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Painting of the Martyr, S. Óscar Romero

In a time when his people were being persecuted and killed, Archbishop Óscar Romero, bravely spoke out against the crimes and injustices in his land of El Salvador. He did so until he was shot through the heart while celebrating Mass in 1980.

This is a commission portrait of Saint Óscar Romero from El Salvador in honor of his great work from a fellow Salvadoran. He was a Roman Catholic bishop from the 70s that was martyred by the government of El Salvador. He is known for his heroic virtue of courage and love.

 

11×14 Oil on Panel Original by Cristóbal Almanza

Symbols of the Painting

The Frame

In many of my saint portraits, I use frames as a tie to the many traditions of sacred art that use frames to remind us they are windows to heaven. The blue background is also a traditional symbol of heaven. I typically use even richer colors but adjusted for the space this work will live.

There is a flower on each corner is representative of an open Flor de Izote, the national flower of El Salvador, and a lily, a symbol of the Virgin Mary and of all saints. His birthday is August, 15th, which is the great Marian solemnity of her Assumption into heaven.

Archbishop Romero with Pope Paul VI

The Office of Bishop

He is wearing a traditional black bishop’s cassock with a purple fascia and zucchetto along with his bishop’s ring as symbols of his office as a living apostle. 

The Martyr

Young Romero

The light halo is dotted with little crosses as a subtle sign of his martyrdom and union with the death of Jesus.

The palm branch in Romero’s left hand is in a traditional, triumphant pose used in art of martyrs (Revelations 7:9). This is to emphasize the title of martyr that has been questioned by some that believed he became too politically involved by the end of his life. His positions may be political by default of standing up against an oppressive government, but at the core, he was a man living his calling as a shepherd to his people. A man that sought to defend and encourage his people in a time of great suffering. Many of the martyrs of the Church died at the hands of a government that wanted to suppress the faith, and their acts of defiance could also then be considered political in nature.

 

Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador, is pictured in this 1979 photo. Aug. 15 would have been the slain archbishop’s 100th birthday. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran) See ROMERO-BIRTHDAY-US Aug. 1, 2017.

The Blessing

Romero’s pose in this portrait is him in the middle of offering a blessing. My hope is that this offers some peace to anyone that feels worn in doing work for justice. He is an example of living boldly, centered on a deep faith in Christ, to take action. He knows how challenging it is, but he offers us a blessing to go forth.


A Prayer of Oscar Romero

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

Amen.

1571 1571 Cristóbal Almanza

El Baile de Mis Papás, José y Carlota

[La traducción en español es la segunda parte]

In January of this year, I came across 3 large frames on Marketplace. 2 fit some existing paintings. I didn’t have a painting ready for the smaller frame, but I did have a blank canvas in the exact size I had purchased the week before. I didn’t know what was going in this frame, but the frame itself was an inspiration. Handcarved in Mexico with a classic aesthetic.

I decided to make a painting in honor of my parents and their love that has been a force for good in their community. My parents have lived out their vocation in a beautiful way that represents what Catholics believe marriage is all about: a sacrament of service. 

Their marriage has been full of love and devotion along with many struggles and sufferings like anyone else in this life. The power of their bond is that they haven’t kept it to themselves. Their love has been a force that gives to the world around them, and to this day, they often think of every way they can continue to give to the community around them.

Symbols

This is a scene that does not exist as it is painted, but it is full of symbols and elements of scenes from real life. Their appearance is a mix of different pictures from 2009-2013 with a strong lean towards memories from their 50th wedding anniversary in 2013. 

My parents have always had good taste and like dressing nice. My dad definitely prefers western-style clothing because it the only life he’s only known. He was born and raised on the land and has lived his entire life dedicated to a life of hard work with land, crops, and animals. My mom has always loved wearing beautiful dresses and jewelry. Yes, she has fair skin and blue eyes.

The crowd isn’t my family, or at least not only my family. This group represents the many eyes that have watched my parents over the years of their marriage. The people in their towns, churches, and extended family that have witnessed the example of my parent’s relationship through the many different stages of life.

The lights in the background are hung at the pavilion on my parent’s ranch that has hosted many private and public celebrations. They give the metal frame a warm glow that feels more welcoming for the crowds that gather to celebrate.

