Rainy Spring!

Alan Crite Icon by Christine Hales
Allan Crite Icon by Christine Hales

Greetings Fellow Iconographers!

This spring has been rainy and cold here in upstate New York.  Normal for Spring, but what seems to be in short supply are warm sunny days in-between!  Good weather to begin some new Icons, that’s what I say!

Four Anglo/Catholic Saints
Four Anglo/Catholic Saints written by Christine Hales

My newest Icons were all shipped off to their new homes: Two to Seattle, The one with the Four Anglo/Catholic Saints, Father James Otis Sargent Huntington, OHC founder of the Order of the Holy Cross, Fr. Richard Meux Benson, SSJE, Mother Harriet Monsell, CSJB, and Priscilla Lydia Sellon.  Also to Seattle went the Icon of Allan Rohan Crite, known as the Dean of Liturgical painting in Boston.  Each of these people were inspiring in the way God moved through them in the worlds they lived in, to affect and change the status quo around them.  Showing them to my five year old granddaughter prompted her to ask “Can I be a Saint?”.  What a good question! So sweet!

The other new one is my recent St. Michael  Fighting the Dragon which is now in Miami.

St. Michael in Battle Icon
St. Michael in Battle by Christine Hales

I particularly like the way the Scripture quotation in this one calls us to remember who won/wins the heavenly battle!

The Canons in Creating Icons

One of the things I deal with often with students and clients is the question “what is it that makes an Icon a good contemporary  Icon?”  While it’s impossible to come up with a concise definition, there are some guidelines that apply. In this month’s blog, I want to speak a little about the Canons of Iconography.

Icons are sacred, or holy pictures in that they represent either a Gospel story or a Saint and are intended to draw us into the world of heaven as we look at them. They are created by an Iconographer who lives a prayerful, fasting lifestyle and who prays while they paint the Icon. It therefore is the bearer of prayers and beauty to the viewer.

On Canonicity in Icons, the following is an excerpt from  a “Road to Emmaus” interview with well-known French Iconographer, Emilie Van Taack. She was a faithful student of Leonid Ouspensky

…There is only one rule, Rule 82, decreed by the Council in Trulo, part of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. This is the iconographic canon, in which it is stated that icon painter must follow older painter, that they must be in this stream of tradition, but exactly how they are to do this is not described. What is stated is that an icon must show both the humility of the Man Jesus and His glory as God; that is, it must manifest the Incarnation. In an icon of the Lord, you must be able to see that this man who is preseneted is not only man, but also God. You must see the Person of Christ. The Council made this rule because at this period there were still some symbolic representations, like in the early Church, representing Christ by a fish, or as a sheperd, or as a lamb – not the hypostatic representation of the Person of Jesus Christ. The Council said that all of these symbolic representations are like the shadows of the Old Testament. Since we have been illumined by the truth of the New Testament, we no longer use these old and outdated symbols, but we must present Christ Himself. Who incarnated into a human body and can be represented in the body. This is the only canon, the only rule of the Church. 

In defining what is “canonical” in icon painting, we have, of course, many beautiful old canonical icons to refer to. But canonicity is difficult to define. I cannot tell you what is canonical, because icons themselves define the canons. It is a circle, and we must accept it like this. By looking at these beautiful icons, studying them, copying them, little by little they help you to see yourself this image of Christ, and then you will be able to paint it without looking to the old, because you will have it in your own heart. This is a saving situation, because in this way we cannot possess the canon: it is a free gift that God gives or takes back as He wills.”

The above is an excerpt from Anna Dumoulin’s Iconography website.  (Daughter of  Father Andrew Tregubov)

Here are some Icon writing Resources I’ve come across this past month that you might enjoy:

A short video by Iconographer Gilles Wessman that shows stages of writing an Icon of Anne&Joachim.

Water gilding sort video by Ian Knowles – gives a quick overview of the process,

Article about supports for Icon writing– egg tempera painting and new absorbent ground.

 An article about Fr. Gregory Kroug.

Christ Icon by Gregory Krug

Also, please note that there is now on this site an Icon Resources page .  Please email me with suggestions about links to add there in the future.

