in Fremont California. Since most mission towns in California grew up around the mission, I could never figure out how the mission ended up in another city, and not San Jose. The answer is rather simple: both the mission and the pueblo (city) were named in honor of St Joseph, and there was no other connection.

As the fourteenth mission built in California, the site had been inhabited by the native Ohlone Indians for centuries. Built on a slope overlooking the plain on the east side of San Francisco Bay, the area was very fertile for agriculture, and the wild game plentiful. The adobe church was destroyed in an 1868 earthquake but in the early 1980’s was restored as it appeared in the 1830s.

Creeks
Mission San Jose was built close to a spring fed creek which runs year round. You’ll never guess the name of the creek…yep, Mission Creek. It’s headwaters is a spring located on the north slope of Mount Alison, flows out of the hills past the mission, through the town of Fremont, and feeds Lake Elizabeth in Fremont’s Central Park. From there it feeds Laguna Creek and on to San Francisco Bay. Over the decades suburban sprawl had greatly damaged the creek, and Joyce Blueford along with groups of private and civil groups has in recent years restored some sections. The part I saw today looked pretty good.

Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Trees
As Mission Creek passes through Fremont, in places, large stands of Eucalyptus trees line it’s banks. Just about every artist I know enjoys painting Eucalyptus with its varied bark color which reflects a lot of the local reflected color, and it’s large, distinctive shape and hanging branches.

Bubbles
California, however, has had a love hate relationship with the Eucalyptus. Before 1850 there were no Eucalyptus trees in California. They were imported from Australia. Being fast growing, a number of enthusiasts convinced farmers to plant millions of the trees in the early 1900’s in a get rich quick scheme to sell the lumber. It soon grew into a speculative bubble in eucalyptus timber. The bubble burst in 1913 when many discovered what others had long known: that the wood cracked, warped, and twisted as it dried and is basically useless for building. Many investors were ruined. Some now call it the worlds largest weed. More history can be found here and here.

Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Painting
I painted along Mission Creek Drive right in the middle of Fremont suburbia about a mile downstream from the mission. (It would have been nice to paint the creek by the mission, but it is separated by numerous buildings and there just were no good viewpoints.) The flat area in the middle ground is Mission Creek trail. Mission San Jose High School is in the background. Flowers were growing along the bank which were backlight by the morning sun and just glowed. The creek was running very well, and I certainly enjoyed the gurgling and babbling while painting.

Missions,Creeks,Trees,Bubbles & Painting,  8x10, oil on board Missions,Creeks,Trees,Bubbles & Painting, 8×10, oil on board[/caption

After I got home, although I painted the brightly lit bank and flowers as it was, I had to tone it down as it detracted from the trees.


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Click on this link for a Pinterest catalog of all paintings so far.


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ThirtySix: El Toro


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

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El Toro, 8x10, oil on board
El Toro, 8×10, oil on board

When Silicon Valley residents head south on Highway 101, the first town they encounter after leaving San Jose is Morgan Hill. Morgan Hill sits at the north end of Coyote Valley, considered a narrowing of Santa Clara Valley, and still considered part of Silicon Valley.

As drivers pass through, off to the right above the town is a prominent hill, that many, including myself for many years, thought must be the hill they named after Morgan…whoever he was!

Well, wrong.

Morgan Hill was named after a fellow called Hiram Morgan Hill. Hiram married one of the daughters of the owner of most of the land in the area, who’s father was one of the first pioneers to cross the Sierra Nevada and settle the area. Later, the train station was popularly referred to as Morgan Hill’s Ranch stop, and the town name shortened to Morgan Hill when they incorporated in 1906. More history of Morgan Hill can be found here and here. Oh, the name of the hill is El Toro.

Morgan Hill
Morgan Hill

Morgan Hill still has a small town agrarian feel, however suburbia from Silicon Valley is quickly taking over.

I painted in Morgan Hill today along Coyote Creek in Anderson Lake County Park just below Anderson Reservoir. It is one of the few waterways still flowing after our dry winter. Coyote Creek is actually a river and the largest watershed which flows through Santa Clara Basin, AKA Silicon Valley. It is fed by Anderson Reservoir, so flows year round…at least so far!

