“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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

photo 4

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

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