Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category


New Website!

January 23, 2012

I am in the process of rebuilding my blog in a new format that will give me more flexibility.  You can get to it with my main URL,  But, I thought I should put a note here in case people stumble across the old site here.  THanks for visiting!  Lots of great info on the Spanish Colonial Arts here in Albuquerque.


Doña Sebastiana | Lady Sebastian

August 15, 2011

She is an unusual figure in the Spanish Colonial realm.  She is not prayed to or revered.  She is more a symbol of mortality and penance, a bleak reminder of our fragile and sinful state.  She is the only “Muerto” image allowed in traditional Spanish Market.  The colorful and playful muerto images of Mexico are actually a completely different family of imagery.  They derive from the celebration of All Saints Day (or All Souls Day), a celebration created to help the Catholic Church assimilate existing Aztec celebrations of the dead.  Much like The Death Card of the Tarot, the gleeful images of the Mexican culture actually symbolize life, change and spirit.  Originally, the morbid mesoamerican native celebrations, dating back thousands of years, would revolve around the skull of the deceased, often inserting flowers (especially Marigolds) into the eye sockets to reflect the life that once was and the hope that they might visit again to give guidance from beyond.  The Aztec figure known as the “Lady of the Dead,” presided over such celebrations.  The modern celebration is known as “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead.”

Catrina Image

Then, in the turn of the century, the artist José Guadalupe Posada, created an image of a skeleton wearing the garments and hat of a sophisticated lady.  The skeleton lady, known as “Catrina,” became the inspiration for the irreverent images you see today riding motorcycles, drinking tequila or dressed like Elvis, celebrating the life essence of the person that once owned that body.  The body of animated skeleton figures are often referred to as “calavera” (spanish for “skull”) or “muerto” (spanish for “death”) imagery.

Death Cart bulto by Rubel Jaramillo

In sharp contrast, Doña Sebastiana is a dark reminder of our humanity.  Originally, the Penitente brothers, a group of monks that were known for public acts of penance, would create a wooden cart, ridden by a skeleton woman also made of wood with jointed limbs.  The cart and woman could be nearly life sized.  The woman would often have human hair adorning her head.  She might also be seen holding a bow and arrow.  The Brothers would fill the cart with rocks and pull it on the makeshift roads about town as a demonstration of penance.

San Sebastian retablo by Vicente Telles

San Sebastian retablo by Vicente Telles

There is only speculation as to the source of her name, but one generally accepted theory is that the bow, a common instrument of death at that time, was simply a reminder of our mortal state, as the Grimm Reaper carries and sickle.   Perhaps, when onlookers observed the death figure, they made an association with Saint Sebastian (San Sebastian) who is shown impaled by multiple arrows, hence the name, “Lady Sebastian.”

She has become a figure of superstition.  Although explicitly not prayed to or revered, folk remedy might include calling upon her for healing and even in help finding lost items or protection from kidnapping.

Mostly shown in bulto form and referred to as the Death Cart, I think she is a fascinating part of the unique local history and through painting her image, I have the opportunity to educate people on yet another important difference between New Mexican art imagery and Mexican art imagery.

Spanish Market 2011 is the fist time I have painted her image.  It was the last image I decided to paint just before our Preview items had to be submitted.  I was very much enjoying getting into the anatomy of the skeleton.  And, since she was such a simple image in terms of iconography and color, I focused on detailing her with fine brush work and sgraffito.  I had painted her on a large board and the possibility of translating all of that detail onto a small retablo piqued my interest.

Doña Sebastiana copyright ©2011 Sean Wells

Doña Sebastiana copyright ©2011 Sean Wells

The large ones, I had painted on a plain board with an arched top.  I thought this recalled the simple headstones of local cemeteries.  When I was done, I found the image somewhat static.  My Dad happened to be staying with me, so I asked him if he had any suggestions of items I could add.  He said he liked when I would incorporate architectural elements (he ought to since he’s the one who covered the bill for my BSArch).  I thought that was a great suggestion so I created an arched opening around the figure to recall a mausoleum.  I also thought it was important to include a hint of the actual Death Cart in the background to help me tell the complete story (it appears in the small board).  There are lots of wonderful details that I like in that image including the obsidian tip on the arrow in her hand, the brass buckle holding the quiver to her chest and the accuracy of the anatomy.  But, my favorite element was the wispy sheer tattered gown I donned on her.  I have one clay that has a wonderful translucent quality when it dries and I had the thought that I could paint it right over my detailed skeletal painting to create a gown.  It was a scary moment, but it worked perfectly.  The colors ran a tiny bit, but just added to her ethereal and eerie mystique.  I talked with a couple of the artists about how I’m too chicken to use the traditional piñon varnish sealer for fear that I will smear my painting.  But, they had recommended that I use gum arabic as a binder with my pigments.  It gives just enough adhesion to allow you to topcoat items without smearing.  But, I’m still not sure if I will use it.  I really like the purity of simply using clay and water.

