Icons as Visio Divina

Hello Fellow Iconographers:

Cloister holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Cloister Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY

This month, teaching the “Color and Light in Icons” class at the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY was truly a Holy experience. With such a beautiful monastery, warm and gracious hospitality of Abbot Bernard and all the Brothers, and wonderful people enrolled in the class, how could it not be amazing?

We painted the icon of the Good Shepherd and read aloud Psalm 23 and meditated on it day and night, while writing the icon.

Sine icons are theology in picture form, there is a deep relationship between Holy Scripture and the icon.  The icon is the symbolic picture that the words of scripture describe, enhanced by the prayers and love of God the iconographer brings to the process.

Russian icons, Icon painting retreat, modern icons
Putting the olifa on the finished icon

Through the act of creation we enter into a relationship with God the creator that is enhanced with the addition of His word in Holy Scripture. The resulting icon from this co- creative process becomes a vessel containing God’s presence through His imagery and the iconographer’s prayers.

Good Shepherd Icon, Icon Painting Class, Byzantine icon
Good Shepherd Icon, Icon Painting Class

Meditating on Scripture, and/or on the life of the saint being depicted in the icon is of primary importance in icon writing.  It’s important to make oneself ready to receive divine revelation and then translate that into the painting process with the icon.

Holy Cross Monastery, icon painting retreat, Christine Hales
He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul… Holy Cross Monastery 2018

In teaching icon writing/painting classes, I like to emphasize our shared Christian faith that is being made visible in the revelation and shared spiritual knowledge that is being made available through the process of icon writing. Each student has their own unique conversation with God during the icon writing process, and sharing that communion with others in the class increases the level of revelation available to the group as a whole.  We have a strong belief in the intrinsic value of the icons being created and understand that they affect both the maker and the viewer.  Icon writing is a powerful ministry!

Icon retreat with Christine Hales at Holy Cross Monastery 2018
Icon retreat with Christine Hales at Holy Cross Monastery 2018

Membership in the American Association of Iconographers

Membership in the American Association of Iconographers is now open to all iconographers who have a sincere desire to “spread the joy icons throughout the world”.

Email Christine with your name, website and any additional information. Volunteers to help by being on the steering committee are appreciated.

Blessings,

Christine Hales

Icons

Deadline: Fourth of July!!

Dear Fellow Iconofiles and Students:

One of the tasks of the spiritual in art is to prove again and again that vision is possible; that the world, thick and convincing, is neither the only world nor the highest, and that our ordinary awareness is neither the only awareness nor the highest of which we are capable.  Traditionally, this task falls under a stringent rule; the vision cannot be random and entirely subjective, but must be capable of touching a common chord in many men and women.”  Roger Lipsey, “An Art Of Our Own, The Spiritual in Twentieth Century Art”.

Transfiguration Icon by Christine Hales in Progress
Transfiguration Icon by Christine Hales in Progress

Three months ago I gave myself a challenge: to write down everything that I thought was important in art and in Iconography and then to create a book.  My Deadline was the Fourth of July and my target was 20,000 words.  Yesterday I made my goal, with time to spare!  Of course now the editing process begins, but I honestly know now that this path of spiritual discovery in art is as important as anything else I could imagine doing.  For it is a research into human inspiration, philosophy, dreams, religion, politics, and moral development through the ages as evidenced in art, specifically painting and Iconography.

Icons in the Twentieth Century5a6303a44b080af2951c29a0327f97dd

In 1904, a small portion of Andrey Rulev’s Holy Trinity Icon was cleaned of the dark soot that had been its covering for centuries.  This one act led eventually to a whole group of Icons in Russia being cleaned and “discovered”, and this, in turn, has largely contributed to the revival in Iconographic interest today. When the Trinity was cleaned and uncovered through restoration, crowds began making pilgrimages to see it.

In 1911, Henri Matisse visited Moscow and was incredulous at the power and beauty he experienced in seeing these Icons.  So much so, that his art was strongly influenced by them for the rest of his life. He declared that the Russian medieval masters had already found what he had been seeking painting!