The pattern on the edge of the dance floor is inspired by the background in one of my pictures of inspiration but also represents the mixing of cultures that my parents lived coming to a foreign country and culture to live their lives and raise a family.

The stars represent the unknowns of the culture filled with tiny guiding lights that show the way. This is a subtle illusion to the cloud of witnesses in heaven that intercede for our family.

The Dancing

I have countless memories as a kid going to community celebrations of weddings, quinceaneras, birthdays, baptisms, and any other reason our family and community decided to celebrate with food and dancing. It showed me the beauty of dancing and celebrating together. There is so much joy that unites people together physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The primary reason I chose the posture of dancing is because of the poetic symbolism of how marriage is meant to be lived. Finding a rhythm together, adjusting to each other as you observe what the other is doing, synching together with the music that surrounds the couple, and enjoying the joy and flow of movement in unity. When life throws changes and struggles, marriage is about finding ways to work through them together but also in relation to the world around the couple.

My parents have put in the work to learn about each other, adjust to the changes, and found ways to stay optimistic through many unforeseen challenges. Sometimes in the middle of the messiness of life, it’s hard to know what will come. Now, looking back in retrospect, it’s easier to see the fluidity of the dance and how beautiful it has been.


 

En enero de este año, me encontré con 3 marcos grandes en Marketplace. Dos de los marcos le cabian a pinturas que ya tenia listas. No tenía una pintura lista para el marco más pequeño, pero tenía un lienzo de pintura del tamaño exacto que había comprado la semana anterior. No sabía lo que queria pintar en este marco, pero el marco mismo fue una inspiración. Hecho a mano en México con una estética clásica.

Decidí hacer una pintura en honor a mis padres y su amor que ha sido una fuerza para el bien en su comunidad. Mis padres han vivido su vocación de una manera hermosa que representa lo que los católicos creen que es el matrimonio: un sacramento de servicio.

Su matrimonio ha estado lleno de amor y devoción junto con muchas dificultades y sufrimientos como cualquier otra persona en esta vida. El poder de su unión es que no se lo han guardado del mundo. Su amor ha sido una fuerza que da al mundo que los rodea, y hasta el día de hoy, siempre piensan en todas las formas en que pueden continuar dando a la comunidad que los rodea. 

 

Los símbolos

Esta es una escena que no existe tal como está pintada, pero está llena de símbolos y elementos de escenas de la vida real. Su apariencia es una mezcla de diferentes imágenes de los años 2009-2013 pero más a los recuerdos de su 50 aniversario de boda en 2013.

Mis padres siempre han tenido buen gustos y les gusta vestirse bien. Mi papá definitivamente prefiere la ropa de estilo vaquero porque es la única vida que conoce. Nació y creció en la tierra y ha vivido toda su vida dedicada a una vida de trabajo duro con la tierra. A mi mamá siempre le ha encantado usar hermosos vestidos y joyas. Ella tiene piel clara y ojos azules.

El grupo en el fondo no es mi familia, o al menos no solo mi familia. Este grupo representa el pubelo que han observado a mis padres durante los años de su matrimonio. Las personas en sus pueblos, iglesias y familiares que han sido testigos del ejemplo de la relación de mis padres a través de las diferentes etapas de la vida.

Las luces en el fondo están colgadas en el pabellón en el rancho de mis padres que ha sido la escena de muchas celebraciones públicas y privadas. Le dan al marco de metal un brillo cálido que se siente más acogedor para las multitudes que se reúnen para celebrar.

El diseño en el borde de la pista de baile está inspirado en el fondo de una de mis imágenes de inspiración, pero también representa la mezcla de culturas que vivieron mis padres en vinir a un país y cultura extranjera para vivir y tener una familia.

Las estrellas representan las incógnitas de la cultura llenas de pequeñas luces guía que muestran el camino. Esta es una sutil ilusión a la nube de testigos en el cielo que intercede por nuestra familia.

