Archive for February, 2011


Saint Francis Episode

February 23, 2011

The new episode 1 of 2 on Saint Francis will air Albuquerque on February 23 9PM Comcast Channel 26 Encantada TV. It was a fun shoot, although I was a little slow to get going.  The first episode takes you through most of the main painting and the second will focus on the border.  I talk about the imagery and symbols of Saint Francis.  I also have lots of fun, interesting and touching stories about Saint Francis that I cover as well.  I find his story especially compelling.  Here is the text I include on all my gift tags with my retablos of Saint Francis:


1181-1226AD | Feast Day Oct 4

Patron Saint of the city of Santa Fe, the environment, families & animals

The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Francis searched for meaning in his life and was moved by the goodness of the Church.  He surrendered all of his worldly possessions and vowed a life of poverty in devotion to God, unknowingly founding the Franciscan order of monks.  He received the marks of Stigmata, appearing only on the most devout of followers.  He is often shown with the marks.  He may be shown with skull, cross, animals.  He will have three knots on his rope belt signifying the three vows of his order:  poverty, chastity, obedience.

Retablo Saint Francis 004In the episode, I mention watching a few videos on Saint Francis.  The two films I can recommend are:

“Francesco” 1989 starring Mickey Rourke and Helena Bonham Carter.  It’s gritty, rough and honest.  Although physically, Mickey does not allow you to enter an authentic view, I think he did a fantastic job capturing the essence of humility, peace and compassion that Saint Francis represents.

“The Flowers of Saint Francis” 1950 directed by Roberto Rossellini.  This is a beautiful portrayal through vignettes of his life in black and white.  The director employed local monks to play the roles of the Franciscan disciples.  It feels like you are watching actual footage as it has an aged quality and everyone is speaking Italian throughout.  It is so sweet and gentle, like Saint Francis might be.  Even the “violent” scenes are done with a quietness.

I painted this board with my sister-in-law in mind.  She told me that as a child, she used to play with a Saint Francis image at her Grandparent’s house that had removable birds.  She had fond memories and still plays with it from time to time.  I had my brother create these pajaritos based on some Christmas ornaments he made for my sons this year.  It is a pattern from my Grandmother.  I tapped some upholstery tacks into the wood and glued magnets onto the back of the birds so they could be removed, rearranged or rotated!  I’m sending the board to my sister in-law for her birthday 😉

I’ve asked my brother to add the bird ornaments to his online store.  If they are not available yet, they should be by tomorrow.  Just visit the Tintero Online Store.

I’m also adding a simplified version of this image of Saint Francis for your personal use in the Patterns link on the right under PAGES.  I’ve left out all the symbols so you can add your own.

I am very moved by Saint Francis’ strength of character.  I especially like his prayer, which I believe is recited in all of the movies I saw.  I want to include it here for you.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.



NHCC Retablo Donation Request

February 16, 2011

The National Hispanic Cultural Center is holding their annual NOUVEAU RETABLO 2011 – a fundraiser presented by the Hispanic Women’s Council & NHCC. Proceeds benefit HWC Scholarship Fund and NHCC Arts Education. They invite donations of original retablos from professional and emerging artists for auction.  Artwork due APRIL 15.

Click here for submission forms and guidelines.

I’ve included a snapshot of their gallery page for inspiration.  Click on the image to view the original and to see full size images.

Nouveau Retablo 2010 gallery

I love participating in these auctions.  It’s a great way to give back to the community and just be around positive energy.  This year, they are emphasizing the literal meaning of  “retablo.”  They are encouraging artists to paint on wooden boards.  They are providing artists with 9.5″x10″ boards if you should need.  I just added a basic gesso kit to the online store if you wanted to try making traditional gesso for your board.  It really is a unique experience to paint on such a fine surface.  I’ve also started offering pre-gessoed boards to allow people the opportunity to experience painting on traditional gesso.  If you do end up entering a piece, please send me a snapshot!  I will post my image as soon as I complete a piece for the auction.  I think I will work with the board size they are providing.  I like the idea that all the pieces would be unified by the board size, even if the finished pieces have an independent direction.


