Stories of Saints and Icons

Dear Fellow Iconographers

Crucifixion Icon
Crucifixion Icon by Christine Hales

Have you ever wondered about the stories associated with Saints and Icons- how they have been carried down through the ages?  Joseph Campbell spoke in “The Power of the Myth” about how human beings have a thirst and hunger for stories that can help them understand and give significance and meaning to their experiences in present time.

The stories of St. Nicholas helping the poor, or St. Francis preaching to the birds, or the modern day story of the marine being saved by Saint Michael in the trenches in Korea in 1950, and so many more, are thoughts that keep us going when things are difficult.

Stories about Mary, her graceful obedience to God’s plan for her life and the many blessings that followed, and  Kateri Tekakwitha’s life of prayer and faith inspire us to stand  for God’s plans for our lives.  In Icon class we read recently about “obedience” and how that played out in the lives of some of the prophets.

These Icons, saints and stories add richness to the fabric of our lives. They lend strength and hope to our everyday lives.  If you know of any good books or reading materials that focus on  miracles and stories of saints, please share those in the comments section of this blog.  Winter is coming and a good reading list will be a help to us all!

Here is a link to the “Icons and Their Interpretation” blog that tells the lovely story of Saint Irene and Her apples.  I think you’ll enjoy it!

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St. Irene

Another interesting link I’d like to share is about a contemporary Byzantine graffiti artist Fikos in Athens, from an interview in “The Orthodox Arts Journal.

Fikos
Greek Graffitti Iconographer Fikos
Hippocrates-632x900
Hippocrates by Fikos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a link to a description of a new Icon class I will be teaching in Philmont, NY this fall on Thursday evenings beginning Sept 15, 6-9PM

Upcoming Classes and RETREATS:

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY:

June 16-18, 2017 Introduction to Icon Writing Class

March 21 – Friday, March 24 Advanced Master Class in Icon Writing

St. James Episcopal Church, Madison Ave. NYC

June 9-11, 2017  Introduction to Icon Writing

ADVANCED ICON WRITING CLASS IN ALBANY  Westminster Presbyterian Church

Monday evenings 6-9PM  New students beginning Sept. 19.

Be blessed, my friends, and keep us in your prayers, as you are in ours.

Christine Hales                      Icon Website             Contemporary Paintings Website

Fikos
I Was Born to Love Not Hate by Fikos

 

Heat Wave and Icons!

Hello Fellow Iconographers and Greetings:

Christine at the High Line Garden in NYC
Christine at the High Line Garden in NYC

Polar Bear Zinnia in Christine's garden in Hudson Valley
Polar Bear Zinnia in Christine’s garden in Hudson Valley

The month of July has been consistently hot and so beautiful here in the Hudson Valley. Although temperatures usually reach 90 degrees+ each day, Icons are still being created and the Monday night class keeps working right on throughout all!  Here’s a photo of Carol MacNaughtons’ Saint Michael in the process of being olifa-ed.

FullSizeRender

Also, now some works in progress photos for the Saint Kateri and Saint Isaac Jogues I am working on for the RCDA new Mausoleum.  I love working large!

The Monday Night Advanced Icon writing class will be accepting new students after Labor Day: September 12.  Please email if you would like to begin at that time. christine@newchristianicons.com

Also, Starting a 10 week Icon Writing Class in the Hudson, NY area, Thursday evenings, 6-9PM, September 15- December 1.  email if you’re interested in attending: christine@newchristianicons.com

THE VALUE OF ICONS IN THE POST MODERN WORLD

Icons are conveyors of holiness, sacredness, beauty and God’s love for mankind. Because Icons are vessels containing these attributes, they are essential in the continuing formation of our society and culture.  In a world seemingly gone mad, they are light filled and providers of God’s peace and love.

Icons that are created in an atmosphere of prayer to God, and with training in art principles and spiritual discipline cannot help but provide a spiritual compass to those viewing them.  This kind Icon becomes a visible testimony of God’s grace as it blesses the creator and the viewer.

” There is a deeper realization of God’s Presence available to us.  Through the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit, God wishes to dwell within us in a new way: not in a mode of which we are largely unconscious, or as a kind spiritual atmosphere in which we simply live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), but as a lover and a friend. (Song of Solomon 5:10). God wants His Presence to be consciously experienced by us.”

Above quote from the The Glenstal Book of Icons, Praying with the Glenstal Icons, Gregory Collins OSB.

