In January 2021, I flippantly said to my friend and fellow artist, Amanda Rainey, "I'd love to paint a mural on the Main Street water tank" (in Buda, TX). The second I spoke it aloud, a fully formed idea for a mural popped into my head. Ideas don't alway come that easy but this time it did. I quickly got it down in my notebook that I carry with me everywhere. From that moment to today, this image has had a life of its own.
Main Street USA
Buda, TX is a relatively smallish town in Central Texas. Nestled between Austin and San Antonio. Our Main Street is the quintessential Main Street USA, where most of the buildings are historical. The history of this place is very important to most of its residents and much effort is made to preserve it. When I had the idea to paint the water tank, I thought - what would be better than a painting of the history of Buda, smack in the middle of town, for everyone to see.
Amanda and I teamed up with another local artist, Robert Jones, and went through the motions to formalize our idea and submit a mural proposal to the City of Buda. We even went so far as to present our proposal to the mayor. That was about a year an a half ago and I have yet to receive a response. I'd still like to see this image as a mural on that water tank, and hey, who knows, it still might happen, but for now, it's not in the cards.
In the meantime, I finished the painting and had it framed. It looks exactly as I envisioned it - like I found it in my grandma's attic. Cardinal Art & Frame did a fabulous job, as she always does!
The next step in this painting's journey is to be presented at the first meeting of our newly formed Buda Art Committee. Which is happening next week Wednesday, September 7th at 6 PM, at Buda City Hall in the Council Chambers. I have formally requested permission to exhibit the painting in City Hall in writing and now I must, "present the painting giving a description and history, and detail my proposal on working with the City of Buda to display the piece". So, I'll be doing that!
Though, all I really want is for the painting to have an audience with the community. It's about the history of this place we all call home. I think it's important to know our collective history, which is why I painted it in the first place. Knowing our past affords us to make better decisions about our future. With that said, let me introduce you to my painting ~ 'Downtown Buda TX 1881' and the history it depicts.
The painting itself is oil paint on Arches oil paper and is 14 x 30 inches. I've never worked on oil paper before and it was a bear! The technique I used is called mischtechnik. It's an old master's technique using alternating layers of oil glazes and water-based egg tempera, and is labor intensive! To add to the intensity, I started it during a very humid summer (2021) and that humidity prevented my under-layers from drying. For months, the piece was shuffled around in my studio until it was ready to receive more paint.
Patience is a golden skill acquired by most oil painters! Something that has served me well in my studio and in my life. I finally put the final touches on it this year. From start to finish, it took 21 months to finish this piece!
Once fully dry, I had it photographed AND I had special edition prints made by my - everything photo/digital/reproduction person - Miss Pixel Perfect. It's printed on 100% cotton rag, acid free, smooth matte paper using 12-color archival pigment ink. They are beautiful! I only had 20 printed for this special run. They are signed and numbered, and will be made available soon. After the painting came back from Miss Pixel Perfect, it was off to the framer and, tada - one amazing piece of art. Thank you to everyone who played a hand!
The only thing left to do now, is share the painting and the history of this place I currently call home - Buda, TX.
The History of Buda
The land that is now downtown Buda was owned by a Mrs. Cornelia Trimble. In 1880, the New York and Texas Land Company funded an expansion of tracks from Austin to San Antonio for the International and Great Northern Railroad. With that news, Mrs. Trimble platted her land and in 1881, the plots were sold and the town of Buda (then called Du Pre) was established as one of the first cities in the Central Texas region. The railroad eventually created a rail stop in Buda which lead to the town getting a post office. As a result, a spike in population growth occurred and attracted business into the area.
One of the first businesses was The Carrington House. Built on Main Street in 1882 – a late Victorian era/Queen Anne styled structure, built by Mr. and Mrs. Carrington (former Austin residents). It was originally built as a hotel and dining room, strategically placed right across from the railroad depo. The hotel and dining room served rail travelers and businessmen, and also provided penny lunches to the railroad workers.
According to legend, Mrs. Carrington hired two women to cook for the Carrington’s dining room which became known for its delicious food. These two women, renowned for their culinary talents and great popularity, inadvertently played a role in Buda getting its name - The Mexican employees who worked on the railroad are said to have referred to these two women cooks as, “las viudas” – the widows. Over time, the name stuck and viuda became Buda. The name was officially changed in 1887.
The area surrounding Downtown Buda was rural, made up mostly of large ranches which were the basis of the local economy. In the 1880s, Sam Johnson Sr., a cattleman, organized a farmer’s alliance in Buda. He is also the grandfather of the 36th President of the United Sates – Lyndon B. Johnson. By 1890, the first cotton gin and mercantile store were founded to support the farmers. Cotton and cattle were the two major industries in the Buda area until 1929 when the cotton mill was converted to ground feed to support the local dairy farmers.
Aesthetic of the 1880s
It was important to me that the artwork's aesthetic stay true to the time period. The type of train, the clothing, and the typefaces were all meticulously researched. In addition, the piece references stylings of art-nouveau which would have been popular in the 1880s.
As you can see, the train, the widows, the cotton, and the cowboy are all nods to the origin history of Buda. The large tree in the upper left is a silhouette of Buda's beloved 250 year old Live Oak named, Guardian Oak. In 2017, the tree was relocated 600 feet to make way for the construction of the new Buda Municipal Complex. The tree is a striking symbol of the city’s strength and resilience and reflects both; the relationships the community has built together over its 140+ year history and the strength of our hope for our collective future.
The piece is stitched together with art nouveau elements that elegantly frame each vignette. The vignettes bleed into each other blurring the edges between the past and the future. The image is then completed with the title – Downtown Buda, TX, Est. 1881.
I love this painting and I hope that wherever it ends up, it will be loved by all who view it. Finger's crossed that the City of Buda will allow it to have an audience with the community.
To purchase the original framed oil painting and/or special edition prints: