“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

Christian Courage

St Benedict Icon
St. Benedict Icon by Christine Hales

Greetings!

This month has been busy with writing Icons and teaching classes.  The Holy Cross Monastery Icon Retreat was wonderful, each participant wrote their own St. George Icon, and we had them blessed by Brother Roy on Sunday before Diurnum.  It is a wonderful place to study Icon writing since we are able to be part of each day’s morning prayer and Eucharist and share meals with the Brothers and other guests in the octagonal dining room over looking the Hudson River.  Truly a joy to teach there!

St. George Icon
St. George Icon

 

Icon Blessing
Icon Blessing at Holy Cross

The prayer of St. George: “Obtain for us the Grace of heroic Christian courage that should mark soldiers of Christ” Amen.

Icon Class at Holy Cross
Icon Class at Holy Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many of you know, the Icon is a kind of synthesis of the spiritual truths and values of the Church.  It is much more than just a religious painting.  It is a meeting point between the Divine and the human heart.  It is a visible, created beauty, a place where prayer joins us to the image of God.  It truly is an honor and privilege to be called to this beautiful practice of writing Icons.

Here are two new ones I am working on – one of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the other a Transfiguration Icon.  Here are some work in progress photos:

Our Lady of Guadalupe in progress
Our Lady of Guadalupe in progress
Transfiguration Icon
Transfiguration Icon in Progress

The following is an important on line Iconographic Resource for those of us interested in the early Icons:

“In 1956, Professor George Forsyth, of the University of Michigan, invited Kurt Weitzmann, of Princeton University, to join him on an exploratory trip to Sinai. From 1958 to 1965, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, and the University of Alexandria carried out four research expeditions to the remote Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai—the oldest continuously inhabited Orthodox Christian monastery in the world, with a history that can be traced back over seventeen centuries. The documentation collected by the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions to Mountain Sinai, under the direction of Professor George Forsyth (below, right) and Professor Kurt Weitzmann (pictured below left), is a profoundly important resource for Byzantine studies.”  (Quote from the website link below.)

This website displays all the color transparencies and color slides in the possesion of the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton. The online images are limited to a size of 1024 pixels. These images are available to download and use for teaching and scholarly purposes.

Here is a link to the Icons of Mt. Sinai that are documented through Princeton University.

Below are more Resources I’ve collected for you this past month:

Iconographic  Resources

Current Exhibition at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts “Fantastic Beasts in Iconography”

Jacques Bihin , Iconographer  has posted on garments:  a Flickr post by Jacques Bihin on Garments that is helpful for drawing and painting garments

St. Luke’s Guild of Iconographers- a group of Iconographers who pray and write Icons- many of whom have studied with me.  Their primary focus is community through prayer and writing Icons.  Here’s a link to their Facebook Page

Praying a blessing over your Icon writing, until we meet again!

Christine Hales

Icon Website

Fine Art Website

Ministry Website

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

Icon Website     FB  Icon Page    Art Website

 

New Year

Dear  Fellow Iconographers and Friends:

christingloryweb
Christ in Glory Icon written by Christine Hales

As we contemplate the New Year ahead, Icons have an important role to play in shaping the structure and content of our lives, for they are signs pointing the way to the future. How does that work? In my prayer practice and in my choice of Icons to write, I choose Icons that will be effective in directing my attention and prayers to the outcomes, wisdom, and direction I am seeking.

John the Baptist Icon
John the Baptist Icon written by Dahlia Herring

 

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Proverbs 29:18

Whatever your political leanings, there has never been a more important time to pray and to write Icons. For in choosing which Icons to write, we can call forth, through prayer, the guidance and assistance of the community of saints who have gone before us. Mysterious and powerful, the Byzantine Holy images that were created hundreds of centuries ago, contain a window into the Divine that is sometimes hard to locate in our contemporary world. In the prayerful atmosphere of meditation and contemplation with an Icon, we enter into that holy, creative space where we listen to God and receive Holy Wisdom.

small-st-kateri-2015
Saint Kateri Icon written by Jennifer Richard-Morrow

Some examples of Icons that relate to this concept of praying and contemplation with a purpose are: Christ, calling forth Unity, forgiveness and discernment; Julian of Norwich, calling forth peace;  Saint Anthony the Great, father of monasticism and defeater of demonic temptations; Saint Michael the Archangel, Protector of the world; The Madonna, protector of children everywhere; the list is endless.  In fact,it would be interesting and you are invited to list your own favorite Icons and saints in the comments section below.

christ-in-majesty
Christ in Majesty Icon written by Rev. W. Michael Shirk

 

 

MEMBERSHIP

If you are interested in contributing to the American Association of Iconographers blog or if you’d like to become a member, please add your name and information in the comments section below.