I’d like to close here with a quote from Father Andrew Tregubov taken from the book, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press,  “Light of Christ”  Father Tregubov compiled on the works of contemporary Iconographer Gregory Kroug:

“One of the wonders of our Creator is that everything in His creation is unique.  The ” Great Artificer” touches the tiniest creature with a very special personal touch, expressing His love for it.  He never comes to us in an impersonal way, but instead reveals Himself in the context of a real personal relationship . The Icons , in the same way, are never made for the Church in general but for individual persons who pray before them and venerate them.  God, in His boundless love, already knows all people, even those in the future; and He inspires the Iconographer in such a way that the Icon will truly be His personal revelation for those who will see it.”

May your Icon writing be blessed,

Christine Hales

Icon Website                Icon Writing Classes Website             Fine Art Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Icons 2017

Hello Fellow Iconographers:

Icon coloring book
Kindergarten Icon coloring book

This month, sharing Icons with kindergarten children in Boston was a special joy – I used pages from the Icon coloring book that they could “paint” and I demonstrated making egg tempera- they loved trying it!

Also was blessed to lead an Introduction to Icon writing workshop in Miami and Morningstar Renewal Center, directed by Sue de Ferrari. Many of the participants were students of Sue’s in a unique Spiritual Direction Training program through St. Thomas University. It was a blessed workshop in so many ways, including a Good Friday Stations of the Cross prayer walk, using my Stations Icons.

Stations of the Cross Icons
Stations the Cross Icons

The weekly Albany Icon writing class is up and running again. To view class times and schedules got to www.iconwritingclasses.com.Icon Class in Miami

In teaching Icon workshops and classes,, and particularly in giving talks about Icons to a more general audience, I realize how important it is to explain the difference between an Icon and a religious painting. I think that issue warrants more thought and explanation amongst the Icon writing community. When we consider the history of Icons, and the development of Icon writing particularly from the eighth century forward, there seems to be a development that begins to decline in levels of artistic and spiritual quality particularly in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries.

Religious Paintings vs Icons

Madonna and Child Icon
Madonna & Child Icon by Christine Hales

We can see that in the elongation of forms, the more naturalistic rendering of people and objects, and in the gradual loss of that flatness of spatial relationships. What begins to happen is that the “heavenly world” that world that operates not on the same laws as earth, but instead, the miraculous space that God inhabits.

Raphael
Raphael

I believe that most of us Iconographers are aware of this and the importance of not copying Icons from the Renaissance forward is part of that understanding. Does anyone know of more clearly articulated articles or books that define this difference between “good Icons” and ones that are considered “corrupted”? I think it would be useful for the Iconographic community to consider various ideas and opinions on this subject, so please email or forward relevant writings on the topic and I will try to continue to post regarding this notion of “what makes a Good Icon?”. Below is an in depth video that is interesting and informative.

“God in all that is most living and incarnate in Him, is not far away from us. altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell and taste about us. Rather he awaits us every instant in our action, in our work of the moment… he is at the tip of my pen, my brush, my needle- of my heart and of my thought.”  Teilhard de Chardin

Blessings and prayers until next month

Christine Hales

Icon Classes Website     Icon Website    Christine’s Paintings

Seeking God

Dear Fellow Iconographers:

Holy Cross Monastery Icon
Icon class at Holy Cross Monastery

For Lent, I have been re-reading “Seeking God”, The Way of Saint Benedict by Esther DeWaal.  In thinking about Icon Writing, teaching students, and community formation, there are many thoughts and concepts within the “Way of St. Benedict” that are worth bringing forward to the formation of an Icon writing community. A quote from her book from St. Benedict’s prologue:

“The Lord has himself given us the time and space necessary to learn and put into practice the service love that He continues to teach us.  In this school of His let us hope that following faithfully his instructions nothing distasteful or burdensome will be demanded of us, but if it has to be so in order to overcome our egoism and lead us into the depths of true love, let us not become disheartened nor frightened and so ignore the narrow path in spite of its tight entrance-that path which leads directly to the fulness of life”.

As we move forward, please email or send your thoughts or suggestions about community formation as Iconographers.

Christine Hales’ Icon writing class Holy Cross Monastery Chapel

While in Icon classes we need to teach the principles of imagery research, drawing, composition, and paint application, the spiritual life is also an important part of the process. The recent Icon retreat I taught at Holy Cross Monastery was a wonderful time of combining both as we entered into the prayer rhythm of the Monks and ate our meals and prayed with regularity and holy community as well as creating beautiful Icons of the face of  our Savior.

I think everyone went away deeply happy, rested, and with their own Icon of Christ to complete the Lenten process of prayer and fasting.

