One of the big changes painters taught in the western tradition have to make is not looking at icons as a progression from light to dark, or top to bottom.
I don’t adhere strictly to the idea that we must begin with the darkest layer or proplasmos (which too often becomes a thick and impenetrable blanket of pigment) but I have learned to look past the highlights. It’s tricky because our eyes are drawn to the light, the sparkles, the glitter, in all parts of our life.
As an iconographer, we have to gaze past that and find the foundations, the simpler, solid tones our forms are built on.
Now I’m about to spend many hours adding fine lines of gold – assiste – and the chances are it will be the first thing people notice. If it was simply decorative, I would often ignore it. However, the assiste lines transform what could become sentimental & naturalistic into an icon depicting matter itself transformed by the Light, that which the Magi followed and whose coming we prepare to celebrate. Let us not lose sight of the foundations of our faith & the importance of this festival, in spite of the glitter and tinsel.