Ezekiel Icon by Christine Hales in Icon Exhibition at Westminster Presbyterian Church 2017
Ezekiel Icon by Christine Hales in Icon Exhibition at Westminster Presbyterian Church 2017

My new book will be about Iconography and its effect on the development of the best in modern art.  Putting together the pieces of this puzzle has been illuminating.   Wassily Kandinsky, the foremost pioneer of modern art, was not only deeply affected by icons in their painterly language, but also in the clarity and truth of the spiritual reality they conveyed.

Researching writers like Pavel FLorensky, Leonid Ouspensky, Roger Lipsey, Irina Yazykova, as well as modern master artists, I found there is a central theme of authentic spiritual experience throughout. Creating a modern spiritual language requires not only experience as an artist, but a spiritual lifestyle and practice that involves personal growth in Christ.

Color Theory, Materials, and Manuals

Combining the Iconographic and spiritual research with the specifics of making great art was part of my goal for the book.  Icons combine two worlds- the spiritual and art.  Spiritual development is essential, but so is artistic development.  For this I will be including a Bibliography of artist resources and guides to egg tempera painting and old master methods and materials. Sharing all this exciting information that has taken me so long to find will, hopefully, make it easier for others who want to develop their craft and skill by classical painting information combined with the best in modern artists who pursued the spiritual path.

Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse

With God’s help, I expect the book to be ready to publish at the beginning of this fall, and will email the specifics.  My intention and hope is that this book will help many serious iconographers and artists who wish to push forward in this challenging task of creating spiritual art that draws people to God. It is the job of  making icons accessible to a world desperately in need of a change from materialism to God’s world of true spiritual life.  For this, we need to open our hearts and let God lead the art out of the churches and into places where the unchurched can experience it.  How? God only knows.  But the icons then will become seeds carrying the faith and hope of God to the poor, the marginalized, and also the wealthy and priveledged.  God will water the seeds and bring forth the harvest.

Sending prayers and blessings,

Christine Simoneau Hales

Icon Class Schedule for 2018          Icon Website             Fine Art Website        Ministry

 

Artist as Priest

c136da2c8229dc1a62ceac6c0c885c0d

Greetings:

In his blog, “Way of Beauty”, David Clayton, Pontifex University, posted recently an article on “Artist as Priest”.   He makes the connection that both the  priest, in ministering the sacraments, and the artist, in creating beauty,  make visible the invisible Kingdom of God.

“The role of the artist is to present new revelations of the divine, to show the beauty of the world, lit by the grace of God to a people who have become blind to it. The artist presents transcendent truths in a form that can be seen and comprehended by all. He also shows us the spiritual world in such a way that we can grasp its meaning and impact on our lives, if not its actual appearance.”

Deacon Lawrence,  a deacon in Sacramento, CA, in a related blog post, Artist as Teacher, says that the artist teaches through his art.  “The work of the artist reflects the splendor of God, brings hope and joy to His people, and lifts hearts and minds to His Divine.”

In both of these blog posts, the writer is speaking about artists, and that would include Iconographers, but would also include artists who create religious art.

On the topic of correct behavior and training specifically for Iconographers there are two other posts to consider.

Aidan Hart and Irina Gannota

British Iconographer Aidan Hart has written an article for Orthodoxy in Dialogue, “Icons and Culture: Transformation or Appropriation ?”.  In his article, Aidan states that healthy Iconography is Pentecostal because it declares eternal truths in the language of its viewers. He reminds us that Iconographers today have a difficult task that requires both discernment and creativity.

Aidan goes on to say that, “our postmodern society puts iconography in an even more challenging situation than the early Church, for we are exposed to a plethora of images on a scale like no other culture before us.”

This article is informative and very useful to those who are beginners or continuing to learn Icon writing.  It covers the important aspects of authenticity and sacredness and shows historical documentation that allows the reader to see and understand the nuanced world of Icon writing today.

The second article, Iconography as Byzantine Portraiture,  was written by Irina Gannota in response to Aidan Hart’s article and also published on the Orthodoxy in Dialogue website.  Irina states that Iconography could be thought of as a style of medieval painting and should be taught as such at Iconography schools.

Both of these articles help to flesh out some of the disturbing elements that can infiltrate Icon writing, and they help to bring into our awareness the need to carefully consider our methods and motives in Icon writing.908772004bc1f594ddc030f68da73373

Theoria

We know that in the Old Testament, God assigns specific jobs and roles to people who are artists and artisans.  In Exodus 36, God calls His artists and craftsmen to design and make craft work, and to pass on their skill and spirit by teaching, Exodus 36:1-2.   Teaching is a gift of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:28.

