The Feast of the Annunciation: my soul doth magnify The Lord

Today we celebrate the Annunciation or ευανγελισμος - 'Evangelismos' of the Most Holy Lady, The Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary. This is one of my favourite icons: the Theotokos is peaceful, attentive & agrees readily to God's Holy Will. Let us be the same! … [Read more...]

Sunday of Orthodoxy (1st Sunday in Lent)

As I can't be at church this morning to celebrate, I thought I would share this with you. Sunday of Orthodoxy - or why icons aren't an added extra. … [Read more...]

St Katherine: a life. Day 3 & 4.

I am getting used to the new scale. I'm astonished at how long it takes, how much expression can be captured in a tiny face. It is the first time I had to paint a Saint being tortured. I deliberately chose not to show pain because what I'm doing isn't illustration, or art. It's iconography, it's hagiography, it's theology. To show pain would be a distraction. The Saint is in a situation of great distress but she is shown being serene and not struggling. The top row of icons are complete: I tried a panorama picture, to give you a sense of how it sits together but it can't be displayed … [Read more...]

St Katherine: a life 2

Day 2: Saint Katherine is ordered to worship idols. I'm not convinced this scene is quite finished yet but my eyes were broken so I had to stop. Tomorrow I will try using the 'loup' or magnifying glasses my dad has let me (very carefully) borrow. Again, trying to get an expression into faces this size has been quite a challenge but at least I knew what to expect! I rather like the sorrowful soldier & outraged courtier - he looked rather too sweet for a while but we have sorted that! … [Read more...]

Saint Katherine: a life.

The first of the miniature icons on the life of Saint Katherine: she is blessed with the vision of an Angel. I can hear myself thinking 'that's a bit below par... I wouldn't be sharing that picture' and then I remembered. It's this size: And I don't feel so bad. The technique for painting this small is necessarily different & has fewer steps than painting full size. In fact, I've used the proplasmos technique for the first time in ages. These are just too small... Or are they? I might, maybe, try the membrane technique on one or two, as an experiment. But not today or tomorrow. … [Read more...]

What’s in a (paint) name?

Today I picked up a jar and was struck by the name of the colour inside: Caput Mortuum Dead head, I think, is a close translation. Indeed, Wikipedia confirms it. Lets just say I'm glad it's one of the few synthetic pigments I use. … [Read more...]

St Katherine the Great Martyr

Today I begin the final stage - the painting - of this amazing icon. Not only am I (and my daughter!) named for her, so too is a dear friend recently delivered from cancer. This icon is a gift of thanksgiving for her life and health. You can see here how after gilding, I have removed the excess gold and cleaned the gesso ready for painting. I have a mad idea that I would love to have it ready for the Sunday of Orthodoxy... In two weeks time! I will let you all know how it goes. In the meantime, enjoy the last week before the fast & pray for me. … [Read more...]

Let your Everlasting Light Shine: The Transfiguration or Metamorphosis of Christ

I have just finished a very large icon: it is a 20 x 25 inches and painting without an easel has been an exercise in patience and ingenuity. However, since the Transfiguration is a particularly beloved Feast, I count each day I had the chance to work on it as a blessing. What I wanted to talk about briefly here is the difference in portrayal of light. A quick google image search of 'Transfiguration' tends to show Romantic paintings of Christ floating in a cloud of white robes and gazing down at the Disciples. There is a great sense of movement, disturbance. In stark contrast, although the … [Read more...]

Icon of Christ (Philanthropos) of Sinai

This is a sneak preview: I hope to blog this icon from beginning to end this week, now that it is completed and about to go to its new home. Here is a link to the article that explains the technical side of things & why it is called 'Philanthropos' (Lover of Mankind) not 'Pantocrator'. Lord have mercy. … [Read more...]


I have just started another icon of St Katherine, based on the icon from Mt Siniai. This is much earlier than the more famous one & will have scenes of her life & martyrdom around a standing figure of the Saint. So far I've spent four days getting the board ready to gild, from drawing, sanding, applying bole & then tidying up and polishing the final layers of clay, which cushion the gold leaf & keep it stick on the board. I can't wait to get started painting next week! Tomorrow I will post photographs of my latest completed commission & am planning a post on why icons … [Read more...]

An icon from start to finish.

This little icon has taken many months. Not because it takes many months but, for many reasons, I kept liking the stage we were at & leaving things be for a while. Having finally completed the enormous icon of the Transfiguration - more on that later! - I wanted to complete this so I have, as it were, a clean slate. This icon is based on the extremely old Theotokos of Philermos, but after a 16th century example. I saw it on the cover of a book by Egon Sendler and was transfixed. I have only experienced that feeling a few times and never before from a computer monitor rendering of an … [Read more...]

A Two Palette Day

After days of glueing, sanding, gilding & drawing, finally a few consecutive hours to paint. I like a degree of order to my table, although it rarely lasts too long. Brushes are picked up, washed out, marks made on paper, drips fall. Dusk falls too soon, although now after 5pm. I adore daylight. After singing and praying and painting and being lost, suddenly I'm not alone. (Still a long way to go...) … [Read more...]

Beneath the gilding: what happens to a board.

Today I began preparing two new boards: well, these are boards that had 'issues' so this is their second chance! They had already been coated with two layers of hot rabbit skin glue or size which is without a doubt the best adhesive for an icon. After making up a batch of size (27g granules:400g water (1:15) left to soak for several hours then heated), I soak the linen scrim in the pan for ten to fifteen minutes. You can see how soft this is: I buy pre washed & hemmed window cleaners scrim, which is lovely and drapey. In it goes. Once the fibres have softened & expanded with the … [Read more...]

Modern Tools for an Ancient Job

Given how similar icons are to some very ancient paintings (I'm thinking of the Faiyum portraits here), modern iconographers need to use some very modern tools to get in touch with their community. Of course, websites, blogs, facebook, even twitter are all helpful but since I work with images rather than text, I need to be able to show my work in a way that does it justice and allows people to see exactly what is going on. As you can see from previous posts, I document each stage of my work. Not only does it give me a record of what is happening, it often allows me to view it 'at one remove' … [Read more...]