Icon Writing is experiencing a revival in the last twenty years. To learn Icon writing, one usually needs to study with a Russian or Greek Iconographer who usually gives one or two, 5 day workshops a year. Most of my Iconographer friends here in the USA have learned in this way and learning the culture of the Byzantine and Greek eras has provided a valuable perspective on our own times.
I think it is more ideal for an Iconographer to be able to teach consistently over several years on a regular basis, thereby helping individual students to progress in their individual painting skills and spiritual and historical understanding. The five day workshops are good, but a consistent practice and study with supervision is also needed.
For example, it was through learning Icon writing that I learned of a different pictorial and spiritual perspective from the one I had learned in art college. I was then able to examine the Renaissance perspective that has led to the present era of humanism and veneration of science over belief in God. It was very exciting to discover this through the language of pictures! And helpful in my painting too!
Now I realize that in addition to studying the plastic arts of picture making, it is also important to research and define what an “American School of Iconography” will look like. What are the unique and highly valued characteristics of Americans that we can bring to the field of visual language creation for the twenty-first century that makes our faith in God visible? Big question! I’m hoping to hear ideas from some of you as this is an ongoing exploration to clearly define what we as Americans bring to the field.
Certainly an ecumenisicm would be an important part of this, as well as a highly inventive and creative approach to image making. I think also, in addition to the traditional Liturgical role Icons have held in the Church, we are also looking to embrace an Evangelical approach, bringing and making accessible Icons to the unchurched by exhibiting them outside churches. So many people in our world need God’s Presence and they are just not ready to walk into a “church” to experience it. In this way, the Icons can be used to embrace the challenge of our time to grow our faith and bring it to our communities.
This is a process and I think an important step in it is to thoroughly understand Illuminated manuscripts, Psalters, and create a kind of summary of early medieval and Christian Iconography in this context.
The Advanced Icon Writing Class in Albany has spent all of last year with a focus on Color theory as it relates specifically to the Icons. Color theory and symbolism are also important parts of Icon writing and full of variations and developments through the evolution of practice over time. Different eras and cultures assign importance to colors and color mixing – or not mixing, and it’s important to understand the reasons, benefits, and drawbacks to each system.
This year I hope to teach more 5 day Icon Writing workshops which will be Introduction to Icon Writing classes, and also to continue with the advanced group and hold exhibitions of mine and their work throughout the year. Their work is quite exceptional and they are moving to an ever deeper understanding of what an Icon is, and where the power of prayer can be applied in the process.
Here is a list of Icon Writing Classes I will be teaching this spring – hope to see some of you there!
ALBANY- WESTMINISTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 362 Chestnut Street, Albany, NY Mondays 6-9PM email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you are planning to attend, space is limited. $35.00 per class (Minimum 5 classes)
Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy, NY, Thursday Evenings 6-9PM, March 8- April 5. Member $175 plus $45 materials fee, Non member $195.00 plus $45 materials fee
Holy Cross Monastery, Introduction to Icon Writing, Friday 6-9pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sunday 1-5PM, May 6-8. Cost: $275.00 deposit $80.00
Note: The images above are from: 1. Early Anglo-Saxon manuscript illumination, 2. Christ in Majesty, illuminated manuscript, 3. Mary Magdalen announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles, St. Albans Psalter, 4.My Station One of the Fourteen Stations.
I frequently give talks on “What is an Icon”, to churches and interested groups. There is no fee, except for transportation expenses. I recently gave a talk at Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota Florida that was very well attended and received. The people there showed a marked interest in Icons. Their symbol is the Pelican – and they have a beautiful Icon above their altar of Christ the Redeemer.
I look forward to seeing each of you again sometime. Stay in touch and let me know how your Icons are doing!
All the Best, Christine
Christine Hales, Iconographer
My husband’s and my ministry blog: www.kingdomartsministry.com