Dear Fellow Iconographers:
Following up on the blog from last month where I included the links to Iconographer Aidan Hart’s articles about Icon writing: “Introduction to Principles of Icon Training, and Principles of Icon Training Part 2 , another link has been recently published on a Russian website called mmekourdukova, which I also include here: “The Icon: Truth and Fables” by Irina Gorbunova.
Aidan Hart’s excellent articles attempt to define important principles in the training of future Iconographers, and I suggest reading each of these in order to form your own opinions, and discuss in class the important aspects of each article to your own Icon writing. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and respect the calling of each person who has interest in Icons or creating Icons. In the Russian( or Ukranian) article there is an element of mocking and sarcasm that I find detrimental to the humble and prayerful attitude necessary for Icon writing. But please read, and add your own thoughts and comments.
These two recent articles are only relevant because there are more people today interested and wanting to write Icons than in the previous century. There can be many causes for that, but I like to think that as we explore our spirituality and gain a closer relationship to God, we need and want visual images that bring us fresh revelation of His love for mankind, his promises, His wisdom and faithfulness. As we regularly bring these qualities of holiness to mind in our daily lives, we can then integrate them and share them with others around us.
It is often said that Icons are “windows” into the heavenly world. When we look through those “windows” we see heaven, and are more able, as St. Paul advised ” to focus on whatever is good”. Truly a challenge in todays world.
The other attractive aspect of Icon writing to me is that of “passing on” to the next generation all that I can offer in terms of living the Gospel message through Icon writing. Investing in the younger generation is a goal worthy of Icon writing in my opinion. But how? How and what kind of an Icon be created that will draw them in? Good questions to ponder as we work on our Icons.
The recent Icon exhibition and pipe organ concert that I organized for the Albany, New York area at Westminster Presbyterian Church, was an experiment to see if contemporary New Yorkers would respond to Icons as art and vessels of God’s presence within the Byzantine context of worship with the five senses. A lot of this was new information to some of the people, but familiar to others. People came who simply wanted to see the Icons, and people came to hear composer and organist Al Fedak offer a phenomenal program of music played with a world class pipe organ.
I gave the introductory talk, introducing the concept of Byzantine worship, and Al Fedak explained the contemplative and meditative nature of the pieces he chose, and he also invited people to walk around, view and interact with the Icons. My students and I who created the Icons were available during intermission and at the reception following to answer questions and help people understand more about what they were viewing.
It was truly a memorable evening as we were lifted up and carried individually and collectively in worship on a Friday night in Albany amongst the community of saints! Icons on a mission!
Hope you all enjoy this beautiful summer, Happy Fourth of July!!
No Monday night Icon class on July 4!!
Please visit my website for information on upcoming Icon classes and retreats.
Here’s a link to my Art/Icon Facebook page
Hello Fellow Iconographers:
This month, on June 24 at 7PM, my advanced class of Icon writers and I will be sharing some of our newest Icons at a special organ concert by Al Fedak at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State Street, Albany. The concert is at 7PM and all are invited. Free will donations will be accepted.
I’m very excited about this opportunity to share our new work in the context of an amazing organ concert, and an added joy is the Icon Coloring Book the students are putting together for the concert and beyond. We are using our original Icon drawings and including a short description of that Icon. Coloring books are so popular these days for adults and children. It’s a great way to center your thoughts for a few minutes and come up with something creative. We are making the coloring book to be user friendly to all age groups and will be asking for a donation to help with printing costs. They will be amazing!
More local news: the Icon writing retreat at Holy Cross was really wonderful. Such a great group of people and a wonderful setting to learn and practice in. We were able to join in with the rhythm of daily prayer with the monks – heavenly!
Here’s a video Michael made for us of that retreat:
One last thing: there are two rather long but important articles that I would like to share with you all about the correct schooling of Iconographers. These links are to The Orthodox Art Journal blog:
For my part, the revelation I experienced when first exposed to Sacred icons was that they embodied the principles of good art. In my art school training, those principles were not presented, although other important ones were. I am interested in hearing what each of you think about the articles.
“We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road.
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load…
When we sing to God in heaven we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together, of Christ’s love and agony”
excerpted from Celtic Daily Prayer, Northumbrian Community.