The Greek word, “theoria”, means intelligent contemplation and encompasses the process of understanding Scripture.  It is a gift of the presence and activity of the  Holy Spirit.  The early Church fathers perceived a depth of meaning when reading and meditating on the Holy Scriptures that we can only approximate today.  But it is this very depth that is indicative of the Iconographic vision and perspective.

One can deduce then, the importance of Biblical study and interpretation in the light of Icon writing and training.  In this way, Icon writing becomes a form of lectio divina, sometimes referred to as “visio divina”.Transfiguration, Rublev, ca 1405, The Kremlin, Moscow

The Lifestyle of an Iconographer

Symbolical realism in the Icon that is based on spiritual experience and vision needs its link to Tradition and meaning in order to flourish.  It is not an easy thing to manifest this perspective.  It takes discipline, being rooted in a  life giving Church that nurtures an ongoing relationship with God, good spiritual directors, good art/Icon writing training, and quality fellowship with other believers.

Until next month,

Be blessed and a blessing,

Christine Hales

Icon Website    Fine Art Website

 

 

 

 

 

Opportunity

The British Association of Iconographers is preparing for their annual exhibition in London this fall:

Saint Mark Icon , american Association of Iconography
Saint Mark Icon

‘Icons for Unity’   Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th  of November 2018 at
St Savior’s Church,  St.George’s Square, Pimlico London,   SW1V 3QW

“”There will be a fee of £5 for each icon entered and it will be possible for you to arrange the sale of your own icons with no sale commission due to the BAI.

After 1st May further details and registration forms (Intention to Exhibit form) for the event will be emailed by Rhian to those who have paid for hanging space. Please note all submissions must be made by 31stAugust 2018 to enable their inclusion in the catalogue

It is an exhibition for everyone and whilst the talent and expertise of the professional iconographers will always be discernible, the work of artists old and new to iconography will also be welcome. Please distribute the flyers included with this Review to publicise the event.

“We need members to help by preparing for the exhibition and as curators during the event. So please volunteer and make the event a great success………”

We offer the BAI as a means of maintaining contact between members and of providing them with support in their work and their devotions. We hope that it might be of benefit both to people who are interested in the use of icons in their spiritual life and to those whose interest is in icons as a sacred art form. The aims of the Association are to establish contact with iconographers, learners, beginners and those with a greater proficiency, to deepen our knowledge and understanding of icons and the spirituality associated with them (including Orthodoxy); to offer a forum for the interchange of ideas and techniques; to offer information about forthcoming exhibitions, courses or other events of interest and to be a means of sharing ideas and experiences. We produce a Review four times a year together with a meditation on the icon of a particular saint or festival. This includes the historical background and hymnody associated with the subject. We would also value any comments and ideas that you might have, in particular, any material that you think would be of interest to other members which we could include in the Review. If you would like to join, please write to the Membership Secretary (see Page 38)

We feel there is a risk that people practising this art form might feel isolated; if so do join BAI.

If you would like to become a member of BAI, it is fairly simple:  visit their website www.bai.org.uk and go to the contact page.  There are a few membership options to choose from and payment can be made through PayPal.

“I think it is promising that today we are witnessing a rebirth of Christian art,, reconnecting with the art the Icon, of a Christian art that endures in the great norms of the iconological art of theist but that also extends to today’s experiences and vision.”  Benedict XVIIcon highlights

ICON WRITING CLASSES  taught by Christine Hales at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY:

Basic concepts of Icon writing, history and methods of painting will be demonstrated.   We will also have meditation and prayers on Mary as this is Mother’s Day Weekend and we will do a Mary Icon together.  Icons have played an important role in healing and bringing forth peace to nations, and there are many examples of Icons in Belarus, and Eastern Europe  that are attributed to healing miracles, often these are Mary Icons.   $580 includes Icon Materials, meals and overnight accommodations at the Monastery    $120 deposit

This is a special class. Beginners are welcome, and it is also for advanced Iconographers who want to learn more about color in Icons. We will cover color symbolism, color theory, the Iconographer’s palette, and more fun and in depth topics on color. We will write the Icon of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. If you have a different Icon you’d like to paint, email hales@halesart.com Christine with the image and you can work together before the class to make that possible. $580  Fee includes Icon Materials, meals and overnight accommodations.

