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All personal blog posts that are my own opinion.

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

You Have Seen the Father Painting

Has Visto al Padre (You Have Seen the Father) 48×36 inches oil on canvas painting.

I had the first idea for this painting back in June 2016 when going to a funeral. I drew out some concepts focused on the theme of the Trinity through the approach of Spanish colonial art that represents the Holy Trinity as 3 unique Jesus characters since Christians believe that it is indeed 3 distinct persons in 1 being. 

This is not a liturgical or even traditional piece. It’s a product of my own exploratory visualization of a central mystery of my faith.

Spanish Colonial Painting of the Trinity

 Theme

It may seem a little strange but there is a verse in sacred scripture that gives good precedent for this interpretation:

“Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” – John 14:9

I became fascinated with visualizing the Trinity back in late 2015 when I attended a JPII Healing Center retreat that focuses on leading participants to lead a life within the graces of the Trinity where we can find the most peace in life. The retreat features a living sculpture that demonstrates three people circling their arms around each other while surrounding the person from above. I used this as the central pose of the piece. Framing it from the perspective within the circle.

Final Drawing in prep of painting

Inspiration

All-Seeing Eye of God And and angels at Basilica Di Santa Maria Maggiore Rome Italy

The trinity is a common theme in art, but I’ve never been fond of the pieces that make the Father a Santa-like figure or the Holy Spirit just a white dove. They don’t communicate to me the depth of the living persons of the Trinity.

The mysterious symbols of an all-seeing eye also don’t communicate the relational aspects of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to me. I do appreciate the symbolism and visual, so I used this piece as an inspiration for the layout.

The old Eastern depictions of the Trinity as angels with Abraham also helped inspire the details of the three.

The Icon of the Trinity by the Monk-painter Andrei Rublev

Symbols

Seraphim – the 6-winged angels that surround the throne of God

Cherubim – the 4 winged angels and are just behind the seraphim

The hands

The Father – A hand of blessing in the traditional priestly position of blessing

The Son – Outstretched and pierced by the crucifixion openly offering His love

The Holy Spirit – Reaching out in welcome to invite us into the circle

The Eye of God Nebula – based on images from Hubble to show the vastness of God’s mercy while alluding to the Trinitarian symbol of the eye in a cosmic image

Space – reminiscent of the stars that line many churches as markings of sacred space

Eye of God Helix Nebula

Diversity

The 3 persons of the Holy Trinity are intentionally depicted as distinct versions of Jesus from different cultures. Most of my art features skin tones and cultures that depict important figures in non-European characteristics to show the diversity of the Church and God’s willingness to relate to us where we are.

 

The process

It took a long time to get to the pieces because I kept putting it to the side and lots of life changes in between.

The Final Painting

2560 2047 Cristóbal Almanza

5 Ways You Can Show Gratitude to Your Guardian Angel

Since the moment of your conception, you are accompanied by a great spiritual being known as a guardian angel. Their mission is to guide and protect you and do everything they can to guide you to heaven. They are the faithful companions that have never left our side. It feels almost too incredible to be true.

October is a good time to focus on our guardian angels. It’s more than because the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels is October 2nd. Many of the feast days of this month feature saints with very strong relationships with their angels.

While the angels desire our good more than we can understand, they aren’t able to control us or force us to do anything we’re unwilling to do. It’s also up to us to listen and cooperate with them. There are several things you can do to build a relationship with your angel, but you can also do a few things to thank your angel too.

“We should show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father.”

– St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The Lord’s angels are in perfect union with Him and are without sin, so they don’t feel a lack of anything without our gratitude. Our acknowledgment of their work is more of a benefit for us to build a better partnership. Here are some ways to say thank you to your angel.

 

1. Pray with your angel

Your angel constantly sees God while simultaneously watching over you. They are already praying for you and doing everything they can to help us be holier and more faithful to our baptismal call. When you pray with your angel, they join and enhance your personal prayer.

 

Continue Reading at ATX Catholic »

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Masculine Spirituality Thrives Best in Brotherhood

Adult men often have a difficult time making friends. It’s easy to have passive relationships with coworkers, guys at the gym, or even at church, but intentional friendship takes work. This is true for both men and women, but my focus here will be particular to men.

Deep Connections Aren’t Accidental

Bl. Pier Giorgio and friends

It’s easy to feel like we’re interacting with people while never going beyond talking about sports, family activities, current events, or the weather. Even in a time when we are connected more through technology, we are connecting less in more personal ways. Loneliness is a real issue, and it happens at all stages of becoming and being an adult.

It doesn’t take much effort to maintain acquaintances and familiarity with people we see on a regular basis, but limiting all relationships to that level won’t bring fulfillment. It takes work, even sacrifices, to go deeper with the people in our life. Sadly, our jaded experiences can discourage us to invest so much into a relationship. It’s a risk when we’re unsure of the investment others are willing to give or if it’s going to work.

Friendship Goals

Friendship can still sound somewhat intangible, but there are some good ideas proposed about how to define friendship. Aristotle has a good explanation of how he separated friendship into 3 categories. In his philosophy, friendship requires these elements:

“To be friends therefore, men must (1) feel goodwill for each other, that is, wish each other’s good, and (2) be aware of each other’s goodwill, and (3) the cause of their goodwill must be one of the lovable qualities mentioned above” (Nicomachean Ethics)

Continue Reading at ATX Catholic

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Diversity in Ministry Part III – Financial

In my latest post at ATX Catholic, I write about how the economic changes happening in Austin are also having a direct effect on the people of the diocese and how we need to adapt our application of ministry.

In the first two posts of this series, I explored how diversity in Gifts and Age can provide a richer experience of the faith and allow parishes to better minister to the community.

Christians of all denominations today tend to look for communities where they feel like they can belong to the larger group. Sometimes the neighborhoods have similarities that tend to easily find commonalities with others. Back when communities and neighbors were more closely linked, there is no real issue with this model.

Continue Reading at ATX Catholic

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Optimizing User Flows to Improve Your Outcomes

Mapping out user flows and journeys is one of my favorite things to do as a UX designer. Laying out the concepts and goals in a visual way makes a tangible roadmap for how a design and interaction can be efficient and effective. If done correctly, this flow should be invisible to the user but a very real and delightful experience.

In my latest post at TMM, I share some of the basics of user flows.

600 172 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

Austin DCYC 2017 – SANCTUS

The Diocese of Austin holds a yearly event known as the Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference for teens, and I was contracted to create the visual marketing materials for the theme of SANCTUS (meaning “Holy” in Latin).

The Logo

The main theme of the logo I created is based on a dove as the symbol of the Holy Spirit with the highlight of a flame, another common symbol for the third person of the Trinity. The yellow and orange are a bright, vibrant shades that give the feeling of fire, and the dark green compliments it while representing life.

I also chose to use Roman-style lettering with the Latin name, this is why the “U” is replaced with a “V.” It was a way to bring a balance of the ancient traditions and the contemporary setting.

 

The Shirt Design

The shirt was limited to one side and two colors for the print. I brought in the familiar colors from the logo and added vector shapes that recall the imagery of the Monstrance, a liturgical tool used to display the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist for adoration. This is the pivotal moment that happens on Saturday night of the event.

DCYC Shirt Design

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