 

In speaking about one of her Icon writing classes, Iconographer Mary Jane Miller states: “The main goal of the study is to cultivate a clear and conscious image that becomes a lasting window to the Divine”  It is precisely this that Icons and Icon writing have to offer.  The more clearly we pray, create our vision with God’s  help, we bring God’s grace and intervention to the very world we live in.  While Icons are most often seen in the context of liturgical worship within the Church, their place is also needed in our individual worlds outside the church, helping us to minister to those around us by granting us access to heaven through the Icons.

If you’d like to make an Icon workshop part of your 2017 Spiritual Plan, I will be teaching three this year.  The first one will be an advanced Icon writing workshop held at the beautiful Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY, March 21-24. It is for those who have previous experience and wish to continue. Individual instruction and demonstrations will be provided.

May God continue to bless you in 2017, and may your prayer reach extend to all those in need in your community and in your nation and the world.

Blessings and prayers,   Christine Simoneau Hales

www.newchristianicons.com

my-joshua-icon
Joshua Icon written by Carol MacNaughton

 

Advent

Dear Fellow Iconographers:

“Advent asks us to keep vigil for the Christ who comes to us anew in this season. It invites us to keep our face turned toward the horizon in hope. But Advent asks us also to open our hearts to the Christ who keeps vigil for us, the Christ who stands not on some distant horizon but, instead, is already with us, waiting for us to open our eyes to his presence that stays with us always.

As Advent begins, may you be blessed in your vigil: the one you keep, the one being kept for you. In that vigil, may you find your deepest welcome and know yourself at home. Peace.”

from “The Advent Door” by Jan Richardson.

The word Advent comes from the Latin, “Adventus” which means coming. It is the beginning of the Liturgical year and is a time of preparation, looking forward to the celebration of Christ’s birth.  As Iconographers, we rejoice in the implications of this time waiting, the coming of Christ, the Word made flesh.  Truly a symbol of Icons where we write the Image of Christ in remembrance of His HolyPresence and action upon us. During Advent we open our  hearts to His influence and love in joyous anticipation of a life filled with the fulness of His Spirit.

Christ Icon
Christ in Glory Icon written by Christine Hales

I love this Icon of Christ in Glory, especially at this time of year. The predominant colors of red, green and gold ochre are highly symbolic and offer a clarity and simplicity found especially in Advent.  Red and green are opposites and in Christ, both heaven and earth are united, within the context of gold, the color of God’s Presence and light.  The four Evangelists in the corners remind us of Christ’s birth as a fulfillment of both Old and New Testament Prophesies.

In the  two unfinished stages of the Annunciation Icon below, written by Jennifer Richard-Morrow, they graphically depict a sense of waiting, the form is visible, but the details are coming slowly, eventually creating a dynamic picture of a very exciting event in the life of Mary.

written by Jennifer Richard-Morrow
Annunciation Icon written by Jennifer Richard-Morrow-roskrish state.
Nearly finished Icon by Jennifer Richard-Morrow
Nearly finished Icon by Jennifer Richard-Morrow

In Advent, I think of Mary- her waiting.  Keeping her focus on God, her savior, prided a faith filled context within which the waiting became joyous.  Her whole being was trained through prayer  and family lo

Madonna and Child Iconve to honor God’s will and to rejoice that she was chosen for the difficult and perilous mission of being the mother of Jesus.  She believed God was doing great things for her.  God’s will, not her own. “Oh, how I praise the Lord, my savior.” Luke 1 :46.

I encourage you to meditate and reflect, with a Madonna Icon if possible. God has called each one of us.  May we wait with certainty and joy as his plan unfolds.

Brother Aidan, a Benedictine monk of the Holy Cross Monastery, has a weekly blog that this week begins a meditation on Advent and fasting. “Learning How to Fast”.  He talks about how important it is to allow ourselves to experience the feeling of emptiness.  We need to experience hunger in order to know what we are truly hungry for.

“Although Advent is not a penitential season, it is a season of waiting and watching, a season of expectation. Our Christmas celebration will be all the sweeter if we sit in the gathering darkness of winter and allow ourselves to long for the dawning of the light rather than turning on every lightbulb in the house in an effort to cast out the shadows. Let’s relearn how to fast. It will make our feast all the more joyous when it comes.”  Brother Aidan, Holy Cross Monastery

Mary Icon almost finished
Mary Icon almost finished

 

“For a true Iconographer, creation is the way of asceticism and prayer, that is, essentially, a monastic way.” Leonid Ouspensky; The Meaning Of Icons

Sending love and prayers this beautiful Advent Season.  May you experience the love of God and Mary especially this Christmas.

Christine

 

Icon Classes

Icon Website