Sunday, August 22, 2010

Zedler Mill

Zedler Mill   6x12
South of Austin approximately  forty miles on Hwy. 183 in Caldwell County lies Luling, Texas. Once a cattle & railroad town along the southern Chisholm Trail, it is now mostly known for the oil fields discovered in the 1920's but also for the annual "watermelon thump" held every June. The town has preserved a wonderful complex of structures along the banks of the San Marcos river where the historic Zedler Mill is located. The Mill was built not long after the original dam was constructed in 1874.
The Plein Air Austin painting group met there Saturday morning & spent the better part of the day  painting views of the historic buildings & grounds. It wasn't long after noon when it became another scorching hot summer day. But before I could take a swim in the river, I was determined to paint a view that I liked. For more than an hour I took photographs of the Cotton Gin, the Corn Crib, the Mule Barn & Scale House, until I settled on this view of the Feed Mill  & Engine Room building. 
Recently, all the old roofs were replaced by new galvanized corrugated metal that where reflecting a blazing white in areas, and  they also had an almost cobalt blue color to the shade & shadows. While I did miss not having the old rusted roofs to paint, I also liked the challenge of what the new material offered. The bright new metal & flashing gave the roofs an intense high contrast to the dark shadows & deep rust coloration of the walls. There is a crisp edge  to the quality of all the recent work done on these structures, so they have this mix of old rusted facades under the new roof materials. This is exactly the type of vernacular architecture that has inspired many architects in central Texas, of note the work of Lake/Flato in San Antonio & Mell Lawrence in Austin, to name just two. It is easy to see why. The metal buildings are sited to catch breezes and they have an understated elegance that belies the industrial  uses. These are pragmatic expressions of  construction each containing a character  all their own. It is a mini architectural  heritage tour to walk among the compound of all these buildings.
I had intentionally simplified the composition for this painting. As much as I enjoy rendering architecture, the challenge of the plein air sessions demands keeping it simple, especially  when the heat on. With this painting I  am wanting to convey the large scale of the structure without  using a  long horizontal view to show  all the complex roof lines. The sky is featured almost as much as the subject to suggest that while it is a beautiful day, it is also an intensely hot one in which shade is at a premium,  just as much as any breeze. And believe me, even under the shade of the pecan trees near the river, a gentle breeze is always welcomed.

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