This is the third in a three-part series interviewing Catholic female creators of sacred art.
When God places a desire on your heart, listen and respond. This is what Valerie Delgado has learned by being a Catholic creative. Delgado is an artist, youth minister, small business owner, Jesus lover and a dreamer from Houston, Texas. Her most important identity is living out her belovedness as a daughter of God. Her passion is creating Catholic art that is beautiful, relatable and leads to the Father. She wakes up each morning excited to see what will be created. Radiant had the opportunity to talk with Delgado about her journey as an artist, including the inspiration behind her most recent project: her Marian series.
Radiant: When did you discover your passion for creating art, and how did you work to develop this skill?
Valerie Delgado: I didn’t grow up thinking I was “creative.” It wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that I felt the urge to create something. So I went to my local Hobby Lobby store and bought paint, brushes, paper, canvases, etc., and I went home and painted my first piece.
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Leaning in to that spontaneous desire that the Lord placed on my heart changed my life! I practiced my technique every day by watching YouTube and Instagram videos. My favorite things to paint were florals and Scripture.
Radiant: What prompted you to create sacred art?
Delgado: My artwork has always been tied to my faith. I had spent years growing in my faith, training myself to keep Christ at the center of all things. So naturally, when I decided to open my first business (Grace Painted) in 2016, I made sure that my faith was at the center. Grace Painted was my first business “baby” where I would paint the covers of Bibles. The mission was to lead people to read their Bibles by drawing them in with a personally painted cover.
Over the next two years it grew so much. But with that came a lot of challenges. Painting Bibles became overwhelming. The focus shifted from “painting for the kingdom” to “painting to grow the business.” So in 2018 I decided to close shop permanently. It broke my heart, but I knew that if it wasn’t bringing me closer to Christ, then it wasn’t worth keeping around. I still had that deep calling and desire to create, so that is when I turned to my iPad and Apple pencil to get into graphic design, and that is where I am at now.
Radiant: What are your favorite mediums to use?
Delgado: Digital art. Sometimes acrylic or watercolors.
Radiant: What does your art process look like?
Delgado: I spend a lot of time in prayer (whether it’s at home, in my car, adoration, etc.), and usually an idea comes to mind. Then I do research on whatever it is I want to draw (stories of saints, body language, ethnicities, etc.), and I put together a little “mood board” of sorts with the colors, prints, cultures, etc., that I want to use. Then I get started. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries and adjustments before I feel a piece of artwork is finished.
What’s nice about digital art is that nothing goes to waste. I can create an idea over and over, and if my first try was still the best, it’s still there.
Radiant: Where does your inspiration come from?
Delgado: Most of my inspiration comes from my personal prayer, but occasionally it is also based off of the liturgical year. I also find inspiration from the conversations I have with people or from podcasts I’ve listened to.
Radiant: What artists or pieces of artwork have shaped your own style?
Delgado: I follow a lot of really amazing Catholic artists on Instagram that inspire me greatly! A few of them are Erica Campbell from @beaheartdesign, Jess from @thelivingheart.co, Joelye Davis from @joelyedavisart, Emma Boback from @zelieandlou, Marisol Calixto from @blessedcreative_, and Stephanie from @gratiadesignco.
Radiant: Who is one of your favorite saints and why?
Delgado: St. Teresa of Calcutta is by far my favorite. She not only did amazing things, but in her moments of deep desolation, she still chose to serve God with all that she had. That inspires me greatly.
Radiant: What inspired your new Marian series and the cultures represented?
Delgado: I’ve seen a lot of division in our Church lately, and it’s been hard to watch. The final straw was when I saw someone comment on an image of a dark-skinned Mary and they said, “Quit ‘blackwashing’ Mary and the saints.” I read that, and it was so infuriating! “Black-washing” isn’t a thing. But “white-washing” is. I’ve seen it done too many times in the Catholic art world. So I thought it would be cool and important to show the many faces and cultures that our Blessed Mother represents.
We have the Black Madonna from Poland, Our Lady of Guadalupe from Mexico, Our Lady of La Salette from France, and so many more! Our Mother has appeared all over the world (China, Vietnam, Brazil, Colombia, Rwanda, India, Spain, etc.), and it’s truly been a joy learning about the stories and cultures of the places she has appeared. (Not all of the images I draw are official apparitions approved by the Vatican, but that doesn’t mean the stories haven’t impacted the people in that specific city or country.) It’s important to remember that Mother Mary is truly a mother to us all, and it is sad that there are people that forget that.
Radiant: Have you been to any of these apparition sites?
Delgado: I have not yet. I am hoping to one day.
Radiant: Do you have a specific Marian devotion?
Delgado: Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of La Salette have been close to my heart lately. Blessed Mother, pray for us!
Photos courtesy Valerie Delgado.