Icon writing class Christine Hales
Holy Cross Icon writing class with Christine Hales group photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Marie Prono, Architect and Iconographer, was in the Holy Cross class and shared with me an article about how she brought Icons to children in Queens.

Twelve Ethical Principles of a Christian Sacred Artist

The above link is a new post by Iconographer Deacon Paul O. Iacono that is very worth reading, in that its intention is to articulate some of the principles inherent in creating sacred art.

This month I am so grateful and happy that  CIVA- Christians in the Visual Arts, published a piece I wrote about Icons entitled “American Iconography”.  Hope you like it!

This month, I have given two Icon writing retreats one in Sarasota,Florida, and one in Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY, photos follow:

Icon Class Christine Hales
Icon class Sarasota

 

And here is the Sarasota Church of the Redeemer new Iconographers :

Sarasota Icons
Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Iconographers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two last notes: Miroslav, an Icon board preparer in Serbia has reached out to me regarding receiving orders for Icon boards.  His prices seem competitive, even with shipping, and I will be sending him an order in the next week or so. Here are some photos of his work, and he also does just gessoed panels in regular sizes, so let me know if any of you are interested in ordering one of his boards.

Miroslav Icon Boards
icon boards by Miroslav

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last, but not least, I will be teaching an Icon writing class at Morningstar Renewal Center in Miami Florida, April 13-15 for Holy week with a special presentation on Good Friday with Stations of the Cross Icons in the garden.  Please join us if you can.

Sending you all prayers for a Holy Easter and joy in Icon writing,

Christine

My Icon website    My paintings website

Why Icon Writing and not Painting?

Dear Fellow Iconographers:unknown

Wherever I go, giving talks or workshops about Icons, there is always one question people ask:  “Why do you say Icon writing and not Icon painting”?  Most of you who have had class with me know the answer in a general way, but because it highlights some important issues, I want to clarify even more what we mean by “write” instead of “paint”.

Discerning and describing the difference between a religious painting and an Icon is the heart of the matter.  When you think of beautiful religious paintings, like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, or Raphael’s Madonnas, or Da Vinci’s Madonna of the rocks, or countless other beautiful religious paintings- what are the differences between them and an Icon?  And why does it matter?unknown-1

Icons are images that contain Spiritual power and grace.  They do this by the combination of prayers, Traditions of the Church, sacred geometric composition, Scriptural narratives and the intention of the Iconographer to convey the Saints in the light of the Holy Spirit operating within them.unknown-2

Icons are meant to be Scripture in visual form.  In the readings at Church this past Sunday, about the Transfiguration in 2Peter 1: 16-21, just after God’s audible voice tells us “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, Peter says ” And we have the prophetic word made more sure.  You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morningstar rises in your hearts.  First of all, no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

So, in that Scriptural passage is a clarification of the difference between an Icon and a religious painting – the religious painting has more of the artist’s personal interpretation and is less strictly following the Word of God. Michelangelo’s painting style is called “mannerism” and is emotive and expressive of more than just the Scriptural scenes depicted. This  development from the Renaissance onward,  has contributed to the marginalization of God’s Sovereignty in the contemporary world and culture.  THAT is why we make emphasis on “writing” , rather than “painting”so that we can bring forward, through the Icon, a more God-centric perspective, from an earlier time and attempt to become disentangled from the Humanism that we have unconsciously absorbed from our culture.unknown-3

There is a great deal more to say and document about this important shift perspective, and as always, I point the reader to Egon Sendler’s excellent book “The Icon, Image of the Invisible. Elements of Theology, Aesthetics, and Technique” for a more thorough treatment of the visual, and theological principles involved in Icon “writing”.

Perhaps in the next blog we can look at the issue of Pictorial space in an Icon- other key difference between religious paintings and Icons.

Just wanted to mention some interesting Icon Links to you all:  Icons and Their Interpretation is a blog I recommend if you are interested in the meanings behind the old Icons.  It is a site dedicated to the study of Greek, Russian, and Baltic Icons.  Here is a link to their recent post about the Icon “Let All That Has Breath Praise the Lord”.  It is a lovely Icon and really shows the Iconographic language and method of illustrating  Scripture.

Also, another useful link is that for the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts.  They have a variety of changing programs and exhibitions and I’m sure some will be of interest.

Last thing to mention for this blog is three Lenten Icon writing workshops I am offering before Easter – you are invited to any of these:

May God continue to bless the work of your hands, and keep you in His ways,

Christine

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