Beneath the glitter

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. … [Read more...]

Glimpses

I wanted to share a few images of recent work. I take pictures quickly, as I work. We are homeschooling my daughter now so time now feels more precious and recording my work with a DSLR sometimes feels like too much distraction. Time seems to be focused and I like that. I always paint faces first. Even if I put in washes for garments, it seems to me the prayer is easier when I have company. As soon as the eyes are completed, I feel the support and company lacking in solitary work sometimes. Perhaps that's why I don't feel lonely? May the Nativity Fast help us prepare for the birth of … [Read more...]

Daily joy: St Katherine of Alexandria

Just a post of joy: I suddenly looked at this icon today and felt huge, unbounded happiness that this is my vocation and I have found it when, God willing, I have time to enjoy it and keep improving. Many of my friends only discover iconography after retirement, when things like eyesight, arthritis and other physical problems can limit how long they paint for (although I add right now that I'm terribly short sighted and always paint without glasses!). Glory to God for all things, peace goodwill upon earth. … [Read more...]

When we have faces: St Katherine of Alexandria

Finally reached my favourite stage: meeting the Saint i am painting face to face. After a hiatus for school holidays, I had a whole day (!) to paint. As usual, life tries to intrude: chickens need feeding, cleaning, carpets need hoovering, washing piles up. All of it, apart from my feathered girls, has to wait. Sorry it's so blurred and fuzzy. I am nearly finished but a bit more balance is required. I hope, however, her face reflects that stillness & love that I hope to show in each icon. What do you think? … [Read more...]

Half Way: St Katherine of Alexandria

More than half way around the cycle of miniature icons: I adore this way of telling the stories of our saints. … [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...]

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...]