All Saints Day

All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day, the Feast of All Saints, the Feast of All Hallows, the Solemnity of All Saints, and Hallowmas, is a Christian solemnity celebrated in honor of all the saints of the church, whether they are known or unknown, and is celebrated in the Western Church on November 1.

The Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), the living (the “Church militant”, and the “Church penitent” which includes the faithful departed. In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. In Methodist theology, All Saints Day revolves around “giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints”, including those who are “famous or obscure”. As such, individuals throughout the Church Universal are honoured, such as Paul the Apostle, Augustine of Hippo and John Wesley, in addition to individuals who have personally led one to faith in Jesus, such as one’s grandmother or friend.

The Saints Inspire Us

“Paying homage to religious heroes and heroines is nothing new.  The veneration of and supplication to sacred ancestors exist in almost every culture, in every hemisphere.” Richard Vosko; Faith & Forum

According to the catechism of the Catholic Church “What is the Church if not the Communion of the Saints.”

Early Church Fathers

The Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), the living (the “Church militant”, and the “Church penitent” which includes the faithful departed. In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. In Methodist theology, All Saints Day revolves around “giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints”, including those who are “famous or obscure”. As such, individuals throughout the Church Universal are honoured, such as Paul the Apostle, Augustine of Hippo and John Wesley, in addition to individuals who have personally led one to faith in Jesus, such as one’s grandmother or friend.

An early Serbian Christian saint, Saint Sava, is a good example of a humble yet powerful saint during his own lifetime as well as centuries after his death, who inspired and led many people to faith in God.

Saint Sava (1173-1236)

Well loved Serbian saint, dedicated his life to his people and his church, His life was shaped by prayer and concern for others, he modeled the characteristics of being meek yet strong, a man of great compassion and great leadership skills.  His importance extends far beyond his own lifetime, and  Christians and Muslims alike venerated him and attributed miraculous power to him. Through his efforts, they emerged as a spiritually unified entity.

Even though he lived in violent times, he refused to endorse the persecution of heretics and unbelievers. He powerfully influenced his church to use peaceful means against its opponents.

St Sava is known for deep meditation as well as action. His tomb in Milesevo became the source of grace, health, and consolation for all Serbian generations to come.

At the end of St. Sava’s life, disappointed with the struggle within the ruling body of the young Serbian Kingdom, Sava withdrew to his House of Silence in Studenica and offered a prayer to God, “ to let him die in a foreign country.” This was in protest against political disorder at home, his appeal to the conscience of his people, and his conviction that he would work for their salvation from outside.” 

“St Sava heard mysterious voices  commanding him to build something for his people that can serve as a harbor of salvation. And thus he started the renovation of Hilandar Monastery at Mt. Athos in Greece. A biography, “The Life of Saint Sava”, by Nicholai Velimirovich, is an excellent source of more history and stories of the miracles he performed and experienced.

Here is a quote from that book that aptly applies to our study of saints:

“Innumerable saints remain unknown to men and are known to God alone. Christ’s heavenly Kingdom would be pitifully small if it consisted only of those saints whose names are recorded in our calendar. God does not reveal to the world all the saints, and only a very few according to the religious need of a time or a nation. Through the miracles of those few revealed saints, God seeks to revive, strengthen or justify the faith of men of different countries or places.”

So let us, as we write the icons of Holy saints, remember to choose well the models and patterns that will help to heal and inspire the people of our time.

May God bless and inspire you as you paint His holy Icons.

Until next month,

Christine Simoneau Hales, Christinehales.com

Founder, American Association of Iconographers

Gold Leaf Gilding

Icon in progress with Kolner Method

Greetings Friends and Fellow Iconographers:

I’ve been studying and painting Icons for almost thirty years! Since I first began, the field of iconography has changed so much! There are so many more books on the subject, both “how to”, books about the history of icons, and how to pray with them. This is great news for all of us, I’m sure.

New Gilding Materials

At the same time, many, many, new products used for icon writing have come on the market. I invite any of my readers who has experience with these new products to please write about it so it can be shared and published here. Only in this way of sharing our experience can we hope to add the best quality to our icons and I know that we all want to bless the Lord with our most excellent work.

With this in mind, I’m currently preparing to teach an online icon writing class that, in addition to teaching how to paint an icon using egg tempera, will focus on how to gild using the Kolner Instacoll Gilding System. Many iconographers love this method because of its relative ease in application but particularly for its very shiny surface when it’s finished. I have experimented extensively with it and am happy to share some of the technical information I have observed.

