Entrance to the San Rafael

1971 - Entrance to the San Rafael

This particular scene which I created in my sepia pen & ink wash technique from research photographs I took on location back in 1970 will always have a particular significance to me. It will forever remind me of the day I had a chance encounter with a unique character that would change my life. The '70s' proved to be the most creative decade of my life.

In June, 1969 I left the Sunapee, New Hampshire area for the West Coast to look into the possibility of getting my Master's degree in Art in California. I had spent three years teaching 1st - 12th grade art in both Sunapee & New London, NH and felt that it was time to again pursue my own education and see where it might lead me. My decision to go to California and spend a year working in the San Francisco Bay Area so that I could claim residency and go to school as an in-state student proved to be one of the best decisions of my life. As a California resident I was able to get my Master's degree in Creative Arts at San Francisco State College for the sum of only $75. per semester. I received my degree back in 1972 for the grand sum of only $225. which covered the three semesters I attended San Francisco State. I got a great education for next to nothing and had the added treat of having the name of Ronald Regan, who was Governor of California and President of the Trustees at the time, and S.I.Hayakawah's signature on my degree since he was President of the College back then. President Hayakawah's last official act was my graduation since he retired that day.

Being in the San Francisco area during that time period was incredible. Musically, and artistically, I couldn't have been in a better place in the world. Groups such as Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, & Big Brother & the Holding Company were just getting their start and could be seen for only a few dollars at places such as the Fillmore West & the Family Dog of for free in Golden Gate Park. The entire Bay area seemed alive with creativity to me back then. The music, the lifestyle, and being enrolled in college again studying art all seemed to get my life headed in a positive direction.

While researching the houseboat community at Waldo Point in Sausalito as a possible location for my creative project for my Master's degree I met a person who I truly feel changed my life. In those days the old ferries sitting in the mud flats at Gate 5 & Gate 6 such as the Charles Van Damme, the San Rafael, and the Vallejo (home to the philosopher Alan Watts & Collage Artist Jean Varda, a friend of Picasso), as well as the riverboat Issaquah, really got my attention. The houseboat community that surrounded these fine old boats truly intrigued me. I had the feeling that I was looking at an abandoned movie set. I had no idea the first day I visited this unique area that I would spend seven of the most creative years of my life as a resident of this floating community. One day as I was checking out the houseboat community, and forming ideas of what I might do there creatively towards my Master's project something happened that I still look back on as a life changing experience. I walked up the gangplank / walkway leading to the San Rafael ferry, continued walking through the ferry and encountered a bearded character who was wearing a captains hat and sitting on an overturned skiff on the back deck. He looked vaguely familiar as he looked up, somewhat surprised to see me. I immediately introduced myself as John A. Kendall, a graduate student as San Francisco State, and someone who was intrigued by the area and interested in doing my creative project there etc, etc. etc. As I rambled on, and on, he simply looked up after a while and said "So, who gives a shit!!!" This stopped me mid-sentence for sure. After a short pause he said he was just kidding and that I seemed like an interesting character who he would be happy to introduce to some of his friends who were filmmakers & photographers in the area who might be able to help me out. I had just met Shel Silverstein in person, sitting in front of his houseboat out behind the San Rafael. Although he didn't actually introduce himself as Shel I soon realized who he was from articles I had read by him in his cartoon series for Playboy Magazine.

Shel did introduce me around and later I started doing my "Sepia Pen & Ink Wash Drawings" as part of my creative project which I felt captured the feeling of this community located in the mud flats. This scene features the San Rafael, known originally as the "City Of San Rafael," a 172' ferry built in Alameda in 1924. It was the last side-wheeler built on the bay and for 20 years was the residence of local poet and philosopher Piro Caro. I had the good fortune and pleasure of being introduced to Piro by Shel. Piro lived upstairs on the San Rafael at the time and we got to be friends. It was always a pleasure to visit this soft spoken person in his living quarters that were full of beautiful plants and flowers. The "Madonna," designed by Chris Roberts is in the background. Chris also proved to be an interesting character. The person I enjoyed meeting the most was Shel's best friend Larry Moyer, a filmmaker, painter, and photographer who Shel immediately introduced to me. Larry, who lived on the Becky Thatcher, on the far right of this scene. to this day has a wonderful warm, dry sense of humor. I spent a lot of time with Larry back then and learned a lot from him. LIFE COULDN'T BE BETTER!!!

Entrance to the San Rafael

Prints & Pricing
Please contact artist John A. Kendall if you would like a custom size: jakendall@kendallink.com or 603-763-3295.