[04] Retablo Kits

Mini ornament retablo kit top viewOne of the major obstacles in developing my interest in painting retablos was accessing information.  I was encouraged by many of the artists to find a mentor.  But, if you are like me, you don’t feel comfortable asking someone to donate their time to show you how to do what they are doing.  So, I am interested in developing some products to help introduce people to the philosophy and techniques of traditional New Mexican retablo painting.  I don’t want to cross the line and commercialize something that is a respected art form.  But, in my family, especially for my brother and I, we are compelled to dissemminate information on the Spanish Colonial Arts in hopes that it will not only keep the traditions alive, but will also reinvigorate an appreciation for it with locals and the rest of the world.  I am in a unique position of having both a love for the old ways and a fascination with new technology.  I feel a certain responsibility to use my abilities (as an artist, designer and friend to technology) to further the story of the Spanish Colonial Arts.

paint your own retablo ornament kit

My First Kit:  Paint-Your-Own Retablo Ornament Kit

painting the details of the retablo I plan to develop several kits and informative videos intended to introduce people to the process of creating retablos. This is the first and I am just so in love with it.  I have put together everything you need to create a simple ornament using the basic traditional techniques and materials.  It was important to me to make it tactile and satisfying to try to share some of the wonder that comes in painting a retablo.  There is a lot of love and thought in each kit.  I tried to make something I would have liked to receive.

Each kit comes with:

•  a keepsake tin with viewing window
•  at least 4 natural pigments (a mix of oxides and clays)
•  sealer
•  1 wood board with pre-stamped image (Saint Francis or La Conquistadora)
•  2 brushes
•  1 sponge
•  step-by-step illustrated coloring guide

The pigments come in glass jars and there is enough to do more ornaments.  The images are pre-stamped on solid pine wood boards using original images from my work.  The boards have been predrilled and pre-gessoed by me using hand-made gesso from rabbit hyde glue.

Saint Francis retablo ornament

copyright ©2010 Sean Wells y Delgado

This year, I am offering the kits with a choice of Saint Francis (as he is one of my favorite saints) or the image of La Conquistadora in honor of my father’s recent documentary, “Threads of Devotion:  The Wardrobe of La Conquistadora,” currently available only through the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts gift shop.  I assisted on the video and really fell in love with her story and her image.

Although, you’ll have everything that you need to technically paint the ornament, my father has produced an exceptional companion video that allows me to express the deserved depth behind the work and I highly recommend the set together. Thanks, Dad!

To purchase a kit or DVD, please visit my web store or you can currently find them at these local retailers:

Tintero Gallery and Tin Workshop
2500 Carlisle Blvd NE, suite 1207  |  Albuquerque, NM 87112  |  (505) 385 3525 call ahead

San Felipe de Neri Church Gift Shop
2005 N Plaza Street Northwest  |  Albuquerque, NM 87104  |  (505) 243-4628 ‎

Museum of Spanish Colonial Art
Museum Hill  |  750 Camino Lejo  |  Santa Fe, NM  |  (505) 982-2226

I have only created a handful of these to see if there was interest, but the response has been incredible.  I will have a very limited batch before the holidays, so if you’d like one, please respond as soon as you are able.  Thank you as always in supporting the local arts!



  1. How is the gesso technique different when using tin (if at all?)

  2. Paul, thank you for your previous compliments on the content of my blog! It’s always good to get feedback. I don’t know a lot about painting on tin, but I can give you some educated guesses. It’s not on the list of approved traditional New Mexican Spanish Colonial Arts to my knowledge. But, there are some examples of it in the Museum of Spanish Colonial arts in Santa Fe. All of the painted tin I’ve seen comes from Mexico. From my experience, the brittleness of traditional gesso would not lend itself at all to painting on the flexible surface of tin. And, of course, the water-based pigments would not find a happy home on metal. I believe all the painted tin I’ve seen to date is acrylic (modern) or oil. So, my best guess would be that it is part of the story of of the New Mexican santero, but that the lack of oil based paints in the colonies forced them to look at different substrates like wood. My one attempt at painting on tin was done with acrylic paints using an acrylic gesso. That adhered very well to the tin. I will do a little more research next time I’m at the Museum. Thanks again for the question and good luck with your creative pursuits! ~Sean Wells

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