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.

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.

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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!