Meditation and Contemplation

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.

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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.Top Met Paintings Before 1860 04 Duccio di Buoninsegna Madonna and Child

“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    IMG_1580

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!

Christine

Icon Writing Instruction

Dear Friends and Fellow Iconographers:  400px-CodexAureusCanterburyFolios9v10r

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.Unknown

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.Wga_12c_illuminated_manuscripts_Mary_Magdalen_announcing_the_resurrection

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.

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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: christine@newchristianicons.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.  IMG_1266

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.IMG_1269

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

www.newchristianicons.com

www.christinehales.com

My husband’s and my ministry blog:     www.kingdomartsministry.com