This is the class when we discuss in depth the sacred geometry that is the foundation of Icon compositions.  Sacred geometry is a method of understanding the pictorial space and relationships of images and colors within the Icon and It is an essential part of an Iconographer’s training. There will be a slide talk one evening as well as hands-on exercises to demonstrate the concepts. We will endeavor to complete an Icon by the end of this workshop using sacred geometry.   $580 includes materials, overnight accommodation at the monastery and meals.

  • Contact
    Lori Callaway, Guest House Manager
    Email: guesthouse@hcmet.org
    Phone: 845-384-6660, ext. 1
    Tuesday – Friday
    9:00 AM until Noon
    1:30 PM until 4:30 PM

One more important item to share:  The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts has a Center for Icon Studies.  Their Journal of Icon Studies has some interesting articles on a variety of Iconographic topics.

Blessings and joy until next month,

Christine Hales

Icons   Fine art

Easter Blessings!

Easter Blessings!

Stations of the Cross, Station Five, written by Iconographer Christine Hales
Stations of the Cross, Station Five, written by Christine Hales

This Easter particularly brings to mind the need for unity amongst all the Christian denominations.

Icons are intended to respond to deep questions, and every age has its own set of problems that trouble the heart.” Windows to Heaven, Zelensky and Gilbert.

The Twenty First Century is witness to the dire need of Christians to join together and celebrate the common elements of their faith.  It is time to stop celebrating theological divisions.  Unity and harmony are the true state of the Triune God.

Facing statistics of the staggering lack of

Lily photograph by Mick Hales
Lily photograph by Mick Hales

Christians in the North East of the United States, as well as the continuous rise of Islam, if Christianity is to survive- and it will- the need to respect and love each other’s differences in service to unity is imperative.

Maximus the Confessor (600AD) writes of the Holy Trinity “ It is in this blessed and most sacred peace that unity is achieved which surpasses the mind and reason.”

Aidan Hart, in his book Beauty, Spirit, Matter; Icons in the Modern World, writes :

Since it is love which unites the world and brings it to fulfillment we can expect that the world’s Fall has been preceded by a loss of love, or at least by a misdirection of love. And indeed, St Maximus speaks of the Fall in terms of a falling away from the double command of love; love of God and love of one’s neighbor.”

Crucifixion Icon written by Christine Hales
Crucifixion Icon written by Christine Hales

 

As we prepare to celebrate the glorious truth of the Resurrection, consider the crucifixion Icon.   It tells the New Testament story that includes the women mourning and watching, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons Zebedee. Also in the Icon is the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side.  He is cowering. In the top third of the Icon are the angels prophesied by Jesus in John 1:51:

Truly, truly I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God Ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Even in this sad scene, we see the golden light of God and hope permeating the background.  The angels are pointing to fulfillment of the prophecy.

As a result of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and redemption and the Holy Spirit’s visitation at Pentecost… “the universe has become one vast church or temple, reflecting the beauty of the Lord, bringing for all human kind the universal message of salvation.” Zelensky and Gilbert.

Holy Face of Christ Icon written by Christine Hales
Holy Face of Christ Icon written by Christine Hales

Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians are united in our love and reverence for the inestimable love of a God who would send His only Son to die for our sins.  That we may be the inheritors of His love for us, and bring HIs love to our world that is in such need of it.

May God bless you all this Easter,

Christine

Website

 

New Year and Epiphany 2017-2018

Greetings:   

First, a thank you to all of you who have been subscribers to this blog over the last couple of years.  Particularly, thank you for being patient with all the changes in format and stylistic content as I try to understand the needs and purpose of this community of Iconographers.

I have changed format again, this time getting closer to my original purpose of having a substantial list of Iconographic resources and links to help Iconographers in creating and learning about Icons.  If you look at the left sidebar you will see a page of “resources” on which I have started to add links, and will continue with this throughout the year so that it becomes a valuable resource.

Epiphany Icon
Russian Icon of the Epiphany

As it is New year’s Eve and we are on the verge of the Feast of Epiphany , here are some images of the Epiphany in different Iconographic styles, taken from a more nuanced article by Hokku about the wise men on the blog ” Icons and Their Interpretation”.

