Eleven: Christmas Day


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

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With our only son out of the country, and the family get-together set for later today, I decided to go out and do a morning painting fairly close to the house. Coyote Creek is actually a river and the largest watershed which flows through Santa Clara Basin, AKA Silicon Valley. I painted right by Hellyer Park, right under the Hellyer Avenue bridge.

Since it is Christmas Day, I’ll keep this post short with just a few pictures. I will be painting more of Coyote Creek, so will talk about it more in the future.

My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park
My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park
Painting Coyote Creek under the Hellyer Avenue Bridge
Painting Coyote Creek under the Hellyer Avenue Bridge
Christmas Day, 8x10, oil on panel
Christmas Day, 8×10, oil on panel

Nine, Ten: Charlie Chaplin

Most know the story of Charles Chaplin who went to Hollywood in the early days of the motion picture industry, invented the “Little Tramp” character, and went on to be one of the biggest all time stars in cinema, at least in that era. Right? Well, not exactly. Charlie actually filmed “The Tramp” movie and others under Essanay Pictures in Niles, California in 1915. The iconic shots of the little tramp walking down a dirt road and along the railroad tracks was actually filmed in Niles Canyon. You can watch the entire movie here.

At the time, Niles Canyon with it’s railroad, Alameda Creek and other interesting terrain, was a major draw, and maybe close to becoming the film capital of the world, but Charles settled in Hollywood and Niles eventually became a suburb of Fremont. The railroad tracks though the canyon were the western termination of the transconinental rail of the US, and is still used today.

Train Trestle in Niles Canyon.
Train Trestle in Niles Canyon.

If Portola Valley is the bucks and brains of Silicon Valley, then Union City, Fremont and Milpitas could be called the valley factory. This is where many of the manufacturing and warehouses for the area are located…at least before much of it was shipped off to China!

I spent the day in Niles Canyon and did two paintings. One of my biggest problems in this project I am battling is getting access to the water. In the entire 6 mile drive between Sunol and Niles, there are only a few spots not marked “No Stopping”, “No Parking”, “No Tresspassing”, and/or fenced off.

I eventually found a turnout with a highway call box, so of course you could park there!

Painting under the highway in Niles Canyon
Painting under the highway in Niles Canyon

Here is a short video of Alameda Creek by where I painted. You could be almost anywhere in the wilds, but I was just a few miles from Silicon Valley suburbia! What an office!

Here is the painting. I kept some of the bridge in and am pretending it is a railroad trestle, as there actually was one right around the corner. You can click on any picture to view a larger size.

Charlie Chaplin I , 8x10, oil on board
Charlie Chaplin I , 8×10, oil on board

Lunch was in downtown Niles (now part of Fremont), where some of the buildings from Chaplin’s era are still standing, most of them turned into antique and memorabilia shops.

Niles, California
Niles, California

The next painting was right at the mouth of the canyon as it opens into the town of Fremont, and the greater bay area. This was a little easier access as there is a little park and a parking lot, called the Niles Staging Area.

Along Alameda Creek at the entrance to Niles Canyon
Along Alameda Creek at the entrance to Niles Canyon
I set up the easel on the Alameda Creek bike trail
I set up the easel on the Alameda Creek bike trail
Charlie Chaplin II , 8x10, oil on board
Charlie Chaplin II , 8×10, oil on board

Niles Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the bay area and it is sad due to man’s carelessness and abuse that most of it is now blocked from the public. I used to live nearby and drive through the canyon coming and going to the Sierras for painting and camping, all the while thinking this little canyon is as pretty as anyplace in the wilderness.

This is about as far north as I will paint on the eastern side of the bay, and probably the upper limit of what they call Silicon Valley. A map of each painting location can be found here.

Seven: Nuclear Heaven, Eight: Venture Capital State

Portola Valley seems like a sleepy little valley town with it’s equestrian centers, trails, redwood groves, quaint small shops, old wooden bridges, rural roads, and wonderful little creeks. In reality, it is an affluent bedroom community for the bucks and brains of Silicon Valley. You would never know just a couple miles over the hill is the brain trust and money bags of Silicon Valley. It was recently rated one of the top Elite Zips in the US which you can find here. The valley is situated just west of Interstate 280 (Locally known as the Juniper Serra, “The worlds most beautiful freeway”), close to Stanford University, and Sand Hill Road, where many of the big venture capital firms reside. The Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC for short), is right next door where they smash nuclear particles to determine the origin of the universe. It’s also right on top of the San Andreas Fault Line, the main earthquake generator in California!