 

El baile

Tengo un muchisimos recuerdos en mi vida desde cuando era niño yendo a celebraciones comunitarias de bodas, quinceañeras, cumpleaños, bautizos y cualquier otra razón por la que nuestra familia y comunidad decidieron celebrar con comida y baile. Me mostró la belleza de bailar y celebrar juntos. Hay tanta alegría que une a las personas física, emocional y espiritualmente.

La razón principal por la que elegí la postura de bailar es por el simbolismo poético de cómo se debe vivir el matrimonio. Encontrar un ritmo juntos, adaptarse el uno al otro mientras observan lo que el otro está haciendo, sincronizarse junto con la música que rodea a la pareja y disfrutar de la alegría y el gozo del movimiento en la unidad. Cuando llegan cambios y dificultades en la vida, el matrimonio se trata de encontrar formas de trabajar juntos, pero también en relación con el mundo que rodea a la pareja.

Mis padres se han esforzado por aprender de cada uno, adaptarse a los cambios y han encontrado formas de mantenerse optimistas a través de muchos desafíos imprevistos. A veces, en medio del desorden de la vida, es difícil saber lo que vendrá. Ahora, mirando en retrospectiva, es más fácil ver la fluidez del baile y lo hermoso que ha sido.

2560 1707 Cristóbal Almanza

Saint William [Painting]

My parish has an obscure saint as its patron – Saint William of Montevirgine (or Vercelli). He is often confused for other saints like St. Francis because of some of their common symbols and simple garments. He is also distinctly depicted across global regions. This is common with older saints that lived in a time where we have little knowledge of the details of their lives. Artists often depict these saints with symbols that communicate best to the target audience instead of worrying about authenticity.

St. William Catholic Church – © Patrick Y. Wong/Atelier Wong Photography

Reading the history of St William parish, I found that one of the main reasons he was chosen was to honor Archbishop William O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church Extension Society in 1939. He approved the land purchase and helped pay to build a parish church for the Mexican community of Round Rock and McNiel.

In the many years since its founding, the parish has become incredibly diverse and is made of parishioners from all over the world. Still, there is a very large presence of Latinos from al throughout Latin America. I chose to use my Latino-flavored style of art to honor the culture of a parish originally established for Spanish speakers. I also tried to balance this look with a saint native of Italy.

Each of the elements holds a meaning about the message of the saint and the mission of our parish.

Saint William 60×40 inches oil on canvas

The Saint

St. William became an abbot and founder of a religious community on Monte Virgine. In the painting, he uses the traditional symbols of a pectoral cross and crozier that are traditionally used by bishops and abbots. He was alive so long ago that there is little known about the details of the color of his habit or look of his face. In the United States, he is often depicted in brown, in Latin America is often wearing black, but he is commonly shown wearing white in Italy. This is most notable in the images of the church at Montevirgine.

Painting in Montevergine Church

Symbols of the Parish (Left Side and Borders)

The border is inspired by the pattern seen on the white dividers of the ceiling inside of the main church. The saint is also framed within a Spanish rose cross that is used in the logo and throughout the parish architecture. The background of the cross is a setting of golden stars on a blue background as seen on the ceiling of the main church building and an ancient symbol of a sacred space. The colors of the painting are also vibrant selections of colors used in the parish marketing and buildings around the campus.

Logo designed by Rebecca Martinez

The Principality of the parish, or the angel assigned to protect the community, is shown releasing the Holy Spirit as a dove from the logo over the parish.

St. William Catholic Church – © Patrick Y. Wong/Atelier Wong Photography

The bottom left shows the cupola (dome), the most notable architectural mark of the parish that can be seen from the nearby interstate highway. The Roman style cross that the saint is wearing is also the same one seen in the logo and at the top of the dome.

The pierced heart in the middle left side displays the devotion of the parish to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that has been an important element of the spirituality of the community since the beginning. The chapel on the campus is dedicated in honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and it was the first choice for naming the parish before selecting St. William.

Painting Saint William Winter 2017

Symbols of the Life of St William Center and Right Side)

St. William among the founder saint statues in St. Peter’s Basilica

Passion Flower

The top right side shows a floral symbol known as a passion flower behind his crozier. This is one of his common symbols and represents the saint’s connection with the passion of Jesus. Under his left arm is a bouquet of lilies that is a common symbol of saints known for the heroic virtue of purity.