Peace, love and prayers,
Dear Fellow Iconographers and Friends:
Last Chance for Introduction to Icon Writing Workshop at Holy Cross!
Mother’s Day weekend – May 6-8, at beautiful Holy Cross Monastery give yourself the gift of prayer and Icon writing! A lot is packed into a weekend course that is designed for those who are too busy for a full 5 day retreat. You will learn how to paint using egg tempera and experience the prayerful serenity of the monastery. Last chance to register: call the guesthouse at: 845-384-6660 ext. 3002
Here’s a short video Michael made of the Icon delivery:
So happy to have delivered the beautiful Icons to Graymoor Monastery for their Friary Chapel, exquisitely designed by award winning architect and sacred space planner, Richard S. Vosko. Once in place, the simplicity of the Icon design worked wonderfully well with the overall design, fitting on each side of the alcove reserved for the altar. The icons are of Father Paul Wattson, SA, and Mother Lurana White, SA, founders of Graymoor monastery in Garrison, NY. Working on the two, gessoed wood panels, eight feet by three feet each with gold leaf gilding, I experienced the spiritual challenge of praying, listening to God’s direction and understanding about these holy people. As time went on, I came to listen only to Handel’s Messiah while working and to always start the painting day with Fr. Paul’s Daily Prayer:
“Lord God, You have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding.
Pour into our hearts such love for You, that we, loving You in and above all things, may obtain Your promises which exceed all that we can desire.”
In TH White’s book, “The Once and Future King” , King Arthur commissions the Knights of the Roundtable to create a new world order- “Good over might”. Perhaps an International community of Iconographers will rise up to do the same in our contemporary world developing Icons that speak to the issues of our day.
Westminster Presbyterian Church Concert and Icon Exhibition June 24
St. Luke’s Guild of Iconographers will exhibit our Icons during a concert with nationally known composer and pipe organist Alfred Fedak at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Albany, NY, on Friday, June 24. Save the Date.
St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church Icon Exhibition Currently until June 1, I have ten Icons in an exhibition with Iconographer Ferris Cook at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, Woodstock, NY. Quite an interesting contemporary take on Icons- worth seeing on a Sunday or by Appt.
ADVANCED Icon Writing Class every Monday 6-9PM at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chestnut St. Entrance, Albany,NY. email to register: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers and Blessings, until next month,
“Modern” Icons what a concept! But in truth, that is what we are creating – Icons that are built upon the solid foundation of the past, but also informed with the spiritual transformative issues of our own time.
I also think that the Icon can be an agent of spiritual transformation, inducing restorative healing and re-integration regarding our relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. There are so many types and genres of Icons and each has a power to meet us half way taking us into closer union with God as we contemplate and enter into prayer.
I’d like to draw your attention to this article in the Orthodox Art Journal. It is an interview with highly educated Serbian Iconographer Todor Mitrovic, whose visual “style” is modern and interpretive. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Mitrovic:
“As with all great art, Medieval icons are full of sophisticated messages and we can speak with them every day, and (exactly because of this) it is almost an insult to treat such depth as a surface to be copied. Old icons are copied because we recognize their depth, but if there is the possibility to learn the language they speak (instead of transcribing visual text we do not understand) it is irresponsible not to explore such a possibility. Learning this language should be our starting point: only when we use this language in creative ways (and it’s similar to the way a poet uses it while writing hymnography) can our icons become actual theology in color.
So finally, my answer to the initial question is: we cannot escape being contemporary in icon painting, but it is up to us to decide how to use our contemporary position. Are we going to use it as an artistic/technological process to hide our spiritual confusion, or are we going to use it as a way of an active Christian being in the world?”
And: “I suggest a different option: If we want to do something evangelical with our Church art, then we need to learn the language of Medieval art and the language of contemporary art. We need to identify the achievements from the second and use them to inform the first. This is the only way the renovation of Medieval art can become the authentic pictorial language of the church, and not some archaeological or museum project, produced for experts or the elite and overlaid with the pious aroma of Medievalism.”
It is exciting that Iconographers around the world are grappling with the task of creating Holy and sacred Icons that speak to our modern times. I suggest you read the entire article, see the images, and also read the comments to get a grasp on the nature of this endeavor.
