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Drawn to tradition: Artist ‘excited’ to show retablos in Winter Spanish Market

A Sacred Heart retablo by Kevin Urban. (Courtesy of Kevin Urban)

Growing up in Santa Fe, Kevin Urban used to hit the Santa Fe Plaza with his family in the summer and attend Spanish Market.

It was an atmosphere that spoke to him.

Fast-forward a few decades, and Urban is part of that world.

In July, Urban’s dream came true as he juried into Spanish Market for the first time.

He will be one of the many artists participating in Winter Spanish Market, on Saturday, Dec. 7 and Sunday, Dec. 8, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center..

The event, put on by the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, features the authentic 400-year-old traditions and innovative Spanish Colonial-style artwork, made by New Mexico artists.

There will be art, local music, food, demonstrations and more during the small event, during which visitors will be able to talk with the artists and learn about the traditions and stories behind each piece.

Albuquerque-based artist Kevin Urban.

“This is only my second event,” he says. “I’m excited to show people my work.”

Urban works primarily with retablos – a painting or other image above and behind an altar.

“I work with locally sourced wood and natural pigments,” he says. “Using pigments derived from the earth is important. I also use standard commercial watercolors.”

Urban, a tattoo artist, spends the majority of his days as the owner of Por Vida Tattoo.

“I started doing the retablo aspect for a couple of years,” he says. “There was a lot of trial and error. I’ve got down my own style.”

Urban is drawn to the stories behind the saints that he paints.

A retablo created by Kevin Urban. (Courtesy of Kevin Urban)

“I love to read and learn about these stories,” he says. “Sometimes it’s those hidden things that you can incorporate into the meaning.”

Urban is constantly working to find balance between his two passions.

“I create retablos in my free time,” he says. “After a full day of tattooing, I do about six hours of work.”

One piece Urban is looking forward to making is a Santo Niño de Atocha holding St. Joseph’s hand.

“Hopefully, it will come together,” he says. “I never set limits and I’m so obsessed with arts, that the more I can create, the better I get. I am my own worst critic and can find something wrong in each piece. But I have to let it go and make it the best that I can.”

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