Good News!

February 15, 2011

After having a bit of a cranky day, I came home to the best Valentine’s Day Card ever…a note from the Spanish Colonial Arts Society welcoming me as a NEW ARTIST FOR SPANISH MARKET 2011!  My husband actually debated whether to present it to me on V-Day or not.  He watched me check the mailbox every day since the jury.  And, he admitted to preparing a pep-speech should it be a disappointing note.  That was the best gift from him, knowing he is with me on this ride.  The letter came on a beautiful letterhead with a nice watermark of the SCAS logo.  It said the committee wanted to pass on some feedback on my work.  I’m not sure it’s something I should share, but it was generally positive with some constructive criticism that I will contemplate.  My husband and I had fun discussing our interpretations of the meaning of their comments.  I am just so pleased and I look forward to making plans with my brother  (he’s already juried in from a previous year in the tinwork category).  I am both relieved and exhilarated!

Our Lady of Guadalupe 001To keep my mind busy during the week, I worked on an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It is not for Market, since it is on a reclaimed board.  It was a tacky board I picked up at a yard sale for a quarter that had an attempt at Tole painting on the front.  It looked like someone had abandoned the painting before completion.  So, I adopted the board and sanded off the old image.  I knew I wanted to paint the Lady of Guadalupe image on it, but it wasn’t until I decided to put the cherub below the votive shelf that the work really got interesting.  I used the imagery of the crescent moon  and the falling of the fabric of her gown to tie the top to the bottom.  I adore the face of the angel.  In the original Guadalupe, the angel is noted for a cherubic presence, but an adult face.

Our Lady of Guadalupe cherub detail

Since I knew it was not for Market, I also used a watercolor ultramarine blue to imitate the natural Lapis color of her gown.  I haven’t really been using blue to date, but wanted a brighter palette for this Guadalupana image.  I’m working on a formula to extract the color from lapis lazuli stones, but the color is still not satisfactory and the process is both expensive and labor intensive.

Our Lady of Guadalupe sgrafitto detailI’ve attached some close-ups of the sgrafitto work on the dress pattern that I’m especially fond of.  I asked my brother to add one of his sweet little leaf votives and it was the perfect compliment for her.  We decided to attach it at a 45 degree rotation so the leaves would frame her dress instead of competing with it.  It was fun to collaborate together, even on such a small element.  Most of the time, we’re just handing pieces off to one another.

The Guadalupana story is compelling and beautiful.  The symbolism of this iconic image is rich.  I made a conscious effort to avoid painting her while I got comfortable with my painting style.  I doubt there is a more recognized retablo image and I was afraid it would be too easy to slip into the kitschy niche she seems to attract.  But, I will save my full write up on her when I release the Guadalupana episode of New Mexican Santera (assuming we secure some underwriting for season two).

Jason installing tin votive This retablo is currently available at Tintero Gallery or in my online store.  She’s quite tall, measuring somewhere  around 15″ tall and maybe 8″-10″ wide.  Well, I suppose I should try to get some sleep.  Lots to dream about!

Oh, New Mexican Santera will be airing Wed Feb 15 at 9PM.
Albuquerque Comcast Ch 26 The final episode of Saint Rita
Santa Fe Comcast Ch 6 The first episode of Saint Rita

Followed by New Mexican Tinsmith!


Student of Tinwork

February 13, 2011
Tin Votive Sconces
Created by Fr. George Aquaro

My brother Jason just received the highest compliment on his How-To Tinwork DVD.  He was sent this photo from Fr. George Aquaro  who created this pair of votive sconces after watching Jason’s videos!  The whole family was just so amazed and touched by Fr. Aquaro’s work and it is a real testament to Jason’s knack for teaching to see that a novice could create these beautiful pieces.  Now, to be fair to Fr. Aquaro, he must be an artistic, crafty and handy person to begin with.  This is not one of the patterns that Jason demonstrates (to my knowledge).  So, Fr, Aquaro must have designed not only the construction, but the stamp work patterns that appear on these pieces.  So, although I do see this as a testament to Jason’s innate teaching ability, as Jenny Craig would say in fine print, “Results Not Typical,”  lol.  So, Fr. Aquaro has done an exceptional job of absorbing the techniques and concepts taught in Jason’s video and assimilated it into original works of art.  I especially love the quilted backboard, something Jason was working on just the other day for a nicho.  It will reflect the light of the flame beautifully, I’m sure.