Here in Albany, the Saint Luke’s Guild of Iconography will be “spreading the joy of Icons” at Westminster Presbyterian Church on State Street, Albany for the May 6 First Friday Celebration, and also for Sat. June 4 at the First Presbyterian Church, Hudson, NY.
Our regular Monday evening Icon writing class will meet every Monday except April 18, from 6-9PM.
I’ll be leading an “Introduction to Icon Writing Retreat” at Holy Cross Monastery, May 6-8. Egg tempera and gold leaf gilding. Still time to register.
Be well, until next month, Blessings,
Christine Hales www.newchristianaicons.com
Dear Fellow Iconographers:
How do we meditate and contemplate God through the Icons? A good question now that at least more than half the world I live in here in upstate New York associates the word “meditation” with Eastern philosophy.
But Icons have a long history of being used in contemplation and meditation, and we specialize in bringing the valuable truths of the past into our present time. Mystical Eastern spirituality has as its aim for the Icons “to open the heart in contemplative prayer to the transforming vision of God’s Glory.” The Glenstal Book of Icons.
Carl Jung wrote extensively on the power of symbols on our unconscious minds. Symbolic imagery in Icons helps to bypass our intellect and send a message straight to our hearts. For example, I can’t see an image of Mary and the Christ child without immediately identifying with the the Christ Child, and sensing what it was like to be mothered by the gentle, sweet Mary, or identifying with Mary and deeply experiencing what it was like to hold Christ in her arms and nurture him so that he could flourish. Whenever I see that image I think of my newest painting or Icon and ask in prayer, how can I be Mary to my painting? How can I be the Christ child in Mary’s arms to my art work? Each time, in contemplation and meditation new facets and ideas come as a result. Ideas I would not have had otherwise.
“Through the symbolism of the icons, access is gained to the absolute otherness of God in the silent union of mystical prayer: one goes through the sense of sight to the one who is beyond all vision. The meditative work demanded in absorbing the imagery of the icons is essential if prayer is to reach such a state beyond ideas, images, and acts- beyond the work of the head. Only thus can the prayer we make with the body and the mind become a real “heart work”, a deep transforming union with God in love. The mystical traditions of Christianity, East and West, all teach that such prayer is the only source of inner peace and stability. It is the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, of which the Gospel speaks. Matthew 13:44-46″ The Glenstal Book of Icons, Gregory Collins, OSB
The Saint Luke’s Guild of Iconography will be sharing our newest Icons with outreaches to the community this spring and early summer. We will try to share the stories of each saint in our Icons as well as have dialogue with the public about prayer and meditation with the Icons. The first two venues are planned to be: Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, 1st Presbyterian church in Hudson. We plan to create a traveling exhibition so if your church would like to host one, and perhaps hear a lecture on Icons, let me know. “Never forget the joy of spreading Icons throughout the world”!
RECOMMENDED SOURCE FOR ICON MATERIALS:
Natural Pigments is an excellent source of tempera materials, gold leaf, anything you need to make Icons- they probably have. They also have a section called “articles” another page on their website that is full of useful materials information.
UPCOMNG ICON WRITING CLASSES:
Albany, New York Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chestnut St., Monday evenings 6-9PM. Class size is limited-email to ensure space.
Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY May 6-8 Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon, Introduction to Icon Writing.
Here is a video that my husband, Michael who most of you know, made recently about art and the Creator.. Hope you enjoy it!
Until next month, be blessed!
Icon Writing is experiencing a revival in the last twenty years. To learn Icon writing, one usually needs to study with a Russian or Greek Iconographer who usually gives one or two, 5 day workshops a year. Most of my Iconographer friends here in the USA have learned in this way and learning the culture of the Byzantine and Greek eras has provided a valuable perspective on our own times.
I think it is more ideal for an Iconographer to be able to teach consistently over several years on a regular basis, thereby helping individual students to progress in their individual painting skills and spiritual and historical understanding. The five day workshops are good, but a consistent practice and study with supervision is also needed.
For example, it was through learning Icon writing that I learned of a different pictorial and spiritual perspective from the one I had learned in art college. I was then able to examine the Renaissance perspective that has led to the present era of humanism and veneration of science over belief in God. It was very exciting to discover this through the language of pictures! And helpful in my painting too!