Different Methods of Application

Shellac

First, applying one or two coats of shellac to the area to be gilded is most beneficial. The natural gesso is a porous surface, and even for other gilding methods, it is suggested to coat the surface with shellac thinned with denatured alcohol. I used a mixture that is 1 part blonde shellac flakes to 4 parts denatured alcohol. (This mixture can be stored in a cool dry place for several weeks only, so only mix the amount you think you will need.) You will find technical articles about this on the web- here is one.

Kölner Instacoll System

Next, I applied the Kolner Instacoll System BASE in two thinned layers. I thinned it a little with a drop or two of distilled water. This needs to dry completely- 1-3 hours between coats. It’s really important to avoid making brushstrokes if you want a very smooth gold surface. (You can clean your brushes with soap and water). The first coat must be completely dry before applying the second coat.

Next, I applied the Kolner Instacoll System ACTIVATOR. You can use a brush or a soft cloth to apply this to the base when it’s dry. You want a thin, even film over the base and it needs to dry before applying the gold leaf.

You can use either patent gold or loose gold with this system. I used patent gold leaf and a cotton ball to firmly push the gold leaf onto the surface. This takes some practice. Overlapping the gold leaf when applying it helps to give a smooth seamless look to the finished gold. After the whole surface to be gilded is covered, press down firmly again all the gold, using cotton balls- never touching the surface with your fingers.

Icon in Progress with Burnished Kolner Gold Application

Now for some gratification! When it’s all applied and pushed firmly into the surface, take a cotton ball or soft cloth and burnish gently to remove all the loose gold bits. As you do so, the most beautiful gold leaf shine appears !

As a note, I also experimented with the Kolner KGGG System FOND and Colnasize, but I prefer the above method as it is slightly easier and doesn’t require sanding.

Of course there are many other methods of gilding for icons- the oil method with different application and drying times, the water gilding method and The Dux water based size method. With experience, each of us arrives at our preferred method of gold leaf application. I hope this article has been helpful. Feel free to register for my online class in October to see this demonstrated!

INTERESTING LINKS:

This is a very good and short (7 1/2 minutes) talk on “Why Icons Look The Way They Do” by Archimandrite Maximos Constas, interviewed by Fr. Josiah Trenham.

THAT’S ALL FOR THIS MONTH. Be blessed and bless others,

Christine

ChristineHales.com Christine’s Icon Prints New Christian Icons

Christian History

Hello Fellow Iconographers:

Have you ever thought about what Christian History looks like in the visual image? I know that I tend to keep to a narrow view of the history of the development of icons and see the history of the Christian church in that perspective.  So, it was with great interest that I read this month’s Christian History Magazine which focuses on portraying Christian History in Images.

This month’s Christian History Magazine- fold out

While the magazine does include icons, it also includes sculptures, paintings, and photographs of manuscripts.  The issue will also use, for example, a twentieth century artwork to illustrate a saint or holy event that took place in the fourth century.  This I found confusing, at first.  On second consideration, however, I could understand that this viewpoint helped me to question and think about icons and their relationship to the development of Christian Art through the centuries.

Again, most of the images are not icons, but they do provide interesting examples of Christian history that could be translated into icons, thus providing a fresh source for possible new icons for iconographers today.  And illustrating the history of Christianity in icons is even more important today than it was centuries ago.  

10th century Ivory relief

Bill and Michelle Curtis reflect on the writings of the founder of the magazine, A. Kenneth Curtis by sharing that, “church history teaches us to expect God to work over centuries, rather than to think that we see God’s whole plan in an individual lifetime. He noted how church history confirms what Scripture makes clear: the last shall be first; God works through our weakness; and in the people and eras that seem vulnerable, humble, or weak, God is often at work in ways we don’t expect.”

Apostle Peter Investing Bishop Petros with Episcopal Authority, mid 11th century.

“An awareness of Christian history is one of the most neglected but necessary ingredients in the spiritual diet of Christians today…The Scriptures continually call us to remember God’s work in ages past and this must now include also include the working of our Lord through the centuries since the Scriptures were completed.” Ken Curtis

Beyond the portrayal of a holy individual, isn’t this the idea we seek to convey in iconography?  The working of God in the affairs of humankind?  Some of the older Russian icons do depict battle scenes with warriors carrying high an icon into battle, confident that God will bring the victory.   

St. Athanasius 16th century icon

This issue of Christian History is a visual tour through two millennia of church history.  Starting with the early church, the chapters include the early Middle Ages, the high and late Middle Ages, and the Reformation up until the present time.  There is also a beautiful color fold out of the Christian story through the ages.  

One final quote from Ken Curtis:  “ I believed then, and believe now, that it is difficult to get where Jesus wants us to go without knowing where he has already led us.” To purchase this magazine click here.