I immediately requested to post Fr. Aquaro’s story here and he graciously obliged in addition to sending a testimonial:

I have never worked with tin or sheet metal before.  Jason’s videos helped me overcome my hesitation at working with sheet metal, and has opened a whole new world of art that I really thought was outside my abilities.  His clear and thorough instructions guided me right through the process, from design and aesthetics to construction and finishing.  After watching Jason’s videos and getting a few simple tools, I was able to start working with tin from the local hardware store.  My friends are now making requests for pieces even though I have only been at it a few weeks.  I highly recommend Jason’s video series to anyone who wants to learn a new and fun art form that can be as beautiful as it is practical.  Thank you, Jason!

Fr. George Aquaro
Los Angeles, CA

He goes on to explain that the dimensions of his work is constrained by the fact that he is using rolls of 12″ flashing from his local hardware store.  Jason offers larger sheets locally.

I noted his email address and followed it to his website where he supports the tradition of baking Prosphora.  I had to Wiki it.  It is the term for the bread baked for the Eucharist, marked with a seal.  He has video instructions and recipes to bake the Prosphora.  But, I was particularly taken with the section on the bread stamps or seals.  These are urathane molds used to mark the bread before baking with a variety of Greek, Russian or iconic images.  I believe Fr. Aquaro casts these himself.  I’m not sure what the rules are for the general public using these molds (it seems there are varying rules as to who can bake the bread), but there is an example how someone used one of the molds to cast a plate, so it seems you can use the casts for other purposes.  Although, I would think the resulting piece should be respectfully spiritual in nature.  The images from the stamps are very lovely and I think there would be lots of creative things to do with them.  Here’s (appropriately) the stamp of Saint George:

Saint George prosphora

Click the image to visit his site
Visit my online store and follow the links to Jason’s site to purchase Jason’s Tinwork DVDs.

Thank you Fr. Aquaro for sharing your work with us.  Keep it up!


Final Jury Piece #3 Complete!

February 4, 2011


SCAS jury review 2011

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

It was a disastrously unproductive 2 weeks with sick kids, sick Gramma babysitter and snow days that turned into snow week.  But with a bit of support from family watching kids, I was able to wrap up my 3rd piece to submit for SCAS final jury!  I will head up to Santa Fe tomorrow with pieces in hand and stay over for an early morning delivery.  I was so excited when I finished it and saw the three pieces adjacent to one another.  It looked like the work produced by a single artist (my goal for this year) and I was very pleased with the trio as a set.

St Francis Retablo

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

SAINT FRANCIS  |  SAN FRANCISCO  For the final piece, I created a companion board to the La Conquistadora board and chose the Saint Francis imagery.  It is a large 12″ x 18″ board, so I was able to get into some entertaining details and textures.

I added some birds and framed him in trees to symbolize the tale of Saint Francis being swarmed by a variety of birds as he walked through the woods with his companions.  I included an owl to recall the giant owl my brother just encountered on a hike with my son. I typically include a stylized deer wrapping his legs, but decided to convert my deer into a wolf, after having heard tale of  how he saved a village from a killing wolf.  He befriended the wolf and convinced the town to feed the wolf.  In exchange, he asked the wolf not to harm the villagers or their livestock.

I sketched several iterations of the wolf, trying to capture ‘wolf’ and get away from ‘dog.’  I asked my two year old son if he liked the doggie in the painting.  I was so happy when he said (completely unprompted), “that not dog Mom, it wolf!”

The pattern in the leaves of the trees were inspired by illustrations from one of my kid’s vintage sleepy time books.  I had so much fun painting the leaves, I will surely be introducing more pattern fill and texture in future boards.

I chose to wrap the imagery of the leaves and tree trunk around the edge of the board.  I like the effect, but it is a more modern look, I believe.  And, it is not very enjoyable to paint on a curve!