Now I realize that in addition to studying the plastic arts of picture making, it is also important to research and define what an “American School of Iconography” will look like. What are the unique and highly valued characteristics of Americans that we can bring to the field of visual language creation for the twenty-first century that makes our faith in God visible? Big question! I’m hoping to hear ideas from some of you as this is an ongoing exploration to clearly define what we as Americans bring to the field.
Certainly an ecumenisicm would be an important part of this, as well as a highly inventive and creative approach to image making. I think also, in addition to the traditional Liturgical role Icons have held in the Church, we are also looking to embrace an Evangelical approach, bringing and making accessible Icons to the unchurched by exhibiting them outside churches. So many people in our world need God’s Presence and they are just not ready to walk into a “church” to experience it. In this way, the Icons can be used to embrace the challenge of our time to grow our faith and bring it to our communities.
This is a process and I think an important step in it is to thoroughly understand Illuminated manuscripts, Psalters, and create a kind of summary of early medieval and Christian Iconography in this context.
The Advanced Icon Writing Class in Albany has spent all of last year with a focus on Color theory as it relates specifically to the Icons. Color theory and symbolism are also important parts of Icon writing and full of variations and developments through the evolution of practice over time. Different eras and cultures assign importance to colors and color mixing – or not mixing, and it’s important to understand the reasons, benefits, and drawbacks to each system.
This year I hope to teach more 5 day Icon Writing workshops which will be Introduction to Icon Writing classes, and also to continue with the advanced group and hold exhibitions of mine and their work throughout the year. Their work is quite exceptional and they are moving to an ever deeper understanding of what an Icon is, and where the power of prayer can be applied in the process.
Here is a list of Icon Writing Classes I will be teaching this spring – hope to see some of you there!
ALBANY- WESTMINISTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 362 Chestnut Street, Albany, NY Mondays 6-9PM email: email@example.com if you are planning to attend, space is limited. $35.00 per class (Minimum 5 classes)
Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY, Thursday Evenings 6-9PM, March 8- April 5. Member $175 plus $45 materials fee, Non member $195.00 plus $45 materials fee
Holy Cross Monastery, Introduction to Icon Writing, Friday 6-9pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sunday 1-5PM, May 6-8. Cost: $275.00 deposit $80.00
Note: The images above are from: 1. Early Anglo-Saxon manuscript illumination, 2. Christ in Majesty, illuminated manuscript, 3. Mary Magdalen announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles, St. Albans Psalter, 4.My Station One of the Fourteen Stations.
I frequently give talks on “What is an Icon”, to churches and interested groups. There is no fee, except for transportation expenses. I recently gave a talk at Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota Florida that was very well attended and received. The people there showed a marked interest in Icons. Their symbol is the Pelican – and they have a beautiful Icon above their altar of Christ the Redeemer.
I look forward to seeing each of you again sometime. Stay in touch and let me know how your Icons are doing!
All the Best, Christine
Christine Hales, Iconographer
My husband’s and my ministry blog: www.kingdomartsministry.com
As we prepare for the New Year, it is a time of hopes, dreams and prayers for a better world. One of the most important aspects of Icon writing for me is that of making intercessory prayer a part of my painting practice. Because joy is relational, the community of Iconographers is an important community building prayer fellowship where we encourage one another and work toward wholeness in our families and communities through painting, praying, and sharing with one another.
“Thou my best thought, in the day and the night…”
Lord, I think many things, I think many thoughts, let me not forget you, nor lose sight of You, even for a moment.
Thou my best thought.
Link to Orthodox Art Journal articles of interest:
In July of 2015 Christine received an exciting commission to write the Icons of the two founders of Graymoor- a Fransicscan Monastery in New York, Each Icon panel is 8’ x 3’, with the Icon figures being larger than life size!
Icon Writing Classes in New York
Albany Monday nights 6-9PM at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chestnut St. Albany : On Holiday until February 8, 2016
Arts Center of the Capital Region, Introduction to Icon Writing 5 Thursday evenings 6-9Pm March 8-April 5
Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY Introduction to Icon Writing May 6,7, & 8
Icon writing is a manifestation of God’s Spirit as well as the effect of cultural influences in a given era. As the interest in Icon writing continues to grow, this blog will be a place to share new Icons, talks and workshops in 2016.