Icons for the Epiphany range in subject matter from stories of the wise men finding Jesus in a manger, to the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan.

Epiphany is described as the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi- who were not Jews but were from the East; it is also the church feast day commemorating the Epiphany on January 6; and a manifestation of a divine, supernatural being.  Webster’s dictionary describes Epiphany as “ a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

Russian Epiphany Icon
Russian Epiphany Icon

The birth of Jesus, the Son of the most high God in a manger certainly fulfills that definition.  Epiphany represents the discovery that Jesus was born for not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles- for the whole world.

Baptism of Jesus
Baptism of Jesus Icon by Christine Hales

In the Baptism of Jesus Icon, we see in the central axis of the Icon, the God the Father, represented by the half circle at the center; The Holy Spirit, represented by the rays of gold coming from the half circle,and Jesus, the Son of God.  In the Gospel, God’s audible voice announces “This is My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

It is a revelation similar to the one of the magi- a sudden perception that transforms  mundane, earthly existence into one of light, meaning, and grace.

Icons bring to our remembrance important Gospel and Old Testament stories that brighten our everyday existence. As we move into this coming week towards the celebration of Epiphany and then the Baptism of Jesus, let us pray together to receive an Epiphany of God’s grace in each of our lives today, and as Baptism makes permanent and concrete the role of God’s grace in us, may that sudden awareness be awakened and kindled as an important part of our lives in 2018.

Baptism of Jesus
Baptism of Our Lord

Icons by Christine Hales

Icon classes taught by Christine Hales

 

 

 

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave
“link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”RSS”
href=”americanassociationoficonographers.com”

Lifestyle of an Iconographer

Hello Iconographers!

Icon of Mary
Icon of Mary by Christine Simoneau Hales

I know that many of you lead busy lives and are able to take Icon classes only  once or twice a year- and those classes usually last only a few precious days.  The best way to really benefit from our intermittent classes is to do as much reading and preparation on Icons as possible.  With that in mind, I want to refer you to a series of four articles written by Father Silouan Justinian for the Orthodox Journal.  It is a series called: “Imagination, Expression, Icon, Encountering the Internal Prototype.”

 

As there are many nuances involved in writing Icons that cover both the spiritual life of an Iconographer and the artist’s creative skills, I encourage you to take a look at these.   Here are the links to each part of the series:

Part One 

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

My suggestion would be to bookmark or print out each article to read at a time where you have leisure to ponder and think about each one.  Eventually, I hope to compile a book of such essays and other instructional materials for the potential Iconography student.  As this field continues to grow in popularity, a high standard of training that incorporates the writings of leading contemporary authors along  with practical, good artistic training would be a beneficial addition to the field.

Fr. Paul Wattson
detail of Fr. Paul Wattson Icon at Graymoor Monastery

We all know that the lifestyle of an Iconographer is one of prayer and fasting.  Also, we know that being part of a Church, having good spiritual direction, receiving the Sacraments regularly are also important to writing Icons.  Within this context, good artistic training is also important.  What a task!  But as you all have experienced, it is an exciting and blessed task.  No one will be able to do everything perfectly, but willingness and diligence to seriously undertake the study will have very positive effects.

Saint Benedict Icon by CS Hales
St. Benedict Icon by Christine Simoneau Hales

In St. Benedict’s Prologue to “Saint Benedict’s Rule For Monks” he says:

“My son, listen carefully to your master’s teaching. Treasure it in your heart. Be open to receive and generous to respond to the counsel of a loving father.  You have strayed from God by the sloth of disobedience.  Return to him then, by the work of obedience.  Accordingly, I speak to you, whoever you may be, who giving up your own will and taking the strong and bright weapons of obedience, are prepared to fight for the true King, Christ”.

