Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter at Casa Grande

"Casa Grande"
New Almaden
14" x 11" Watercolor

Here is a really different view of January. Today the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society held their plein air session at Casa Grande in the old mercury mining area of New Almaden, Quicksilver Park, within the San Jose city limits but it is country. In marked contrast to the winter in the Northeastern US, we are having a mild, dry stretch, with temps about 40 at night and 72 during the day. I sat in shirtsleeves as I painted this piece.

At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the grandeur and my desire to include the stately palm trees. Of course, simplicity is the answer. Also, I artistically relocated some trees and elevated the mountain behind the house (It was there, but my vantage point did not make it visible above the roofline.

From the website: "Mining operations in New Almaden first began in 1845 under the claim of Mexican Cavalry Officer Captain Andres Castillero. Castillero discovered that the red rock used by the local Ohlone Indians to paint them and the walls of the Santa Clara Mission was cinnabar, an ore containing mercury. The valuable mercury was needed to process silver in Mexican silver mines. American companies eventually acquired ownership of the mines." Casa Grande was the 27-room home of the superintendent. Today it serves as the New Almaden Quicksilver Museum. Fishing, catch and release, is allowed in the park, which now consists of some tailings and old equipment, and lots of wonderful trails for biking, hiking, and horse back riding.. Of course, people are cautioned not to the eat the fish from the area.

Wallace Stegner wrote a terrific book about this area, "Angle of Repose." Stegner was longtime head of creative writing at Stanford University. He divided his time between California and Vermont, so I can really relate to his background.


AutumnLeaves said...

I think the palms were needing to be included, Mary. Love this composition and the distant hills look so beautiful, as does the house itself. What an interesting history!!

Barb Sailor said...

What a lovely place (especially now when we are deep in snow!) I agree with Autumn leaves that the palms were needed. This post is very interesting.

Charlene Brown said...

This looks and sounds like a great place to spend the day. Thank you for telling us about it.

Mary Paquet said...

Hello blog friends. I'm happy that you agree that the palms are an important element. I'm sure they have been there a long time and I did not need to move them. I needed, though to get the proportions correct to show the height of the palms against the magnificent Casa. I used the dowel stick measuring process to get that right.

Charlene, this is an interesting spot. Years ago it was in some disrepair. We would go there to see melodramas done by a local theater group. The floor was covered with sawdust and the audience was expected to pelt the cast with popcorn. The place has now been beautifully restored to showcase it's heritage and house the museum.

The history is interesting. So often in California, people feel that Mexican immigrants are the intruders. The Spanish lived in this area long before people arrived from the United States to claim the silver and gold riches. Notice that the Ohlone Indians knew about the cinnebar long before the Spanish and US citizens arrived. This special spot showcases the history of our area.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary, Fun looking at your two winter scenes! I am most impressed with your scarecrow in Vermont. And, "Winter in Casa Grande" presents a colorful contrast! Interesting narrative too.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and stately indeed! Your style is so familiar to me now- I can usually recognize a Mary Paquet. (That's a HUGE compliment, btw.)
I am always so impressed at how you "consider" things- you put thought into what you do and it shows.

I've been in my own head lately and just now came over to check in on you... and my gosh- you've been posting all this gorgeous work! I'm sorry it took me so long to notice. But I always notice sooner or later. Beautiful!

Mary Paquet said...

Peggy, I so enjoyed painting the winter scene. Some paintings just seem to flow off the brush. I was thinking about Salminen's comments on the white patterns and the step down in values. I had a lovely time painting Casa Grande, but I much prefer my winter scene.

Pam, you are just so refreshing and honest in your comments. I feel highly complimented that you recognize my style. I know that you have been doing lots of serious thinking about your own art from your recent posts. Continue to have fun with your art. You have a very large and faithful following that enjoys PAMO, and believe me, she is uniquely Pam. I would know your work in a hot minute.