On our spiritual fathers and mothers

One thing that often sounds 'different' to Christians from some other traditions is the Orthodox practice of having a 'spiritual father' or indeed mother. This is a long-standing small-t tradition in Orthodoxy and part of it stems from our close connection to the monastic life. I found out very quickly that it was common for laity to visit monasteries (we use the same word for both male and female religious houses) regularly, particularly during or soon after Lent. This is tricky for those of us in Britain at the moment - not forever, I hope - as the main monastery is the Monastery of St John … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: an icon & iconographer in progress.

One of the questions I've been asked in the last couple of weeks is: "wait, you're going on a course/retreat? aren't you able to, you know, just paint an icon already?"There are two answers and the short one is "Yes I am and yes I can" but that wouldn't really explain what I'm doing or be worth sharing with you.The second answer is Yes: My journey and ongoing growth as an iconographer means that I will never stop learning, changing, developing, praying for the life that means the icons are not simply copies or reproductions of images. Yes: I can paint icons already! No matter what saint a … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: on Holy Icons 4

Saint John repeatedly asks us to think carefully about the difference between worship of God and the honour we pass to the icons bearing His image or those of His saints. Just as we might feel warmth or love looking at a garment - a scarf perhaps - of our loved one, we do not in any way love that actual garment but that it represents to us. EVERY one must recognise that a man who attempts to dishonour an image which has been set up for the glory and remembrance of Christ, of His holy Mother, or one of his saints, is an enemy of Christ, of His holy Mother, and the saints. It is also set up to … [Read more...]

St John of Damascus: on Holy Images 3

Why should we permit icons of the saints? One of the arguments is laid out for us to think about here: "We depict Christ as our King and Lord, and do not deprive Him of His army. The saints constitute the Lord's army. Let the earthly king dismiss his army before he gives up his King and Lord. Let him put off the purple before he takes honour away from his most valiant men who have conquered their passions. For if the saints are heirs of God, and co-heirs of Christ, (Rom. 8.17) they will be also partakers of the divine glory of sovereignty. If the friends of God have had a part in the … [Read more...]

St Kentigern of Glasgow & growing

I recently completed my icon of St Kentigern (Mungo) of Glasgow and will be sharing a much better photograph of him soon - this is a snap on an overcast day using my phone (as most of us do these days!). He is the second of my 'Native' Saints for this year - mostly painted in March, so I am not too far behind. I aim to complete the icon of his mother St Theneva (Theneu) and St Constantine of Strathclyde before Pascha at the end of April, and so four saints in approximately four months so far this year, along with a few commissions has been keeping me too busy to prepare the baptism … [Read more...]

Abbey Summer School 2016: an Icon workshop

After loving my time presenting “the Ninth Hour Prayers: Prayer in the Orthodox Tradition” last year, I am honoured and so happy to be going back this year doing some *painting* – I will lead a short workshop on a small icon on glass. You get to take something home with you, as well as listen to me talking you through the meaning of the features of the icon and their use in Orthodox prayer and interpretation in our understanding of personhood/Transfiguration. I am so excited to meet this year’s participants. http://abbeysummerschool.com/home/abbey-2016/workshops/ … [Read more...]

Almost there.

It may be the first week in February but because of an urgent last minute commission, I am about to finish St Columba this week and begin St Kentigern - rest assured that the next newsletter will be out later in the week and photos will follow very soon. In the meantime, I am plotting to get started on periscope - it's an app that allows me to talk live! directly! to you! OR would youtube be better, for those without phones within reach? Do let me know what you'd like to hear about, if you have questions or just want to watch some techniques.  … [Read more...]

A New Icon: Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

This year I've been blessed with some unique commissions from outside the Orthodox Church - I love the opportunity to talk with Christians from other denominations and share our understanding of icons and the Gospel. One of these is the new icon of "Christ and the Rich Young Ruler" for the Dean of St John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, the very Rev. Charles LaFond. Most icons are commissioned, discussed and then go onto my waiting list. This one would have to be different and would have to jump the queue to be completed in time. Normally I would have said no straight away, but something … [Read more...]

Transfiguration: metamorphosis and change

  Wishing you all a joyous Feast of the Transfiguration, albeit one day late. This year I have kept the blog in hibernation for a few reasons, not least that any time I have outside of teaching and homekeeping has been used preparing icons. However, we have made the decision to send our daughter to a local school that we believe will fit her needs better than staying home, at least for the moment. Being an only child can be lonely, especially if your mother tends to be rather solitary! So next week we begin the adventure of school and I have been given a space above our church to … [Read more...]

Completion.

As the secular year winds down, I find myself being caught up in the rush of making, baking, planning etc that seems obligatory these days. The chance to spend many hours painting and praying gives me respite and allows me to breathe: literally. I have now completed the last icon of this year, although I'm already drawing the next one and planning what supplies I need for the two after that. Next year, I will not be taking any last minute commissions to slot into my list I'm afraid. It's simply too stressful for me and my family. However, I still have some room, given my current work rate, … [Read more...]