I previously painted Coyote Creek in Eleven: Christmas Day and Twelve: With the Los Gatos Elves.

Rather than include a few pictures, here is a short video along Coyote Creek…this location being one of the little waterway jewels of the bay area–


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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!


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ThirtyFour: Sunsets Galore


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

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Sunsets Galore, 8x10, oil on board
Sunsets Galore, 8×10, oil on board

We had another storm front blow in this week. Although we didn’t get much rain, the sunset was great again. I generally haven’t painted many sunsets, as they can quickly become cliché, but this is the third sunset I have done in this series. Fairly soon, we will have the cloudless days of summer, so thought I would paint them as they come. As mentioned before, painting sunsets is tricky as right after the best part, it’s dark! Once again, I made color notes of the sunset from my home, then finished the painting the next day.

Laguna Creek flows out of the east hills of the San Francisco Bay area, through various channels in the city of Milpitas. Milpitas, Spanish for “Place of little cornfields”, sits in the southeast side of the bay, and is a combination of industrial zones and homes. The corporate headquarters of Maxtor, LSI Corporation, Flextronics, Adaptec, Intersil, Fireeye, Cisco Systems, JDSU, KLA-Tencor, and SanDisk are in Milpitas. Many in the region equate Milpitas with the Great Mall of the Bay Area, a huge mall built in the shell of an old Ford assembly plant where Ford Mustangs, among other names, used to be built.

Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

I painted the creek down a little dirt road in a small park by the wetlands, behind miles of office parks & buildings full of high tech companies. Once again, behind a chain link fence.

I am off to the Carmel Art Festival next week, so no new paintings in this quest will be forthcoming. I’ll try to post about the Carmel show either here on this weblog, or on my Facebook page. You can find my Facebook artist page here, so be sure to Like my page so you will get periodic updates!


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


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ThirtyThree: Sin City


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

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Alviso, the Port of San Jose
Alviso, the Port of San Jose

Well, ok, I am not talking about that Sin City. I’m talking about an all but forgotten settlement on San Francisco Bay in Silicon Valley, a little town called Alviso. (If you live in Alviso, apologies for the title, just making a rhyme about the past…read on.)

Settled in the early 1800’s, started in 1836, and incorporated as a town in 1852, it was once the bustling Port of San Jose. Steamships regularly plowed their way between San Francisco and Alviso carrying passengers, shipping agricultural products from Santa Clara Valley, the “Valley of Hearts Delight’, hides, tallow, grains, redwood timber, and mercury from the New Almaden mines. (I did paintings Eighteen and Nineteen near the old Almaden mines).

On April 11, 1853, a boiler on the steamboat, the Jenny Lind exploded, killing 31 passengers. Soon a railroad was built between San Jose and San Francisco, being much cheaper to operate soon doomed the Port of San Jose.

Over the years a number of notable industries were built here, including the third largest cannery in the world, the Otay Watch Company, flour mills, and more. AP Giannini, the founder of Bank of America, grew up and attended a one-room schoolhouse there.

However, in the Roaring Twenties and then the Great Depression (the 1920’s and 30’s for you youngsters), Alviso became sin city with saloons, dog tracks, bordellos, Filipino taxi-dance halls, and casinos. More history can be found here, and here. here. Well, it made a catchy title.

Listed as a National Historic District, Alviso is now part of the city of San Jose. High tech companies are being built right up to the town, and the residents don’t really like it. TiVo, Foundry Networks, and others are now listed under Alviso.

The old harbor fell into disuse except for a few boats, has mostly silted in, and filled with rushes and other natural vegetation. It is still used today for a few small boats. However, it is the mecca for naturalists who want to kayak, hike, and otherwise enjoy the nature of the southern tip of San Francisco Bay.

The Guadalupe River terminates here and empties into San Francisco Bay. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Below are a couple panorama photos I took with my iPhone. Click on each photo to get the entire view—

The old Port of San Jose (Alviso Marina) now silted in and choked with vegetation.
The old Port of San Jose (Alviso Marina) now silted in and choked with vegetation.
A 180 view of the dock where I was painting.
A 180 view of the dock where I was painting.

