FiftyFour: Pope/Chaucer

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

Subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the right sidebar>>>>>

Pope/Chaucer,   8x10, oil on board
San Francisquito Creek (Spanish for “Little San Francisco”) was previously painted in Twentytwo: The Tall Stick. The creek is quite historic, and in that blog post concentrated more on the history of the area, and wanted to paint it again.

The creek courses through the towns of Portola Valley and Woodside, as well as the cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and East Palo Alto. The “Little San Francisco” and its Los Trancos Creek tributary (painted in Eight: Venture Capital State) define the boundary between San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, plus much of it forms the boundary between Palo Alto and Menlo Park. It is one of the few creeks in Silicon Valley which has remained largely in it’s original state with few channels and other man made structures.

in 1948, the wooden Pope-Chaucer bridge was replaced by the present concrete bridge. A number of similar bridges have also been built across the creek. The bridge itself is a choke point along the creek. During periods of heavy rains, the water level easily reaches to the top of the tunnel. In addition, with heavy water flow in the creek, debris tends to collect in front of the bridge, effectively creating a dam, which can result in flooding. In the 1998 El Niño storms, the creek burst its banks; resulting in an estimated $28 million flood damage in the cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. You can watch a video of the flood here. It also flooded in December 2012.

[caption id="attachment_3380" align="aligncenter" width="300"]San Francisquito Creek near flood stage. San Francisquito Creek near flood stage.

Early on in this project I was contacted by volunteer citizens working to conserve the areas around the creek. There are plans to demolish the bridge and replace it with something more modern, and ugly. Several citizen groups such as Save the Oaks, and Actera are lobbying to replace the bridge with something that maintains the beauty of the arch such as an arch bridge in the shape and size of the original pre-1948 bridge.

This is the second bridge I have painted before it is potentially torn down. The first was the Willow Glen Trestle (Twenty: The Trestle Charity) which has now been, at least for the time being saved!

The creek was pretty dry when I painted it, but used a little artistic license to add a puddle.

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



Here is a panorama shot in the middle of the underpass. I did not realize until I was there the tunnel makes a slight turn under the bridge.

A panorama from in the middle of the bridge.
A panorama from in the middle of the bridge.


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.

***Email subscribers may not see all pictures. Just click on the title for a link to the online version.

Twentytwo: The Tall Stick

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

Subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the right sidebar>>>>>

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!