To be consciously experienced, it is helpful to have holy images that serve as reminders and point the Way, even when our minds are engaged in worldly activities. It only takes a few seconds to shift our perspective to God’s perspective – truly the secret to a joy filled life!

Face of Christ Icon written by C.Hales
Face of Christ Icon written by C.Hales

One last thing worth mentioning:  I attended the Kremer Pigments workshop on “Grounds” a through workshop on materials, conditions, and possible variations, and I would recommend it highly the next time they teach it. Kremer Pigments regularly gives classes and workshops on making paints and provides a wonderful resource of technical, hands-on information.

That’s all for this month.  Enjoy the beautiful summer and please keep me in your prayers, as you are in mine.

Blessings,

Christine

www.newchristianicons.com        www.christinehales.com     www.kingdomartsministry.com

www.halesart.com

Formation and Training of Future Iconographers

altaarwestminsterwebDear Fellow Iconographers:

Following up on the blog from last month where I included the links to Iconographer Aidan Hart’s articles about Icon writing: “Introduction to Principles of Icon Training, and Principles of Icon Training Part 2 , another link has been recently published on a Russian website called mmekourdukova, which I also include here: “The Icon: Truth and Fables” by Irina Gorbunova.

Aidan Hart’s excellent articles attempt to define important principles in the training of future Iconographers, and I suggest reading each of these in order to form your own opinions, and discuss in class the important aspects of each article to your own Icon writing.  I think it’s important to keep an open mind and respect the calling of each person who has interest in Icons or creating Icons.  In the Russian( or Ukranian) article there is an element of mocking and sarcasm that I find detrimental to the humble and prayerful attitude necessary for Icon writing.  But please read, and add your own thoughts and comments._MG_8520

These two recent articles are only relevant because there are more people today interested and wanting to write Icons than in the previous century.  There can be many causes for that, but I like to think that as we explore our spirituality and gain a closer relationship to God, we need and want visual images that bring us fresh revelation of His love for mankind, his promises, His wisdom and faithfulness.  As we regularly bring these qualities of holiness to mind in our daily lives, we can then integrate them and share them with others around us.

It is often said that Icons are “windows” into the heavenly world.  When we look through those “windows” we see heaven, and are more able, as St. Paul advised ” to focus on whatever is good”.  Truly a challenge in todays world.

_MG_8554The other attractive aspect of Icon writing to me is that of “passing on” to the next generation all that I can offer in terms of living the Gospel message through Icon writing. Investing in the younger generation is a goal worthy of Icon writing in my opinion.  But how? How and what kind of  an Icon be created that will draw them in?  Good questions to ponder as we work on our Icons.

The recent Icon exhibition and pipe organ concert that I organized for the Albany, New York area at Westminster Presbyterian Church, was an experiment to see if contemporary New Yorkers would respond to Icons as art and vessels of God’s presence within the Byzantine context of worship with the five senses.  A lot of this was new information to some of the people, but familiar to others.  People came who simply wanted to see the Icons, and people came to hear composer and organist Al Fedak offer a phenomenal program of music played with a world class pipe organ.crucifixionwestminsterweb

I gave the introductory talk, introducing the concept of Byzantine worship, and Al Fedak explained the contemplative and meditative nature of the pieces he chose, and he also invited people to walk around, view and interact with the Icons.  My students and I who created the Icons were available during intermission and at the reception following to answer questions and help people understand more about what they were viewing.

It was truly  a memorable evening as we were lifted up and carried individually and collectively in worship on a Friday night in Albany amongst the community of saints! Icons on a mission!

Hope you all enjoy this beautiful summer, Happy Fourth of July!!

No Monday night Icon class on July 4!!

Please visit my website for information on upcoming Icon classes and retreats.

Have a blessed month,   _MG_8524

Christine Hales

Here’s a link to my Art/Icon Facebook page

and websites:  www.newchristianicons.com          www.christinehales.com     www.halesart.com

www.kingdomartsministry.com

 

 

 

 

 

Travels to the UK and Italy

Hello Fellow Iconographers:photo 1

The Beginning of September was the start of our trip to the UK for a family wedding in Leeds, but we were able to make a detour to Shropshire and interview Aidan Hart, Iconographer and author of the book we use in Icon writing class: “Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting”,  for Yale University Radio.