In taking up the task of Icon writing, we always need to remember that it is about much more than just our own will. Here is a quote from the above mentioned Part 4 of Father Silouan’s article:

“In other words, the icon painter should not repeat the resultof encounter, but rather his work should arise and re-present (ex-press) a true, fresh and living re-encounter with the subject depicted. But, this, of course, is not to promulgate the modernist cult of individualism or so called “artistic genius.” On the contrary, as just mentioned, life in the Body of Christ presupposes the flourishing of ourselves as unique and true persons[x] in loving communion with one another, in contradistinction to our ego-centric or individualistic identity in which we wither as isolated numerical “units.”[xi]Moreover, let us not forget that in this ecclesial life, “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.”[xii] That is, inner union in the Spirit does not mean uniformity at the expense of diversity. Each person as a member, in a unique manner, contributes towards the edification of the whole Body. Therefore, the traditional practice of “anonymity,” that is, of not signing the icon, should not be understood as an aspiration towards the complete obliteration of the iconographer’s gifts and creative temperament.[xiii] It is rather a reminder that only in humble cooperation with the Divine Craftsman, in becoming one with Him through the Holy Spirit, will his true self and art flourish to the fullness of their capacity. Obedience becomes liberation. Thereby he will be able to uncover nuances contained in the prototypes previously unnoticed and contribute unrepeatable expressionsof Tradition. In undermining this side of the icon, seeking to protect it from “artistic license” and foreign cultural influences, we may in fact blunt its power, making of it a purely mechanical act that contradicts basic principles of Orthodoxy.”

Understanding and correct application of the Traditions and Canons of Iconography can only come through time and experience.

One final quote from Part 4:

Mourning Christ by Christine Simoneau Hales
Mourning Christ by Christine Simoneau Hales

” The iconographer preaches the Gospel in colors and chants hymns of praise, trembling as he says, in the words of the Nativity sticheron, “How hard it is to compose hymns of love, framed in harmony.” With his art he paints the Word, plastically manifesting, indeed enfleshing the Logos. This is truly an “artistic license” of kerygmatic expression in free will. For as Christ Himself has ordained: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”[xxii]”

I look forward to seeing you all in Icon classes, or now on the Facebook Page you are welcome to post your work or any important links about Icons that you think will benefit the Community of Iconographers.

May God bless you and the work of your hands,

Christine Simoneau Hales

Shepherd icon
The Lord is My Shepherd Icon by Christine Simoneau Hales

Christine’s Icon website

 

Icon Writing Classes

 

SaveSave

“Feed My Sheep”

Hello Fellow Iconographers:

This month some thoughts on a missional perspective about Icon writing:

Form Follows Function

Christ the Healer Icon
Christ the Healer Icon at Christ the King SLC

“Form follows function” is a concept attributed to the American Architect Louis Sullivan, famous for developing the shape of the steel skyscraper in late 19th century, at a time when economic and cultural forces made it necessary to drop the established styles of the past.

“Where function does not change, form does not change….It is the pervading law of all things organic or inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and super human, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.” Sullivan, Louis H. (1896). “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered”Lippincott’s Magazine (March 1896): 403–409.

 

This principle kept recurring in my thoughts as I considered the function and form of Iconography today. We live today in an age of post denominationalism, where some of the more important issues of the Christian faith are less about division and nuanced theology and more about evangelization and healing. Healing for our culture and world is a function of a healthy relationship to God.

Christ the Healer Icon
Christ the Healer Icon by Christine Hales

Creating Icons according  to the Canons and honoring the Orthodox Church as well as all the Christian denominations is part of the tradition of spreading the Gospel through pictures. Martin Luther during the Reformation was not against Icons, seeing them as having an important role in teaching the tenets of the Christian Faith

 

Saint Benedict Icon
Saint Benedict Icon by Christine Hales

 

How then can Icons and the practice of Icon writing address the needs of our time? Through prayer, teaching individuals the spiritual discipline of a prayerful art practice, and the placement of Icons in public and private spaces where those who don’t attend churches can see and experience God through the Icon.

Since Icons go straight our hearts and by pass the intellect, God’s love can sometimes be apprehended through an Icon more easily than a book, or sermon. Whether our culture realizes it or not, it is desperately in need of God’s love. When we are called to Icon writing, that can be an important way that we can share God’s love. In addition to the joy we have in writing the Icon, we can share it with many, many people as an act of service and giving of the fits we have been blessed with.

St. George Icon
St. George Icon

 

Students often ask me “What will I do with the Icons I write?” My answer is to offer them to people and places in your community. Give, lend, exhibit them in places where people who wouldn’t ordinarily encounter them can experience them. Provide the opportunity for God to encounter and affect those He is calling.  Another way to integrate Icons into our world is to bring them when we visit the sick, and when we have our prayer groups.  It is lovely to have them on our prayer shelves at home, and it is equally wonderful to share them!