Retablo St Francis detail

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

I feel myself getting more comfortable with predicting how the pigments and board will react to one another.  My brush strokes are getting more confident and I am loosening up.  I’m sorry I forgot to get a progress shot.  It was very cool at the color blocking stage.  I will be sure to get those shots in the future.

Anyway, no matter what happens with jury at this point, I feel I am putting my best foot forward and have represented my family’s name with honor.

TV EPISODE UPDATES:  Well, the weather started getting rough and the all the stations had some technical issues.  In short, both Santa Fe and Albuquerque will be rerunning this weeks episodes next week. I have updated the episode list to reflect the new air schedule.  Also, just a note, after we finish the Saint Rita episodes, we will start a Saint Francis board that will be based on this board!  We haven’t shot it yet, so if you have any thoughts on whether to put in a wolf or a deer, drop me a comment!


SCAS Jury Piece #2 Complete!

February 2, 2011

SCAS Entry Sketch

I thought some people might be interested in the Spanish Market jury process.  I have passed the first screening which is a paper portfolio submission and now I’ll be submitting three physical pieces for final jury this weekend!  Although I could submit the same pieces I submitted for preliminary review, I wanted to include some fresh pieces.  I will be resubmitting La Conquistadora 01, the one that now appears on all my marketing.

Saint Peter Detail

I’ll also include the new Saint Peter I just finished this evening and I have started a large Saint Francis that I hope to use as my third piece.   I sketched out a little plan to make sure I was designing 3 compatible, cohesive pieces and the sketch was so cute, I thought I ‘d attach it here.  I wanted to make sure the boards, designs and colors complimented one another.  I painted myself into a pickle when all of the backgrounds ended up migrating to yellow.  I’m not sure if that will hurt me, but it was the right choice for the individual boards, so I had to go with it.

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

I just finished this new Saint Peter board and wanted to share it.  I based it on the Saint Peter I painted a couple of months ago (see “Saint Peter” article), but with some small changes and a simple board shape, very classic.  I’m including some detail shots of the face.  I like the softness of his eyes and I think it captures the same solemn gaze of La Conquistadora.   I’m also including a progress shot so you could see it during the color blocking phase.  You’ll note in that shot I painted some exquisite yellow feather highlights on floral carving that I end up painting over.  I was just testing the brush technique in yellow and hated to paint over them, but they couldn’t be saved.  I was happy to bring them back in red at the end.  Anyway, I thought you’d enjoy seeing a progress shot.  It’s so fun to see it come alive.  I’ve also started introducing some architectural elements.  This is something I’ve been wanting to bring into my work.

I showed Daryl (my husband) and he gave me some very constructive criticism.  One thing he mentioned,  I thought I should share.  He noted that the vast majority of retablos I’ve been studying have the icon perfectly centered on the board.  I tend to let my figures drift to the right to give them some space in front of them (too much formal art training).  It was a simple observation, but I think it will improve my work to center up and would have improved this piece.  I have to constantly remind myself I’m not painting a picture or a portrait.  I’m creating an icon.

Saint Peter progress shot

You may notice that I have been reusing the same saints.  Whenever I paint a new saint, I read about it and collect contemporary and historical imagery.  I sketch out some ideas for my own icon and then design a board for it.  It’s a lot of time and work and I really wanted to familiarize myself with the saints beyond my previous superficial understanding.  The extra time invested has greatly improved the results of my retablos, but I have only a few that I feel comfortable with thus far.  I think it will be a great way to look back on my work when I am gray–to see that each year I add a handful of saints to my repertoire.  As I finish each new saint, I create a hang tag for that saint.  So far, I have 4 (Saint Francis, La Conquistadora, Saint Peter, Saint Rita).  But, the TV show is moving my education along much faster since I have to learn about the saint I will be presenting for each episode.  So, it’s been a bit of a crash course.  By the end of filming, I should have at least 5 new saints to add to my tag collection.  Anyway, I plan to finish up Saint Francis by Thursday and hope the weather improves so I can drop off my boards on Saturday for review!