The Mixed Media Magic of Fernando Padilla, Jr.

Bringing creative visions to life has always come naturally to Fernando Padilla, Jr. (San Felipe, Navajo), who carved his first wooden animals in elementary school using his mother’s kitchen knives. By fifth and sixth grade, exposure to Navajo artwork began to influence his drawings, while architectural drafting in high school fostered a love for measurement and precision rendering.

In the decades since then, Padilla has established himself as a nationally renowned artist by winning first place in such shows as the 70th Intertribal Ceremonial (1987), the Dallas Indian Art Festival and Market (1994), and the Red Earth Festival (1995, 1997, 2000, and 2015). What’s perhaps most remarkable is that these awards ran the gamut of categories, from painting and pastels to mixed media and bronze. Padilla’s affinity for blending materials and stretching a concept from two dimensions to three sets him apart as an artist in today’s creative scene.

In anticipation of his appearance at Shumakolowa Native Arts on January 21, 2017, Padilla took the time to talk with us about how he brings his ideas to life for everyone to appreciate.


Thank you for taking the time to tell everyone a bit about what you do.

Thank you for the opportunity to share about myself and my art. I enjoy offering my perspective on the experiences, the knowledge, and the creative process of being an artist. It's more than just pretty pictures and witty clichés, it's a lifelong lifestyle of following my spirit and heart.

Of the many materials you use in your work, which do you find yourself devoting your time and energy to?

Acrylic paint is my preference for painting on canvas, watercolor papers, or panels. As for sculpture, I work in alabaster and marble, woods, stained glass, copper, leathers, and fabrics. My jewelry incorporates copper, silver, and gold wire with various gemstones.

What techniques or styles tend to define your creative process?

My painting is representational, which is a style that suits me since I can be as creative as the idea dictates. Add to that my three-dimensional applications and the result is something that most people haven’t seen before. A drybrush technique gives my paintings a “pastel” appearance to many observers.

As I create an idea, it may undergo several formats and mediums—drawing, painting, sculpture. I may follow an idea or image for several years through this progression, for instance, concepts of Corn Mother, Deer Dancer, Elk, Eagle Dancer, and Ancient Doors.

Do you have an overarching philosophy that inspires you as an artist? You mentioned following your spirit and heart; how would you describe your work’s spiritual aspect?

In 1995, I was on a hike seeking guidance from the creator when I discovered rock art at the San Felipe Pueblo reservation—a life-changing event for me. It was second nature recognizing the imagery and designs. I “read” the stories recorded on the etched boulders and was thrilled beyond words at my discovery, as I had never seen these before even though I had explored in that area as a teenager. It was the “sign” I needed about who I was, who I had been all my life, who I would be the rest of my life: an artist with a message of who we are as people, as humans, with the universal experiences of every generation of humankind.

Do you seek to incorporate particular aspects of your Pueblo or Navajo cultural heritage into your work? Or would you say you’re more interested in pursuing a distinctive personal style?

I don’t think pursuing a personal style for myself is as important to me as it was during my high school years. What I see now is my natural evolution and maturation as an artist. High-quality skills are of greater significance. It seems reasonable to invest the time necessary to create my personal best. My style flows on its own now; what has changed in my imagery comes from stepping out of the confines of the Native American genre, expanding my creative repertoire to reach new heights.

What type of work will you bring to the event at Shumakolowa Native Arts next week?

I plan to bring various examples of my artistic repertoire in paintings, drawings, and wire-wrapped jewelry. One large floor-standing three-dimensional art piece really illustrates my progression towards large-scale mixed media sculptures.

I’d liked to introduce myself, share some stories of how art impacted my life, and finish with my personal explanation of who I am as an artist through my “Whisper from the Mesa” piece.


Join Padilla for a special one-hour meet-and-greet and see his work for yourself alongside our wide array of authentic Native art and jewelry at Shumakolowa Native Arts.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017
1-2 pm

Shumakolowa Native Arts
2401 12th St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104


  • I regret I did not know about the January showing and would love to meet the artist the next time he comes to IPCC. I have volunteered at IPCC for six yrs, and very much enjoy the opportunities that are there to meet so many gifted artists and see their work.

    Rosalie Danielle Douglass
  • Thank You so much, this experience was worth waiting 40 years to share my progression as a living working artist.
    To see the reactions on people’s faces, to catch a glint of familiarity in their eyes as they related to the stories, to the human celebration of self awareness.
    My message was that art, in all its forms, draws our attention to the greatness within every person. That art is created with the intent to touch someone’s heart and soul, our response is to not miss the opportunity to enrich and empower ourselves with it.

    Fernando Padilla

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