Arroyo Seco Parkway
One of the most scenic drives in Southern California is a 25 mile stretch of paved road. It is commonly known today as the Pasadena Freeway. It’s romantically and historically known as the Arroyo Seco Parkway. Construction of the Arroyo Seco Parkway was completed in 1940.
If you travel from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena, you must first pass below Dodger Stadium through the four Figueroa Street Tunnels. You’ll then drop down to the Arroyo Seco Parkway which winds gracefully through canyons, past rolling hills, beside a channel and beneath metro train tracks and bridges. It is truly a stunning drive.
Of course, if you’ve driven it thousands of times as I have for over forty years, some of the awe turns in to ahhh. This latter attitude rises in early morning commutes when traffic is bumper-to-bumper for practically the entire length of the Arroyo Seco. Like BB King sings, “The thrill is gone.”
Some of the magic returned the day I called a friend and suggested we find a place to paint en plein air. We tossed around several ideas; Echo Park (too crowded), Griffith Observatory (I painted there recently), Hollywood (nope). Then he suggested a place where he grew up. The Arroyo Seco Parkway was once his back yard. He described a bridge where trains passed over the parkway. I knew the location.
I met him nearby and we drove to the location. It was mid afternoon, so the shadows would soon be creeping across the parkway. We quickly set up our easels and went to work. I started with a pen & ink sketch which I then worked in watercolor. My friend did a colorful, somewhat abstract drawing of the bridge in watercolor pencil. Along with his talent for drawing and painting, he is developing some remarkable 3D/motion graphic skills.
Greater Than Art
As we worked on our paintings, we had a great time of fellowship. He is a follower of Christ also, so we talked about many of the benefits of being a Christian. We also talked about some of the challenges in serving God; temptations, going against the grain of the world and more. But we both concluded that the joy of following Jesus far outweighed the temporary thrills of living for the devil.
Having spent time painting under the bridge, I now have fresh eyes once again to see the beauty of the Arroyo Seco Parkway.