It is a fun and challenging image to create.


Our Lady of Guadalupe Collaboration

April 13, 2011
Jason and Sean at work

Click on image to watch this episode online!

We just completed shooting the final episode of our premiere Season of our respective shows, New Mexican Santera and New Mexican Tinsmith.  Dad had the excellent idea to do a collaborative piece for the final episode.  I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share with viewers the dynamic of two artists collaborating.  It was very spontaneous since Jason didn’t even know the size of my board before showing up to shoot the show.  He did a fantastic job quickly responding with a design concept and improvising some design ideas.

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tin

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado & Jason Younis y Delgado

We both have a few finishing touches to add, but you can get a sense of the direction of the finished piece.  Jason came up with a Corona gesture for the top piece that poetically reflects the crown of Mary.  He also added delicate stars around the frame and roses to recall the story of Juan Diego.  I asked him to include thorns on his vine to hint at the crown of thorns that Jesus wore.

We decided to take advantage of the project to use it as our submission for the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s annual Art Auction ABQ Nouveau Retablo 2011.  You can view and bid on this piece and many other traditional and contemporary retablo creations Friday May 6 from 6PM-8:30PM at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Pete V. Domenici Education Building.  Check out for more information and to view this piece online next week.

What a fun project!  We hope to do more on-air collaborations next season.  But, until then, the local stations will be rerunning our first season Wednesday nights at 9PM Comcast Encantada | Ch26 Albuquerque  | Ch16 Santa Fe.

Now that we have our first season complete, we plan to offer our shows to the other public access channels of the Southwest.  We will update our list when we get some confirmations!

[Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe]
1531 A.D. | Feast Day Dec 12  | Marian Image

A humble local named Juan Diego claimed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary.  The local Bishop requested a sign.  Juan Diego returned (on what is now her Feast Day) with a gift of blooming roses that had appeared in mid winter on the hill where the apparition spoke to him.  He carried the flowers in his cloak and as he spilled them out for the Bishop, the image of the Virgin appeared on his cloak just as Juan Diego had described her.  The Bishop fell to his knees and built a chapel on the hill.  The cloak still hangs today in a shrine on the original hill.  The image has come to represent the worldly love and peace that Mary has to offer, crossing ethnic boundaries.

detail of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tin

NOTE:  Videotero, LLC, Delgado Arts, New Mexican Santera and New Mexican Tinsmith have no affiliation with The National Hispanic Cultural Center or ABQ Nouveau Retablo.  We are simply using this opportunity to promote an organization that shares the similar goal of preserving the Spanish Colonial Arts.


San Miguel | Saint Michael

March 30, 2011
Saint Michael Retablo by Sean Wells

Saint Michael Retablo copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

As prince of the seraphim the archangel Michael led the charge against the uprising stemming from Lucifer’s betrayal.  Lucifer, at that time was one of the most favored angels.  But, after Michael defeated him, Lucifer is cast down.  Although called upon to defend the Church throughout history, it is not for his military strength that he is revered most, but for his healing powers offering miracle healing at several fonts and on various occasion.  His name translates to “Who is like God?” signifying his humility.  Scales represent his weighing of the souls of Man upon Judgement Day.  His angelic wings imply swiftness and his sword represent his strength.

San Miguel  |  Saint Michael

feast day September 29

Patron Saint of artists, bakers, grocers, mariners, paratroopers, police, EMT’s, haberdashers, bankers

Invoked against illness

symbols:  Conquered Demon/Devil, Sword, Scale/Balance,wings


Detail of Saint Michael retablo

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

NEW MEXICAN SANTERA TO AIR TONIGHT:  To learn more about Saint Michael and his connection to my family, be sure to tune in to Comcast Encatada TV tonight 9PM (Wednesday) to see the second episode on the Saint Michael retablo.  Channel 26 Albuquerque, Channel 16 Santa Fe.