In the bottom left of the painting, a wolf is held back by St. William’s crozier, symbolic of the patron’s spiritual protection through intercession. It is also a classic symbol of the saint because of the legend that he tamed a wolf after it killed his donkey. This is one of the common symbols that St. William shares with St. Francis of Assisi, but he tamed and rode the wolf instead of just befriending it like Brother Francis.

The middle right depicts a heart pierced by a sword representing the Immaculate Heart of Mary. St William had a deep devotion to Holy Mother Mary and establish his monastery upon the mountain named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The open Bible in St. William’s right hand shows the most important mission of the saint and the parish, to point the world to the Truth of Jesus Christ as our Lord. He smiles and keeps it open to point to the name of Jesus while holding it close.

I created this painting as a gift for the parish’s new Evangelization Center, but details of when and where it will go up are still pending.

Saint William 60×40 inches oil on canvas

1000 667 Cristóbal Almanza

Notes from IA Summit 2017

Last month, I traveled to Vancouver, BC, Canada to speak at the Information Architects Summit, and it was a truly blessed experienced. I met hundreds of new people that all brought wonderful insight, conversations, and ideas. I will share the video ones it goes live.

Presenting at IA Summit 2017

 

This is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote for my work.


Humanity is the center of design.

“Design for humans” sounds like an obvious statement, but there’s plenty to unpack there. Because design is only as “good” as it is functional. Otherwise, it’s not design; it’s art.

When it comes to designing products—e.g., websites—for an increasingly digitized world, designers often lose sight of the end purpose. Many designs are aesthetically pleasing but don’t consider how they are going to be used by actual humans. Design is most successful when it serves humanity.

Taxonomy is important.

Taxonomy is the process of categorizing data and content—of structuring stuff in a way that makes sense, is helpful, and which serves the overall goals of the organization providing the content.

And I admit, information architects are sometimes guilty of underestimating the importance of taxonomy.

Taxonomy is the foundation that guides the architecture, which, in turn, guides the rest of the design. Taxonomy is definitely not glamorous. Done well, it’s barely even noticed. But it’s critical to the success of the user experience. Taxonomy provides the invisible links that make or break a website.

Continue reading at TMM >

2048 1536 Cristóbal Almanza
Sanctus Mural

Sanctus Mural Panels [Painting and Explanation]

In January 2016, I debuted a large 48×48 painting that was enlarged to 16×16′ for the Mass setting of the Austin DCYC (Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference) held in Waco, Texas with almost 3,000 people in attendance.

Official Image from Austin DCYC

This December, I also spent time finishing the 12×48″ side panels to be enlarged for the side panels of the stage. This process was much less intensive in nature because much of the theme and characters were already set. This extension was part of the original plan, but my schedule didn’t allow me to finish it in time for the 2016 Conference. This panel was entirely focused on expanding the city visuals, the flowing fountain of blood and water with the choirs of angels.

Sanctus Mural

Sanctus 3 Panel Mural

The collective visual can be somewhat overwhelming at first, and this is intentional. My hope is that it shows the grandeur of the spiritual realities occurring in the Holy Mass. I hope that it inspires feelings of wonder at the sanctity of the Sacraments.

The panels have more symmetry than the central piece with a mirrored approach to the top and bottom. This helps direct more of the attention to the center at the sacrifice of Christ. You can see the original layout sketches repeat various angels. One of the other elements borrowed from the Beuronese style is the priestly vestments used by the angels.

This key helps explain the various characters and elements happening in the 3 panels of the mural. For more background on the planning of the mural, see my posts from last year about the Sanctus Mural.

SANCTUS Mural and panels detail key

The following images are from the official DCYC event January 27-29 in Waco, TX.

1200 800 Cristóbal Almanza

Latinos and Racial Assumptions

 

There are several national conversations about race in recent times, and there are several issues we are facing still today. read more

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Sanctus Mural [Painting]

I have been working on a very large project for the past several months that I was excited to debut at Austin DCYC 2016. read more

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3 Lessons from Juan Diego

The little indigenous man baptized and known as Juan Diego is a model of faith for all Christians. read more

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