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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feast of Archangels

Dear Fellow Iconographers:

Blessed Feast of the Archangels, Michael, Raphael and Gabriel!

 

Pope Francis spoke about this feast day earlier this week: “We must be aware of their invisible presence,” – Pope Francis said – “Let us invoke them in prayer so that in every moment they remind us of the presence of God, and support us in the struggle against evil and guide us safely along the roads of our lives. We entrust to them ourselves, our dear ones, and those we hold in our hearts. Praise be to Jesus Christ.”

Archangel Michael by Christine Hales
Archangel Michael, Ready for Battle

Michael is the Patron saint : Against temptations; against powers of evil; artists; bakers; bankers; battle; boatmen; cemeteries; coopers; endangered children; dying; Emergency Medical Technicians; fencing; grocers; hatmakers; holy death; knights; mariners; mountaineers; paramedics; paratroopers; police officers; radiologists; sailors; the sick; security forces; soldiers; against storms at sea; swordsmiths; those in need of protection; Brussels, Belgium; Caltanissett, Sicily; Cornwall, England; Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee Florida; England; Germany

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Archangel Michael by Christine Hales

His symbols are: Angel with wings; dressed in armour; lance and shield; scales; shown weighing souls; millstone; piercing dragon or devil; banner charged with a dove; symbolic colors orange or gold.

Gabriel is the patron Saint of: Ambassadors; broadcasting; childbirth; clergy; communications; diplomats; messengers; philatelists; postal workers; public relations; radio workers; secular clergy; stamp collectors; telecommunications; and Portugal.

gabrielweb
Archangel Gabriel by Christine Hales

His symbols are: Archangel; sceptre and lily; MR or AM shield; lantern; mirror; olive branch; scroll with words Ave Maria Gratia Plena; Resurrection trumpet; shield; spear; lily; symbolic colors, silver or blue.

Raphael is the Patron Saint of: The Blind; bodily ills; counselors; druggists; eye problems; guardian angels; happy meetings; healers; health inspectors; health technicians; love; lovers; mental illness; nurses; pharmacists; physicians; shepherds; against sickness; therapists; travellers; young people; young people leaving home for the first time.

raphaelunframedweb
Archangel Raphael by Christine Hales

 

His symbols are: Staff; wallet and fish; staff and gourd; archangel; young man carrying a staff; young man carrying a fish; walking with Tobias; holding a bottle or flask; symbolic colors, gray or yellow.

In David Clayton’s “Way of Beauty “ Blog this month, he talks about Christian Symbols and whether we need to keep them or find new ones.  I think the symbol and it’s significance and meaning to the viewer are what give it it’s power and relevance.  When God gives us revelations, often it is in symbolic form.  So when we hear from God, and are able to grasp His thoughts on a deeper level with the help of symbols and Icons, we are able to enter more fully into the wisdom of our present circumstances and situations.

Icons are symbols of a world where holiness reins, eternal light shines forth, and the contradictions of this earthly world are resolved in the heavenly world of the Icon. God’s grace, His presence, His love, all flow constantly to those who are willing and able to receive it. …

Just to mention that the large Icons of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and Isaac Jogues are almost finished. It has been a blessed experience working on them in my summer studio. And I am so happy God has blessed me with a winter studio in Hudson this year!  Exciting!

 

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To learn more about Icon classes and retreats that I am giving, please check my website.

Until next month,

May God bless you and keep you in His loving embrace.

Christine Hales

www.newchristianicons.com     www.christinehales.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