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

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February Icon Resources

Hello Fellow Iconographers:img_5817

This month I would like to give you some  of my resources and links that have a lot of varied information about Icons and creating Icons. Some of these are repeats from last year, but thought you all might like to see them here in one place:

Materials/Pigments

Natural Pigments, Kremer Pigments, Daniel Smith, Guerra Paint and Pigment

These are some of my favorites, and if you’d like to leave a link in the comment section, I’m happy to add any others.

Icon Boards

Pandora, St. John’s Workshop, True Gesso Icon Panels

Icon Websites with Resources :

Versta-K Russia: Russian Modern Orthodox Icon Site: Lots of links and Russian Icon books for purchase

British Association of Iconographers

Icon Classes

Icon Master Class at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY,    March 21-24, 2017          FB event 

Introduction to Icon Writing Classes: St. James Episcopal Church, Madison Ave, New York, NY  June 9-11

Prosopon School of Iconology

Article About Iconography

Also want to mention the article that came out in the National Catholic Reporter, Dec. 2016: “Iconography Classes Draw non Orthodox in Search of Spiritual Images”.  It is important because it draws attention to the current revival in Icon Writing classes as well as making the point that sacred images are of increasing importance to all denominations of Christianity.

“Experts say the growth in interest — and diversity of religions involved — has been building over the last couple of decades.”

“David Morgan, a religion scholar and art historian at Duke University, said the iconography tradition, which dates to the early centuries of Christianity, is designed to be distinct from more naturalistic art, which became more common in the Renaissance period.

The flatness of the image, its stillness, the large eyes of its figures and the often symmetrical style are all intentional ways of distinguishing between the ordinary world and a heavenly realm.

The two-dimensional image denies three-dimensional presence,” he said. “It says the spirit is not about three dimensions. It’s about a reality that is revealed in the image, revealed in the holy Scriptures, revealed in the sacrament, and it’s something that one needs to recognize as very special.”    There is more in the article and I have included the link above.

It is  hopeful and encouraging that many more people are experiencing the spiritual joys of Iconography. img_5944

I gave a talk this month at Church of the Redeemer, a beautiful Episcopal Church in Sarasota, Florida, that was well attended and the questions afterwards showed a lively interest and an awareness that Icons have the effect of strengthening our faith in many different ways.

I think that understanding our differences as Iconographers and agreeing on the important elements of Icon writing that we share are key to being part of a vibrant community.  Perhaps we can all include the community of Iconographers  in our prayers as we move forward in Faith as servants of God and His Church.

May God bless you all,

Christine

Icon website

Facebook Icon Page

 

 

 

 

New Year

Dear  Fellow Iconographers and Friends:

christingloryweb
Christ in Glory Icon written by Christine Hales

As we contemplate the New Year ahead, Icons have an important role to play in shaping the structure and content of our lives, for they are signs pointing the way to the future. How does that work? In my prayer practice and in my choice of Icons to write, I choose Icons that will be effective in directing my attention and prayers to the outcomes, wisdom, and direction I am seeking.

John the Baptist Icon
John the Baptist Icon written by Dahlia Herring

 

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Proverbs 29:18

Whatever your political leanings, there has never been a more important time to pray and to write Icons. For in choosing which Icons to write, we can call forth, through prayer, the guidance and assistance of the community of saints who have gone before us. Mysterious and powerful, the Byzantine Holy images that were created hundreds of centuries ago, contain a window into the Divine that is sometimes hard to locate in our contemporary world. In the prayerful atmosphere of meditation and contemplation with an Icon, we enter into that holy, creative space where we listen to God and receive Holy Wisdom.

small-st-kateri-2015
Saint Kateri Icon written by Jennifer Richard-Morrow

Some examples of Icons that relate to this concept of praying and contemplation with a purpose are: Christ, calling forth Unity, forgiveness and discernment; Julian of Norwich, calling forth peace;  Saint Anthony the Great, father of monasticism and defeater of demonic temptations; Saint Michael the Archangel, Protector of the world; The Madonna, protector of children everywhere; the list is endless.  In fact,it would be interesting and you are invited to list your own favorite Icons and saints in the comments section below.

christ-in-majesty
Christ in Majesty Icon written by Rev. W. Michael Shirk

 

 

MEMBERSHIP

If you are interested in contributing to the American Association of Iconographers blog or if you’d like to become a member, please add your name and information in the comments section below.

 

In speaking about one of her Icon writing classes, Iconographer Mary Jane Miller states: “The main goal of the study is to cultivate a clear and conscious image that becomes a lasting window to the Divine”  It is precisely this that Icons and Icon writing have to offer.  The more clearly we pray, create our vision with God’s  help, we bring God’s grace and intervention to the very world we live in.  While Icons are most often seen in the context of liturgical worship within the Church, their place is also needed in our individual worlds outside the church, helping us to minister to those around us by granting us access to heaven through the Icons.

If you’d like to make an Icon workshop part of your 2017 Spiritual Plan, I will be teaching three this year.  The first one will be an advanced Icon writing workshop held at the beautiful Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY, March 21-24. It is for those who have previous experience and wish to continue. Individual instruction and demonstrations will be provided.

May God continue to bless you in 2017, and may your prayer reach extend to all those in need in your community and in your nation and the world.

Blessings and prayers,   Christine Simoneau Hales

www.newchristianicons.com

my-joshua-icon
Joshua Icon written by Carol MacNaughton

 

Advent

Dear Fellow Iconographers:

“Advent asks us to keep vigil for the Christ who comes to us anew in this season. It invites us to keep our face turned toward the horizon in hope. But Advent asks us also to open our hearts to the Christ who keeps vigil for us, the Christ who stands not on some distant horizon but, instead, is already with us, waiting for us to open our eyes to his presence that stays with us always.