Sending you all many blessings and best wishes for a blessed New Year.
Hello Fellow Iconographers:
Yesterday was the lighting of the first candle of Advent. Hope! And today the President is in France and Pope Francis is returning from Africa. So many things to pray about in addition to our more intimate family and friends as well as for our own intentions. You can see why life as an Iconographer is always a full one! Praying and painting, painting and praying.
The Albany Advanced Icon Writing Class will be focusing on drawing in the New Year. Beginning February 8, there will be some new suggested readings as well as exercises and teachings to deepen the understanding of how prayer and drawing of the Icon work together. We will use the Egon Sendler book “The Icon, Image of the Invisible” for 2016, exploring the chapters on inverse perspective and geometric structures with an understanding of how these relate to contemporary Icons.
The three worlds of theology, art making, and science come together in the creation of an Icon to give it it’s transcendent quality. These three spheres of creativity open up the viewer to a new way of seeing things, through faith and contemplation. Understanding the role these elements play in the creation of an Icon is increased through prayer, fasting, and practice.
Many of the Icon students in the Albany class are deeply involved in faith communities and social justice. It is an ecumenical group with Methodist Ministers, Episcopalians, Independent Catholic priests, and regular Holy folk who are able through love and fellowship to discuss a variety of theological and social justice issues in a mutually supportive way.
Some of us are reading Walter Wink’s “The Powers That Be“, Theology for a New Millennium. Wink talks about how Jesus broke the spiral of violence through His death and resurrection and showed us a new way of living through non-violence. “Nonviolence leads not just to a new politics and a new society, however;it also involves the very personal task of forgiving our enemies.” Paraphrasing, Wink states that Jesus’ teachings of non violence and love of enemies will hold a central place in the re-forming of American culture. “Not because they are more true than any others, but because they are crucial in the struggle to overcome domination without creating new forms of domination.”
Back to Egon Sendler’s reminders that the creation of an Icon is threefold- theology, art, and science. How to create an Icon that functions with the power and faith that Icons did in the Byzantine era? Pray for us! God will help us, because our century needs them too!
Here is a link to Natural Pigments – a good source for Iconography supplies of all kinds. This link is actually to a page that George O’Hanlon produces which has excellent technical information on painting practices.
UPCOMING CLASSES: Holy Cross Monastery, May6,7&8 Introduction To Icon Writing
Arts Center of the Capital Region March 3-31, Thursday Evenings 6-9PM
May God bless you and keep you save and in His Love all through the Christmas season!
Hello Fellow Iconographers:
Fall has been warmish here in the Hudson valley, with the result that color on the trees has stayed with us a good long while. If it didn’t signal winter, I would love it🙂.
The Introduction to Icon Writing Retreat at Saint James Church on Madison ave in NYC was a joy – such great people, eager to learn more. I hope we all meet again soon. Don’t forget to practice drawing and tracing the Icons before the Renaissance period. Your skills will improve dramatically by our next class if you do!
The weekly Icon Writing class in Albany now meets at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State Street, Albany. The class meets Mondays, 6-9PM. Email if you’d like to attend. For most of 2015 we have been working from Aidan Hart’s book “Techniques of Icon and Wall painting”. We have also been working a lot on color theory, particularly theory from the early Greeks as well s the Old masters as it pertains to Iconography. For 2016 we will focus on drawing, with an emphasis on regular drawing practice and learning more concretely the principles of sacred geometry and inverse perspective. Most of the people in the class are advanced and are working on their own Icons all the while learning to apply these ancient concepts in greater detail as they go along. It’s a stimulating and interesting class. We also pray at two regular intervals as well as privately while working. Such a joy to be in that atmosphere!
The St. Luke’s Guild of Iconographers (that class is included in the Guild) has applied for an exhibition at Siena College, and is working on a traveling exhibition of our Icons for 2016. We believe in “the joy of spreading Icons throughout the world”!
Here are some useful links for new Iconographers:
Recommended Icon books visit my website for a list.
A short video showing the steps of writing an icon that I found on youtube.
Please keep us in your prayers, as you are in ours,