I haven’t painted many boats, but for variety’s sake, did one today. It was an old shrimper boat called the Sea Dive. Although there is a ‘do not enter gate’ on the boardwalk/pier, a path right around it on the grass let me get on the dock to do the painting.

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

For the artists, a word about technique and brushes. I painted the entire boat with a #8 bright brush, which is about 2/3 inch across. The brand was Rosemary, which I have been trying out since purchasing a few at the Plein Air Convention, but my normal Silver Ruby Satin brushes would have worked just as well. You don’t need tiny brushes to paint details…in fact, the larger the brush you use the better.


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ThirtyTwo: Field with a View


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

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Field with a View, 8x10, oil on board
Field with a View, 8×10, oil on board

It’s springtime in Silicon Valley! The wildflowers are out! Due to the drought, this year might be a little short on flowers, but we had enough rains for the flowers to bloom.

As the official California state flower, the California Poppy ranges in most of the far western states plus Mexico, and has been transplanted to South Africa, Argentina, and especially flourishes well in Chile.

I had been searching for a location by a creek in Santa Clara Valley which had some California Poppies growing. Since the California Poppy grows mainly in well drained, sandy, poor soil, you won’t find many by a stream bank, so, I decided to paint in Rancho San Antonio County Park, where a field of poppies is close to Permanente Creek.

Permanente Creek starts in the east flank of Black Mountain, courses though the cities of Los Altos, Mountain View, and into San Francisco Bay.

Most of you have probably heard of Kaiser Permanente, the huge health care conglomerate mainly in the western United States. The name Permanente came from Permanente Creek, which flowed past Henry Kaiser’s first cement plant on Black Mountain near Cupertino. Kaiser’s first wife, Bess Fosburgh, liked the name.

This is the first (and probably last) painting in this quest where you can’t actually see the water in the creek. Although Permanente Creek was running, it is completely surrounded by impenetrable brush in this area, and you can only get a glimpse from the several pedestrian bridge crossings. The line of trees in the middle ground shelters the creek as it passes through the area. I did paint in a few more flowers than actually were there…something called ‘artistic license’.

Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Besides the deer, a coyote passed by just as I was arriving but couldn’t catch it on camera. The wild turkeys were out gobbling around the valley…heard, but not seen, at least by me.

If you watched my time-lapse video The Painting of TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive this painting just kinda fell into place and was also done in about 90 minutes. When I got home, though I didn’t like the foreground, so changed it some, and still not sure if I like it. Might be a little too ‘busy’. Anybody have an opinion?


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ThirtyOne: A Setting Sun


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

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A Setting Sun, 8x10, oil on board
A Setting Sun, 8×10, oil on board

Another Pacific storm blew in for several days last week. Although the forecast was for light rain, we ended up with some pretty good downpours, but not nearly enough to put a dent in the California drought. As the storm was clearing late in the day, we had a spectacular sunset, which doesn’t happen often in Silicon Valley!

This blog entry is more about painting, the painting process, and tonalism. I have mentioned before, sunsets are difficult to paint plein air as by the time the best part comes, it is quickly over, and you are in the dark. You must quickly make color notes, and maybe finish it later from memory. I previously used this technique for painting Thirteen.

I didn’t have time to get out to a creek to paint the sunset, but made some color notes and painted much of the sky portion from my home. I then went out today by Calabazas Creek as it nears San Francisco Bay, and painted the foreground part combining different elements of the landscape on location. While not an alla prima work (done in one sitting, or all at once), which I have been doing for all the other works in this quest, it was done en plein air.

A few photos along Calabazas Creek– Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

A note about the photos– I would have included a picture of the sunset, but the feeble attempt from my iPhone was not representative at all of what it really looked like.

About the painting–Tonal paintings or Tonalism is an art term usually referring to moody paintings with a limited palette and design. I kept the general colors of the sky and sunset throughout the painting, ignoring the colors, but keeping the values I saw before me. I don’t do tonal paintings often, but for a little variety in this quest decided this would make a good one. As mentioned, it is somewhat of a composite of sky, sunset, and Calabazas Creek.