And modern icons can be an important source of reflection and understanding for all Christians in the centuries to come when we take the time to study the principles of iconography and apply them to appropriate subject matter for today’s Christians.

Christine Simoneau Hales, editor, founder, American Association of Iconographers

USEFUL LINKS FOR ICONOGRAPHERS:

EARTH PIGMENTS  has a series of articles about egg tempera, mica powders, and more. Their pigments tend to be very affordable.

NATURAL PIGMENTS also has an extensive online library of articles on how to use materials and products related to egg tempera and more.  They tend to have everything iconographers need.  

ICON BOARDS BLATURI is an excellent source for gessoed icon boards- do leave plenty of time for delivery. They are reachable on Facebook.

That’s all for this month, enjoy the last of the summer, and may God bless the inspiration of your minds and the work of your hands,

Amen.

Newchristianicons.com     My next online Icon class is October 25-28, 2022- open to all.

Christine Simoneau Hales

Virtual Icon Gallery Exhibition

Greetings Friends and Iconographers:

This month I am presenting some writings and images from a beautiful exhibition of Eastern European icons dating from the nineteenth to sixteenth centuries that is hosted by a non-profit gallery of icons located in Žilina (Slovakia). The Gallery of Icons (OZ IKONY) in Žilina is found at: https://ikony.hour.sk/en/

Christ Pantocrator, Albania, seventeenth century, Courtesy, OZ IKONY

Gallery of Icons – OZ IKONY

The gallery was established in 2015 as the result of a private collection of East Christian icons. During the last 7 years of existence, the gallery has collected about 300 icons from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia or Albania. The icons are dated from the 14th until the beginning of the 20th century. Among the main activities of the gallery, I can name the presentation of the icons from various regions of Eastern Christian cultures, the conduct of research on icons and providing space for and organizing of conferences, lectures and concerts. The aim of the exhibition is to present the spiritual and artistic beauty of Eastern Christian icons and to create a living bridge between the East and the West. 

In March 2021 the gallery celebrated its 5th anniversary. The current exhibition called The Mysterious Face of Jesus Christ is the fifth in a row after the exhibitions dedicated to the themes of The Old Testament ProphetsThe Church FeastsThe Icons of the Mother of God, and Wisdom Hidden in Icons.

The 5th exhibition is opened from the 15th of September 2020 until June 2023. There are 25 artistically and historically valuable icons on display. Most of them are exhibited in Slovakia for the first time. There are Russian and Greek icons, one Romanian, Macedonian, and Albanian icon, and one icon from Mount Athos among the exhibits.

The Only Begotten Son and the Word of God, Russia, nineteenth century, Courtesy, OZ IKONY

American Association of Iconographers’ Goals 

Even as this is a newsletter to foster the development of American iconographers, we all owe a debt of gratitude to our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters who, through the centuries have produced so many beautiful and deeply spiritual icons worth imitating and learning from. The aim of this exhibition is to create a living bridge between the East and the West, which is closely aligned with the goals of the American Association of Iconographers.

Membership to the American Association of Iconographers is without financial obligation to its members and is open to all friends and lovers of icons around the world.  It is an ecumenical, primarily Christian group of icon collectors, scholars, icon writers and those whose mandate is education in the liturgical arts.

We invite members to contribute educational articles that might benefit all who love icons.  Email: christinehales@me.com for submission details.

The Saviour Depicted up to His Shoulders, Russian, sixteenth century, Courtesy OZ IKONY

Quotes from Milan Lach SJ, Bishop of the Eparchy of Parma, Ohio

“St John of Damascus (+749) once said: “When someone asks you about your faith, take him to church and show him the icons.”  … Icons are liturgical objects. They speak- communicate.  Persons depicted on icons are already in the Heavenly Kingdom.  They are transformed by uncreated light and participate in the life of the Most Holy Trinity.

Icons are not merely art, as Western culture would perceive it.  They are more than art.  Through an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Theotokos, and the saints depicted on the icon, we can have a personal experience with the living God.

The icon is a tool of evangelization, through which the Church proclaims the living Jesus Christ.  To His person is dedicated this exhibition of twenty five beautiful  icons, here at the Gallery of Icons in Zilina.”

You can visit the 5th exposition in the virtual gallery: https://ikony.hour.sk/en/virtual-gallery/

I hope this virtual exhibition enriches your understanding and scope of possible models for future icons. Sending prayers for God to bless the work of your hands and minds, to the service of His Holy Church.

Kind regards,

Christine Simoneau Hales, Artist, Iconographer

www.newchristianicons.com

The Crucifixion, Russia, 1800, Courtesy, OZ IKONY