Lifestyle of an Iconographer

Hello Iconographers!

Icon of Mary
Icon of Mary by Christine Simoneau Hales

I know that many of you lead busy lives and are able to take Icon classes only  once or twice a year- and those classes usually last only a few precious days.  The best way to really benefit from our intermittent classes is to do as much reading and preparation on Icons as possible.  With that in mind, I want to refer you to a series of four articles written by Father Silouan Justinian for the Orthodox Journal.  It is a series called: “Imagination, Expression, Icon, Encountering the Internal Prototype.”

 

As there are many nuances involved in writing Icons that cover both the spiritual life of an Iconographer and the artist’s creative skills, I encourage you to take a look at these.   Here are the links to each part of the series:

Part One 

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

My suggestion would be to bookmark or print out each article to read at a time where you have leisure to ponder and think about each one.  Eventually, I hope to compile a book of such essays and other instructional materials for the potential Iconography student.  As this field continues to grow in popularity, a high standard of training that incorporates the writings of leading contemporary authors along  with practical, good artistic training would be a beneficial addition to the field.

Fr. Paul Wattson
detail of Fr. Paul Wattson Icon at Graymoor Monastery

We all know that the lifestyle of an Iconographer is one of prayer and fasting.  Also, we know that being part of a Church, having good spiritual direction, receiving the Sacraments regularly are also important to writing Icons.  Within this context, good artistic training is also important.  What a task!  But as you all have experienced, it is an exciting and blessed task.  No one will be able to do everything perfectly, but willingness and diligence to seriously undertake the study will have very positive effects.

Saint Benedict Icon by CS Hales
St. Benedict Icon by Christine Simoneau Hales

In St. Benedict’s Prologue to “Saint Benedict’s Rule For Monks” he says:

“My son, listen carefully to your master’s teaching. Treasure it in your heart. Be open to receive and generous to respond to the counsel of a loving father.  You have strayed from God by the sloth of disobedience.  Return to him then, by the work of obedience.  Accordingly, I speak to you, whoever you may be, who giving up your own will and taking the strong and bright weapons of obedience, are prepared to fight for the true King, Christ”.

In taking up the task of Icon writing, we always need to remember that it is about much more than just our own will. Here is a quote from the above mentioned Part 4 of Father Silouan’s article:

“In other words, the icon painter should not repeat the resultof encounter, but rather his work should arise and re-present (ex-press) a true, fresh and living re-encounter with the subject depicted. But, this, of course, is not to promulgate the modernist cult of individualism or so called “artistic genius.” On the contrary, as just mentioned, life in the Body of Christ presupposes the flourishing of ourselves as unique and true persons[x] in loving communion with one another, in contradistinction to our ego-centric or individualistic identity in which we wither as isolated numerical “units.”[xi]Moreover, let us not forget that in this ecclesial life, “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.”[xii] That is, inner union in the Spirit does not mean uniformity at the expense of diversity. Each person as a member, in a unique manner, contributes towards the edification of the whole Body. Therefore, the traditional practice of “anonymity,” that is, of not signing the icon, should not be understood as an aspiration towards the complete obliteration of the iconographer’s gifts and creative temperament.[xiii] It is rather a reminder that only in humble cooperation with the Divine Craftsman, in becoming one with Him through the Holy Spirit, will his true self and art flourish to the fullness of their capacity. Obedience becomes liberation. Thereby he will be able to uncover nuances contained in the prototypes previously unnoticed and contribute unrepeatable expressionsof Tradition. In undermining this side of the icon, seeking to protect it from “artistic license” and foreign cultural influences, we may in fact blunt its power, making of it a purely mechanical act that contradicts basic principles of Orthodoxy.”

Understanding and correct application of the Traditions and Canons of Iconography can only come through time and experience.

One final quote from Part 4:

Mourning Christ by Christine Simoneau Hales
Mourning Christ by Christine Simoneau Hales

” The iconographer preaches the Gospel in colors and chants hymns of praise, trembling as he says, in the words of the Nativity sticheron, “How hard it is to compose hymns of love, framed in harmony.” With his art he paints the Word, plastically manifesting, indeed enfleshing the Logos. This is truly an “artistic license” of kerygmatic expression in free will. For as Christ Himself has ordained: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”[xxii]”

I look forward to seeing you all in Icon classes, or now on the Facebook Page you are welcome to post your work or any important links about Icons that you think will benefit the Community of Iconographers.

May God bless you and the work of your hands,

Christine Simoneau Hales

Shepherd icon
The Lord is My Shepherd Icon by Christine Simoneau Hales

Christine’s Icon website

 

Icon Writing Classes

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Icon Writing Instruction

Dear Friends and Fellow Iconographers:  400px-CodexAureusCanterburyFolios9v10r

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.Unknown

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.Wga_12c_illuminated_manuscripts_Mary_Magdalen_announcing_the_resurrection

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.

station1

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: christine@newchristianicons.com 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.  IMG_1266

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.IMG_1269

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

www.newchristianicons.com

www.christinehales.com

My husband’s and my ministry blog:     www.kingdomartsministry.com

 

The New Year- 2016

Dear Fellow Iconographers:Christ the Healer2civa

As we prepare for the New Year, it is a time of hopes, dreams and prayers for a better world.  One of the most important aspects of Icon writing for me is that of making intercessory prayer a part of my painting practice.   Because joy is relational, the community of Iconographers is an important community building prayer fellowship where we encourage one another and work toward wholeness in our families and communities through painting, praying, and sharing with one another.

Mandylion

“Thou my best thought, in the day and the night…”

Lord, I think many things, I think many thoughts, let me not forget you, nor lose sight of You, even for a moment.

Thou my best thought.

 

 

Here are some interesting links pertaining to Iconography:Elijahtall

ICONS AND THEIR INTERPRETATION

Link to Orthodox Art Journal articles of interest:

Review of the book,” Icon as Communion” by George Kordis

An Interview with Iconographer Julia Bridget Hayes

 

In July of 2015 Christine received an exciting commission to write the Icons of the two founders of Graymoor- a Fransicscan Monastery in New York, Each Icon panel is 8’ x 3’, with the Icon figures being larger than life size!

The drawings have been approved and the Icons are progressing very well. Photographs of the work in progress will be coming along.johnbaptistprint

Icon Writing Classes in New York

Albany Monday nights 6-9PM at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chestnut St. Albany :  On Holiday until February 8, 2016

Arts Center of the Capital Region,  Introduction to Icon Writing 5 Thursday evenings 6-9Pm  March 8-April 5

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY  Introduction to Icon Writing  May 6,7, & 8

Icon writing is a manifestation of God’s Spirit as well as the effect of cultural influences in a given era. As the interest in Icon writing continues to grow, this blog will be a place to share new Icons, talks and workshops in 2016.

Sending you all many blessings and best wishes for a blessed New Year.

Christine Hales

www.newchristiancions.com

www.christinehales.com