Oh, almost forgot, about the creek, Calabazas Creek originates on Table Mountain in Saratoga, California, and courses through the cities of Saratoga, San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale prior to emptying in San Francisco Bay. A company called Yahoo (along with a number of Internet companies you never heard of) is about a mile down the road on Caribbean Drive, from where I painted.

Coming next, and painted the same day…California Poppies.


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Thirty: Chavez Legacy


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

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Controversy followed Cesar Chavez much of his life. Born in Arizona and growing up as a migrant farm worker, he became a civil activist, union leader, and labor organizer for farm workers rights, founding the National Farm Workers Association, later called the United Farm Workers union.

Whether you agreed with him or not, he had a huge impact on farm worker rights and is considered, arguably, the second most influential civil rights activist after Martin Luther King. Maybe surprising to some today, he was against illegal immigration, and actively protested the US lax immigration enforcement. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1994 by President Clinton. More info can be found here.

Chavez spent much of his life in San Jose, in the barrio Sal Si Puedes, or “Escape if you can”, in what is now known as East San Jose, Mayfair neighborhood. In this dangerous, rough and tumble area of the city, he raised a family of eight children. He had spent younger years picking fruit in the San Jose area when it was called the “Valley of Hearts Delight’ and full of fruit orchards prior to becoming a nationally known activist. Being poor his entire life, he never made more than $5000 a year. He certainly “walked the talk”. A movie was just released about his life which is showing in theaters as this is being written.

I did painting Thirty just around the corner from where Chavez lived in San Jose. Although 44 Scharff Ave is marked as the ‘home’ of Chavez, in reality, the family later tore his house down and built a larger one on the same lot.

I painted right on the San Antonio Street bridge as it passes over Lower Silver Creek, once again behind a chain link fence. Upper Silver Creek, a few miles away, was the first painting of this quest “One Down, Fifty One to Go”. Here the creek meanders slightly in a man made channel. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Here is a panorama shot I did of the location–

A 180 degree panorama of my painting spot along San Antonio Street
A 180 degree panorama of my painting spot along San Antonio Street

And the final painting–

Chavez Legacy, 8x10, oil on board
Chavez Legacy, 8×10, oil on board

The bridge on the upper right is a pedestrian bridge, a number of which can be found crossing the creeks in the neighborhood.

Coming up…spring flowers!


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TwentyNine: Stevens Auto Line


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

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Stevens Auto Line, 8x10, oil on board
Stevens Auto Line, 8×10, oil on board

If you google Stevens Creek, you will probably first come up with BMW, Toyota, Audi, Nissan, Lexus, Ford, Acura, Honda, Subaru, and other auto makers. That’s because Stevens Creek Blvd is auto row for Silicon Valley, at least one of several auto rows. All who live in the South Bay know Stevens Creek Blvd. It starts near the western foothills, runs due east, and near it’s eastern end are the shopping mecca’s of upscale Valley Fair Mall, and trendy Santana Row, where the Silicon Valley workers come for happy hour, dining, smoozing, people watching, and whatever else young people do after work nowadays.

Yes, there is an actual creek, and I have never quite figured out how the boulevard got its name, as it does not follow the creek, but only crosses it at it’s far western stretch. Originally named Arroyo San José de Cupertino, it is now named after Capt. Elisha Stephens, an early settler of the valley. I am not sure why the two names are spelled differently. Beginning in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Stevens Creek flows through Stevens Canyon, then through the cities of Cupertino, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View, on its way to join the San Francisco Bay. Stevens Canyon is one of the little jewels of the south bay. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures–

I previously painted the creek where it empties into San Francisco Bay in TwentySix: Home of the Airships. This piece was done where Stevens Creek starts to emerge from Stevens Canyon, and into the suburban sprawl of Silicon Valley proper. A huge Fremont Cottonwood stood sentinel over the creek with it’s large branches stretching far and wide.


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


We have been having beautiful weather here, and probably seen the last of any major storms. Many of the smaller creeks did not flow, except maybe right during what little rain we had.

I have added a section to my webpage listing all the identified creeks. I have now at least painted one in all the watersheds according to the Santa Clara Valley Water District maps.

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

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