Art of the Faithful

Pueblo clergy holding benefit art show to benefit Catholic youth

BY MIKE SPENCE | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. JUN 2, 2017

Courtesy Photo / The Rev. Tomas Carvajal BastoCourtesy Photo / The Rev. Tomas Carvajal BastoFor nearly as long as he can remember, the Rev. Tomas Carvajal-Basto has had the urge to draw.

As a boy, he would pick up charcoal from the ovens at his parents' bakery in Mexico and draw on the walls.

"All the walls had portraits. My grandfather encouraged me to decorate the oven," Carvajal said.

Carvajal would create his own books, replete with colored drawings. He drew a portrait of his father when he was 7.

Carvajal's specialty is portraits. He's drawn Pope Francis and Pueblo Diocese Bishop Stephen Berg. He has done several portraits of Christ.

Perhaps the biggest compliment Carvajal received was given to him by a friend. Carvajal had drawn a portrait of the man. When he visited the family home, the portrait was framed and displayed prominently in the living room.

Carvajal is just one of several individuals in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pueblo who take time to express themselves through art. Five will be feted Friday and June 10 when the "4 Priests and A Bishop" benefit art show is held at the church where Carvajal is priest, Holy Family Parish, 2827 Lakeview Ave.

In addition to Carvajal, the individuals involved are retired Bishop Arthur Tafoya, the Rev. Joseph Vigil, the Rev. Martin Frias, and the Rev. Kevin Novack.

All have donated art to be sold at the show. The proceeds will benefit the parish youth who are attending the National Catholic Youth Conference, set for Nov. 16-18 in Indianapolis.

Show hours are 5-8 p.m. Friday and 5:30-8 p.m. June 10. Admission is free; wine and Italian cookies will be served.

Unique style

Carvajal's preferred medium is pencil, although he also produces works in oil paint and wood burning.

"You have the hard pencil and the soft pencil," Carvajal said. "With the soft pencil, the end result is a darker, less-refined technique. Hard pencil is for soft traces."

The key to Carvajal's technique is that every stroke of the pencil is done in the same direction: from right to left and down.

"That's how you get the proper effect," Carvajal said.

The result is portraits so finely executed they almost look like photographs.

Carvajal has done portraits to help raise money for his church. He also draws to relax. His studio is in the church rectory.

"Every line I trace relieves my stress," Carvajal said.

Bishop Tafoya

During his 29 years as spiritual leader of the Diocese of Pueblo, Tafoya collected 62 santos, retablos, bustos and reredos -- many of them museum-quality pieces and all of them of high sentimental value.

He eventually donated the collection to the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center, where he knew they would be cared for and available for display in Pueblo.

It was after he realized his appreciation of the art that Tafoya decided to try painting himself.

"I didn't know anything about it, but I thought maybe I could learn," he told The Pueblo Chieftain in a 2011 story.

So he went to Hobby Lobby, bought some brushes and acrylic paints, and gave it a try.

The more he tried, the more he liked it.

"When you paint, it's really a kind of prayer because you're learning about that saint -- how they lived, how they came close to God -- and it becomes a form of prayer all its own."

Father Vigil

Courtesy Photo / The Rev. Tomas Carvajal BastoCourtesy Photo / The Rev. Tomas Carvajal BastoTafoya's decision to give painting a try emerged from his love of religious artifacts.

It is not an understatement to say that the Rev. Joseph Vigil is kinetics defined.

His busy days are full and are dedicated to serving St. Joseph's Catholic Church, where he is the priest, and his parishioners.

Vigil's enthusiasm is contagious. His energy level is impressive and is reflected in the enthusiasm of the people who attend St. Joseph's.

Yet, there are moments when Vigil sits, relaxes and reflects on his life, his church and his God.

Usually, those moments of reflection are done with pen and ink in hand, with Vigil creating a work of religious art in his own personal style.

Vigil draws in black and white, with occasional splashes of red.

"I do black ink on a white background," Vigil said. "Sometimes I use red ink and black."

Nearly all of his works deal with religious themes.

"I'm looking at different things, the crucifix, Christ, characters of the Old Testament," Vigil said. "They represent symbolism within Catholicism."

Father Frias

Frias, priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, discovered his artistic talent while taking a course in oil painting for one year from a private teacher in San Luis, Mexico.

Frias enjoys his time at the easel.

"Painting is peaceful, prayerful and brings joy and peace," he said. "I feel the spirituality of the soul. It helps me to refocus on work and ministry."

Frias will display four paintings. They are of different medium: acrylic, oil and watercolor.

Father Novack

Novack, pastor of St. Columba Catholic Church in Durango, is probably the most accomplished artist of the group.

He studied painting, drawing and lithography at the University of Colorado in Boulder and completed a master's of fine arts degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga.

Novack has done design work for churches, as well as book and cover illustrations. His painting today -- largely in oil and watercolor -- is geometric and abstract with elements of the natural world.

Novack has hosted many art shows in numerous states. His latest art show was in Durango at Sorrel Sky Gallery. His paintings are on display in Germany, Italy and the United States.

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