I did two paintings in the area, the first of a little creek, which I didn’t know the name of, but was close to the west end of the two mile long SLAC.

In Portola Valley close to the Stanford Linear Accelerator
In Portola Valley close to the Stanford Linear Accelerator
My easel along Portola Road.
My easel along Portola Road.

I couldn’t set up right by the scene I was painting which was from the bridge you see on the left, so had to set up across the road and occasionally walk over to get details on what I was painting.

Lunch was at the Alpine Inn, best described as a biker bar, where they serve deliciously greasy hamburgers and other fare.

Alpine Inn on Alpine Road, Portola Valley
Alpine Inn on Alpine Road, Portola Valley

My second painting was of Los Trancos Creek where I happened upon an old, little used, but in seemingly good repair, footbridge. A local stopped by and told me the name of the creek, otherwise I would have never known!

Los Trancos Creek, Portola Valley
Los Trancos Creek, Portola Valley
My almost finished painting along Los Trancos Creek.
My almost finished painting along Los Trancos Creek.

Below are the two paintings of the day. There is still a lot of fall colors around, especially on the ground now in the form of decaying vegetation.

Nuclear Heaven, 8x10, oil on panel
Nuclear Heaven, 8×10, oil on panel
Venture Capital State, 8x10, oil on panel
Venture Capital State, 8×10, oil on panel

I will probably return here before the project is complete, and paint down San Francisquito Creek which runs easterly through Palo Alto, by Stanford University and into the San Francisco Bay. Like I said in the beginning, the least of my problems in this project is finding places to paint! This is also as far north up the San Francisco Peninsula I will paint, at least for the time being.

I just returned from a week in Denver, attending an art workshop by Jay Moore, and visiting my brother and family. I am still a couple paintings ahead of schedule, though. During some of these outings which are a bit of a drive (like today), I will probably do a couple paintings.

Four: Victorian Lore, Five: Just Down the Drive

Alum Rock Park sits in the foothills just east of San Jose. Founded in 1872 with its dozens of mineral springs, it soon became nationally famous as a health destination. Stone grottos were built around 20 springs, along with bath houses, hotels, saloons, a zoo, and other facilities over the years. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, San Jose residents and others could take the trolly from downtown east to commune with nature, partake of the mineral baths, and other attractions. All that is gone now except the stone bridges, grottos, and stairways. The park has basically ‘returned to nature’. More history can be found here. Here are a few historic photos of the park. Click on any image to see a larger version.

Alum Rock Park is a little over 7 miles from my home and Penitencia Creek flows through the park, the subject of painting number four. I painted one of the old stone bridges (built in 1913) in the afternoon. A few deer and a flock of wild turkeys kept me company for awhile. Here is a link to the location.

Alum Rock bridge over Penitencia Creek.
Alum Rock bridge over Penitencia Creek.
The almost finished painting on the easel.  There was no direct light in the canyon by the time I completed the piece.
The almost finished painting on the easel. There was no direct light in the canyon by the time I completed the piece.
Victorian Lore 8x10 oil on panel
Victorian Lore 8×10 oil on panel

There is a lot to paint here and I would like to return soon before all the fall color is gone, but also need to start covering more streams!

Painting five is just outside the entrance of the park along Penitencia Creek. Eucalyptus trees always make great subjects as they reflect a lot of the local light. I painted right along Penitencia Creek Road. Here is a link to the location.

The scene along Penitencia Creek.
The scene along Penitencia Creek.
My easel along Penitencia Creek close to the entrance to Alum Rock Park.
My easel along Penitencia Creek close to the entrance to Alum Rock Park.

In the painting, you can see the road bed in the middle background, and a bit of suburbia in the background.

Down the Drive (Penintencia Creek) 8x10 Oil on board
Down the Drive (Penintencia Creek) 8×10 Oil on board

There are also a lot of good spots to paint along the creek outside the park, but will hold off as a backup in case I run out of ideas in other areas in Silicon Valley.

OK, I confess. I went to Alum Rock Park on Monday, but it was closed, so did painting number five just outside the park. I returned on Tuesday and did painting number four. I thought the title was catchy so reversed the order. I never said I would number them exactly chronologically!