 

When we are in love with God, we hear His voice. This encounter between Peter and Jesus has deep meaning to an Iconographer;

“He said to him a third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, Lord, You know all things: You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep” John 21:17

Our answer to God’s call to write Icons will be blessed in many ways we don’t know our understand now. Our obedience and faithfulness to develop our skills and understanding, engaging in a rich prayer life, all these contribute to the possibility of living more and more in God’s grace.

May you be blessed with God’s love and Spirit as you write Icons!

Fr. Nigel Mumford
Fr. Nigel Mumford with Christ the Healer Icon

Christine Hales

USEFUL LINKS THIS MONTH:

Orthodox Arts Journal   

This is a link to an article written by Aidan Hart, Iconographer that explores the relationships and differences between sacred art and secular gallery art, from an Orthodox perspective.

Museum of Russian Icons

A museum dedicated to Russian Icons, located in Clinton, Massachusetts.  Here is a link to their current exhibition of Icons

A new Facebook Group I created to encourage community and share photos and links. You are welcome to join!

My Icon writing class schedule.

 

AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY part Two

Dear Fellow Iconographers:FullSizeRender

With world catastrophes like the Hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and earthquakes in Mexico, we have so many urgent applications for our prayers during our icon writing practice. May God continue to send help in many forms to those people afflicted by violent storms. Provide homes, food and safety, O Lord, and bring forth your victory and hope  where there is despair and destruction, we humbly pray.

Recently, during the Healing Icon writing Retreat I gave at Holy Cross Monastery, we daily put our prayer requests in a basket on the Icon table and prayed over them during our prayer times together. The subject for the retreat was the Archangel Raphael, and we completed the icons in time to be blessed on the feast day of St. Michael and the Archangels!  Each day we spoke about different aspects of the story of Tobit, Tobias, and Archangel Raphael and contemplated the healing aspects of the story, from the fish trying to bite Tobias’ foot, to Archangel Raphael bringing transforming a dangerous woman into a suitable wife.  Our Icons are reminders for us of God’s intervention in our lives, and the role his heavenly angels play in bringing His divine will into the experiences of our lives.FullSizeRender

In working to understand and define what is meant by American Iconography, I think that religious freedom plays an important role.   This country was founded, in part, on the hopes and dreams that new settlers from many different European countries had for  freedom to worship in their individual ways.   They wanted to  express their ideas of how God manifests in their lives and form communities to worship and pray together.  There was a great diversity of expression in the Christian communities, and yet each was given the space to develop and grow, peacefully.IMG_5162

Ideally, America is still that country that respects and allows for individual religious freedom.  Just as Icons are meant to depict a transfigured reality, I think we iconographers are asked to call forth the best in our worlds, to stand for positive change, and to show others how we can pray and experience God even in a very troubled world.

In Icon writing, we look for examples from the early centuries in order to understand and be inspired by the universal spiritual truths they contain. The American philosopher, John Dewey says of a work of art, eg. the Parthenon,  that it ” is universal because it can continuously inspire new personal realizations in experience.”…”The works that fail to become new are not those that are universal but those that are “dated”. He goes on to say “The enduring art product may have been, and probably was, called forth by something occasional, something having its own date and place. But what was evoked is a substance so formed that it can enter into the experiences of others and enable them to have more intense and more fully rounded out experiences of their own.” (Taken from “Art as Experience” by John Dewey)

All this to say that an Icon writer must not only use examples from the past, but must also be able to convey the action and presence of God and the saint depicted through his/her prayers and spiritual efforts of today in order to be an authentic Icon.IMG_5190

Early Celtic Prayer from St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Christ as a light illumine and guide me. Christ as a shield overshadow me.

Christ under me, Christ over me, Christ beside me on my left and my right.IMG_5182

This day be within me and without, lowly and meek yet all powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.

This day be within and without me, lowly and meek yet all powerful.

Christ as my light, Christ as my shield

Christ beside me on my left and my right. Amen.