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I was so happy that Aidan could make time for us, and upon leaving he said that he had just completed a large Icon for a church in Leeds! We were in Leeds at Michael’s sister’s home about 15 minutes when we realized that church was a fifteen minute walk- so off we all went. The icons were beautiful, and Father Michael of St. Urban’s invited us to come the following morning to his other church, also in Leeds,  to see another Aidan Hart Icon. Once there, we were amazed to see the 16′ fresco of the Transfiguration that Aidan had recently completed – in ten days according to Fr. Michael. It is the largest commissioned fresco since the Reformation, he told us.

Here’s the interview:    photophoto 2

 

Our next travels took us to Venice to see the Biennale and the wonders of the Byzantine Cathedral of San Marco.  I’ll be giving a gallery talk this Saturday, Sept 26, 6-8pm at the McDaris Gallery on Warren St. Hudson that will touch on the Biennale and Byzantine art.  (You’re all welcome to attend!).

 

From Venice, we got to Rome, where we stayed at a convent within walking distance of the Vatican-our destination! God blessed me with achieving my heart’s desire to give Pope _MG_0831 (1)Francis the portrait I had done of him! At breakfast, the nun suggested that I might give my portrait of the Pope to him if the guards would help me. By God’s grace, we met a friendly Italian music composer at breakfast who offered to walk with us to the Vatican. after Mass, he began asking the guards around the Vatican if I could give my portrait to the Pope. He pleaded eloquently, in Italian, to seven sets of guards! Finally I was able to write a note to accompany my gift and the last guard _MG_0218 (1)promised that he would personally deliver it to the Pope the next morning! I was the happiest I could be! We had such a wonderful trip but that was the highlight for me. Seeing the Sistine Chapel again and the architecture in St. Peter’s Basilica, too, impressed me with a sense of excellence that can only be experienced in that place.photo 2photo 3

So, back to earth, the Albany advanced Icon writing class has changed venue and is now held on Monday nights 6-9PM at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State St., Albany, NY.

Also coming up is the Introduction to Icon Writing Retreat at St. James Church on Madison Ave, in NYC, Oct 16-18. Registration is still open, email Grace Beecham at: GBeacham@stjames.org to register.

A Few Notes of Interest:photo 3

Stephan Rene will be lecturing at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts on Coptic Iconography.

British Association of Iconographers will have its annual members exhibition October 14-16 at St. Saviour’s Church, St. George’s Square, London.

Until next month, be blessed,

+ Christine

“”A full reward will be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Ruth 2:12

www.newchristianicons.com

Principles of Iconography: Sacred Geometry

Dear Fellow Iconographers:

This month I want to focus on one of the important (to me) principles of Iconography: Sacred Geometry.  I think that as Iconography evolves into a twenty-first century authentic expression of spirituality for our time, one of the principles and traditions that is important to bring forward is that of incorporating principles of sacred geometry in our composition and colors.

What is Sacred Geometry?  

It has its roots in the study of the mathematical principles in nature, i.e. the hexagonal cells created by honeybees, the chambered nautilus, are just a few examples. This reflects the belief that God created the universe according to a geometric plan. Geometric rations are often used in architecture as can be evidenced in the works of Leonardo DaVinci, and Michelangelo.  It’s interesting that back in 500BC, Pythagoras discovered that an oscillating string stopped halfway along its length produces an octave relative to the string’s length, while a ratio of 2:3 produces a perfect fifth and 3:4 produces a perfect fourth. The belief was that using these harmonic rations gave music and art powers of healing that could harmonize the person experiencing them.christinglory

How does this  manifest in Icon writing?  

Composition, figure placement, relative scape and body proportions all benefit by having the principles of sacred geometry as the underlying structure. In a simple portrait Icon, the triangle is the basic geometric compositional structure. It produces a feeling of centeredness, grounding and balance. In order to avoid a static appearance, the face is usually a 3/4 view, or slightly turned.

George Kordis, in his book “Icon As Communion “ addresses the issue of stations and gives excellent examples of how to additional incorporate directional flow outwards toward the viewer. George Kordis also speaks of how a composition is purified and refined when the compositional elements are arranged symmetrically around the vertical axis, and this can produce dynamic balance. There is a sense of unity and energy that radiates out towards the viewer when these compositional elements are observed.BaptismofJesus18

I think one of the very best sources for clarification of sacred geometry in the Icon is Egon Sendler’s “The Icon, Images the Invisible”.  He provides an analysis of many classic Icons as examples of geometric structures for composition and explains how to use right angles to obtain the four points of a square as well as explaining the cross, grid and circle compositions of festal Icons.

The two images above: Christ in Glory and Baptism of Jesus were both written in egg tempera by myself and are based on sacred geometry principles handed down through the centuries.  You can see clearly the vertical axis in the Baptism Icon as well as the slightly turned faces.  The symbol center top is that of God the Father, the radiating gold rays symbolize the Holy Spirit, so that, symbolically, the vertical axis is the Unity of the Trinity.

I hope this provides material for thought and helps to create understanding as a community of Iconographers, of what principles are and are not important to retain in our work. To each his own, and I look forward to hearing your comments.

Blessings and prayers,

Christine

www.newchristiancicons.com

www.christinehales.com

www.kingdomartsministry.com

Icons-Evolving As A Message for the Twenty-First Century

Dear Friends and Fellow Iconographers:

It is an exciting time to be writing Icons.  The inspiration of Andrei Rublev writing the great “Holy Spirit” Icon as a symbol for trinity-webunity – a unity that was so needed in his country at that time, is applicable to us all today.  What are the Icons our culture NEEDS?  What are the issues that need to be addressed in prayer and how can we make timeless images that can help to focus the prayer of a nation?

After attending the icon Workshop held at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC, led by Philip Davydov, I am inspired even more to explore this idea of an American Iconography.  In light of the recent events in Charleston, SC. I feel an urgency to address the needs of our country in prayer and Sacred Imagery.

Dutch Sheets: “I have great hope for America because the depth of a fall never determines God’s ability to restore. I’m not afraid of the powerful strongholds because size and strength are completely irrelevant when measuring His ability to deliver. And I’m not intimidated because statistical odds, whether of success or failure, cease to be relevant when God is involved. His limitless ability negates the very concept of “odds,” and trumps all other winning hands.”

Just a short time before the Charleston shooting, a conference on painting Sacred icons the twenty-first Century was held, also in Charleston.

Here is a link to the “Living Tradition” Symposium organized by the Orthodox Arts Journal in Charleston, South Carolina.  The ideas expressed are interesting ones to thoughtfully consider. It’s my opinion that it would have been good to have some American women Iconographers as well as some of the talented Romanian and other InternationaI Iconographers present to represent their views as well.

In a recent article in The New Liturgical Movement, noted  Iconographer Aidan Hart wrote an article entitled “Diversity within Iconography – An Artistic Pentecost”. Here is an excerpt:

But where does the mean lie between unspiritual innovation on the one hand and mere duplication on the other? Genuine variety in liturgical art occurs when the iconographer unites spiritual vision with artistic ability – energized with courage and the blessing of God. Vision without artistic ability produces pious daubs. Not every saint can paint icons. Although icons are more than art, but they are not less than art.”

This is a blessed time to have such great artists and Iconographers working together to create an authentic sacred art for the twenty-first century.  I feel called to encourage community amongst iconographers, accepting our differences and celebrating our shared strengths. Very much like Pentecost, we can all receive the Holy Spirit but God will give each of us a language that can speak to our countries.photo 4

Locally, one of my students, and a member of the St. Luke’s Iconography Guild, Dahlia Herring, has transformed her contemplative approach to Iconography into action:

“A Refugee Art Exhibit- Resettling In Albany”

Through art work and written stories, the children from some of the most war-torn countries on earth, including Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan, express what it means to leave everything familiar and start a brand new life in the United States. These young artists eloquently and directly voice their hopes and disappointments, their fears and joys as the begin their new lives and education in Albany. The exhibit will be in the City Hall Rotunda until June 30th. You can find pictures of the Open House for this exhibit on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/USCRI.Albany. A Refugee Art Exhibit: Resettling in Albany was organized by the Capital Region Refugee Roundtable (co-chaired by Dahlia Herring) and the Albany Office of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

Also Local News:  Albany Icon Writing Classes Monday nights  June 22, NO CLASS June 29, . For July, Classes July 6,13, 27 ( No Class July 20.)

Also NOTE:  Another member of the St. Luke’s Iconography Guild discovered a pigment company in California that has good pigments at a reasonable cost. Worth looking into!  Agulis Pigments :agulisfarm@live.com

Look forward to hearing from you and have a blessed summer.

Christine

www.newchristianicons.com

www.christinehales.com

www.kingdomartsministry.com