It was a challenging retablo for me on many levels.  But, I have taken a big step forward in my development of the Saint Michael imagery.  I look forward to the opportunity to paint him in the future.  Pattern for this retablo is available on the link to the right labeled “09 Patterns” under “PAGES.”

Saint Michael Painting by Sean Wells

earlier Saint Michael painting copyright ©2011 Sean Wells

I also mention in the episode how I have attempted to paint him several times before I really committed to the study of the craft of retablo.  I like the resulting paintings, but never felt like they were retablos in the true sense of the word.  I found an image of one of the paintings that I promised I would share.  You can see, it is much more animated and realistic with muscles, shadows and has a cartoon graphic influence.  I like this image very much, but I think of it as a painting of Saint Michael rather than a retablo.

SAINT DATABASE LIVE:  I finally got the Saint Database so it is fully searchable!  Now, you can search for your favorite Saint my several criteria including symbols and colors!  I’ve always wanted to produce this database.  I am just starting it, so there are only a dozen Saints so far, but I will be adding to it continuously.  If you’d like to contribute to the development of this database, consider a donation. ¡Hasta Luego!

Saint Michael Retablo by Sean Younis Youth MarketUPDATE:  I located a couple of pictures from Children’s Market more than 2 decades ago!  Thought you would enjoy seeing me and it had a shot of the Saint Michael with my proud little 2nd place ribbon hanging on it!  I was still “Sean Younis” then.  It was actually purchased by one of the jurors.  So, if anyone happens to know who the owner is, I’d love to let them know what I’m up to these days!
Me beaming at children's market so many years ago! 


Santa Barbara | Saint Barbara

March 9, 2011
Saint Barbara retablo detail by Sean Wells y Delgado

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

She shares story with many of the saints.  Like Saint Francis, she came from a wealthy family.  And, like Saint Francis, she rejected the wealth and power offered to her.  Like Saint Lucy, she rejected a marriage proposal from a prominent suitor.  And like Saint Lucy, she suffered torture and death for maintaining her faith.

The marriage would insure her family’s status.  But, she had given her life to the lord and could not marry someone she did not love who did not share her beliefs.  Her rejection was an insult and an embarrassment for her father.  Her father had her locked in a tower for most of her life to protect her from the influence of the outside world.  He requested a bath house be erected across from her.  While he was away on a trip, his daughter redesigned the facade of the bath house to show three windows instead of the two originally planned.  The three windows were to honor the Holy Trinity.  But, upon return from his trip, she admitted to converting and her furious father betrayed her to the local magistrate as a practicing Christian.  The jury asked her to choose marrying the suitor and denouncing her faith or suffering torture and death.  Despite horrific repeated torture, she held true to her faith.  It is said that her woulds healed nightly and that flaming torches would snuff out when in proximity of her.  Finally, sentenced to death, her father volunteered to execute her.  He took her to a mountaintop and beheaded his own daughter.  But immediately upon doing so, he was struck by lightning and burned to death.

Santa Barbara  |  Saint Barbara
feast day December 4

Patron Saint of those in danger of sudden death, electricians, firemen, artillerymen and mathemeticians.

Invoked against fire and lightning.

symbols:  monstrance, martyr’s palm, crown with red plume, red robe or dress, three tiered skirt, three level tower, three windows, lightning bolt

Image Saint Barbara retablo by Sean Wells y Delgado

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

Detail of retablo of Saint Barbara by Sean Wells y Delgado

copyright ©2011 Sean Wells y Delgado

I always go into the show having very little idea where I am going with the colors and detailing.  I have never painted Saint Barbara before, so it was a little intimidating.  But, she evolved beautifully and she really told me just where she wanted to go.  I thought I finished her on the show, but she called me back and kept wanting detail after detail.  I love the rich results, fit for a woman of means.  I also love the way the windows surprised me when they popped with the graphic contrast. The resplendor on the top reminds me of a window to God.  I had actually forgotten to include many of her symbols in the show including the crown and plume, the lightning bolt and the tower in the background.  But, I will make sure they are in the downloadable pattern.  She is just such a complex image, it was easy to get lost in the pieces.

This piece is currently available in my online store.

Dimensions: 5 1/2″ x 12″

Please join me tonight at 9PM on Comcast Encantada TV Channel 26 to learn more about Santa Barbara’s complex symbology and story.  I invite you to share feedback on the show and the blog!


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.



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!