May God bless you and keep you until next month,

Christine

Icon writing Classes    Icon Website    Fine Art Website    Ministry website

 

 

 

More on American Iconography

Hello Fellow Iconographers: photo

This summer I have been working on developing the school of American Iconography.  When I say “school” I mean it in the Benedictine sense of a committed community of people who study, pray, and work together united by common goals and principles. We would be working, using artistic skills and prayers to further the work of God’s Kingdom, here on earth. In this school, God would be the teacher! Putting together a reading list would be a good start, so do email suggestions on that.

Transfiguration Icon
Transfiguration Icon almost finished!

I’d like to share with you some of the goals and objectives I am setting for myself for the next three years. Please think about where you might participate and in what ways you can contribute.  Volunteers, ideas, and suggestions are welcome!

Icon Goals 2017-2020

  • Exhibit Iconographic Imagery at museums, universities and seminaries.
  • Run Icon writing training classes, giving talks, and participating in symposiums.
  • Book and video documentation to provide future development of online Icon writing classes.
  • Complete Icon commissions in churches and for private collections.
  • Participate in Symposiums or panel discussions on art and theology.
  • Collaborating with seminaries and universities to make Icon writing an integral part of a fine arts curriculum.

I see these goals as laying a groundwork for future advanced workshops, and to creating a coherent system of training Icon writers.

I see Icon writing as an important activity to the future of our culture.  Our thoughts and prayers together can be effective in creating an ethical and responsible society.  Perhaps there are others already active in this area.  If so, please contact me to being a conversation about how we can work together.

Happily,  a similar effort is happening currently in Romania.   The following quotes are taken from a blog post of the Orthodox Arts Journal : 2015  “The New Romanian Masters: Innovative Iconography in the Matrix of Tradition”

” Iconography, a recovered artistic language 

It would have been impossible to imagine a public conversation on icons and their veneration a quarter of a century ago in communist Romania. It would have been impossible as well to imagine iconography taught in a public school and the technique of painting icons at the department of Fine Arts….Today it is a common gesture to order an icon for your house or to offer an icon as a present. Four of the twelve Orthodox faculties of theology in the country have created departments of sacred art, preparing iconographers and specialists in the preservation of medieval iconography; and many of their graduates have become proficient in painting icons and frescos….the icon has become a common presence in homes and offices.

The most remarkable aspect of this revival is that the abundant iconographic demand and the high number of skilled iconographers gave rise to a competitive ambiance that led to an obvious advance in the quality of iconography and, subsequently, to a new iconographic movement.

“… As with any profession, the new iconographers and church painters demonstrate an uneven value; it is not enough to learn the technique and follow the Byzantine herminia (the painter’s manual) to become a skilled and appreciated iconographer.

Important to Iconographic training:

1. A thorough education in classical art.

2. A personal spiritual life….a spiritual dimension is a necessary ingredient to painting an icon. Painting an icon is not a mere artistic activity but a facet of the larger spiritual growth, both personal and part of the community in which the iconographer lives.

3. They do not imitate but innovate within the canons of tradition. Probably the most interesting value gradually assumed by the iconographers of the new generation is that they cherish artistic originality and freedom of expression. They do not accept to create in a mannerist way and to reproduce the masters of the past while making a concession to a common, popular taste. Paying attention to the smallest technical and theological detail, they strive to avoid not only religious kitsch but also religious clichés. After assimilating the skills, the Byzantine canon, a rich documentation and a general knowledge of the medieval art, some of them have been able to define their own style. And this fact has allowed them to rethink classical iconography and innovate in terms of style, colours and composition as well as to find new themes and become “hagiographers”. All these elements have led them to reach an unprecedented quality of the iconographic act in which they commit themselves to artistic originality”

I think the first two paragraphs of quotes above are inspiring.  The last three paragraphs can help to define a best practices manual that can be applicable to the American School of Iconography.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Icon
Our Lady of Guadalupe Icon by Christine Hales

“An Icon is therefore is always either  more than itself in becoming for us a heavenly vision or less than itself in failing to open our consciousness to the world beyond our senses.” St. Dionysus Aeropagite.

I will be attempting to collect and notate sources of Iconographic references that will help define this American School go Iconography over the next couple of years.

Thank you for your patience and contributions!

That’s all for this month, have a blessed Labor Day,

Christine Hales               Icon Website         Fine Art Website

Icon Writing Classes