As Advent begins, may you be blessed in your vigil: the one you keep, the one being kept for you. In that vigil, may you find your deepest welcome and know yourself at home. Peace.”

from “The Advent Door” by Jan Richardson.

The word Advent comes from the Latin, “Adventus” which means coming. It is the beginning of the Liturgical year and is a time of preparation, looking forward to the celebration of Christ’s birth.  As Iconographers, we rejoice in the implications of this time waiting, the coming of Christ, the Word made flesh.  Truly a symbol of Icons where we write the Image of Christ in remembrance of His HolyPresence and action upon us. During Advent we open our  hearts to His influence and love in joyous anticipation of a life filled with the fulness of His Spirit.

Christ Icon
Christ in Glory Icon written by Christine Hales

I love this Icon of Christ in Glory, especially at this time of year. The predominant colors of red, green and gold ochre are highly symbolic and offer a clarity and simplicity found especially in Advent.  Red and green are opposites and in Christ, both heaven and earth are united, within the context of gold, the color of God’s Presence and light.  The four Evangelists in the corners remind us of Christ’s birth as a fulfillment of both Old and New Testament Prophesies.

In the  two unfinished stages of the Annunciation Icon below, written by Jennifer Richard-Morrow, they graphically depict a sense of waiting, the form is visible, but the details are coming slowly, eventually creating a dynamic picture of a very exciting event in the life of Mary.

written by Jennifer Richard-Morrow
Annunciation Icon written by Jennifer Richard-Morrow-roskrish state.
Nearly finished Icon by Jennifer Richard-Morrow
Nearly finished Icon by Jennifer Richard-Morrow

In Advent, I think of Mary- her waiting.  Keeping her focus on God, her savior, prided a faith filled context within which the waiting became joyous.  Her whole being was trained through prayer  and family lo

Madonna and Child Iconve to honor God’s will and to rejoice that she was chosen for the difficult and perilous mission of being the mother of Jesus.  She believed God was doing great things for her.  God’s will, not her own. “Oh, how I praise the Lord, my savior.” Luke 1 :46.

I encourage you to meditate and reflect, with a Madonna Icon if possible. God has called each one of us.  May we wait with certainty and joy as his plan unfolds.

Brother Aidan, a Benedictine monk of the Holy Cross Monastery, has a weekly blog that this week begins a meditation on Advent and fasting. “Learning How to Fast”.  He talks about how important it is to allow ourselves to experience the feeling of emptiness.  We need to experience hunger in order to know what we are truly hungry for.

“Although Advent is not a penitential season, it is a season of waiting and watching, a season of expectation. Our Christmas celebration will be all the sweeter if we sit in the gathering darkness of winter and allow ourselves to long for the dawning of the light rather than turning on every lightbulb in the house in an effort to cast out the shadows. Let’s relearn how to fast. It will make our feast all the more joyous when it comes.”  Brother Aidan, Holy Cross Monastery

Mary Icon almost finished
Mary Icon almost finished

 

“For a true Iconographer, creation is the way of asceticism and prayer, that is, essentially, a monastic way.” Leonid Ouspensky; The Meaning Of Icons

Sending love and prayers this beautiful Advent Season.  May you experience the love of God and Mary especially this Christmas.

Christine

 

Icon Classes

Icon Website

What is an American Iconographer?

What IS An American Iconographer?

Good question. When we speak of Greek Iconographers, or Romanian, or Russian, or English we immediately have a picture in our minds of what those “styles” look like.  Even the contemporary European and Eastern Iconographers, while experimenting with new ideas, are still working from the old style.  That old style consists of illustrative images, cartoonish almost, with a kind of light and form that differs from “natural” light and form, but it is varied in  interpretations.

America as a country is home to people of many different national origins, so our nationality is defined more by citizenship and allegiance than by ethnicity. After many years as a “melting pot” of different cultural ideas, America has come to have its own identity, even amongst diversity.

So what does an American style of Iconography look like?  Many American Iconographers I know have styles that are derived from the teachers they studied under. So much so, that one can see their Icons and immediately know whom they studied with.  In part this is due to the notion that copying is the approved way of making an Icon.

In my training, I was taught that we always use models for our Icons  created before the Renaissance and this is because after the Renaissance, the age of humanism dawned and people created art not to glorify God, but to glorify man’s achievements.  I was and am so grateful for this awareness, for it helped to break me free from the traditional art college training I had had and allowed me to see a more ancient, God centric approach to making art.

Entry into Jerusalem Icon
Entry Into Jerusalem Icon by Christine Hales

That being said, I do however, owe a lot to some of the really good art teachers available in the art world.One of those, Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922) said “Good drawing results from trained judgement, not from the making of facsimiles or maps.  Train the judgment and ability to draw grows naturally.” So this more experience based approach to drawing is what I use in creating my Icons.  I research, find models from before the Renaissance (or just at the turning point- a time when many painters were trained first as Iconographers), then spend time praying, reading relevant Holy Scripture, the saints’ biography, listening to sacred music, and enter into a prayerful creative experience with the Creator.  This last, being in a prayerful state is of the highest importance in the “writing” of an Icon.img_3107

That is the gift of the practice, it lifts us up out of our intellect into our creative selves, that discipline of getting past the chatter of the mind is facilitated by the practice of prayer and painting. (paraphrased from Tim Hawkesworth).

This being said, one would not wish to ignore the importance of Tradition in Icon writing.  “Since in its essence the Icon, like the word, is a liturgic art, it never served religion, but, like the word, has always been and is an integral part of religion, one of the instruments for the knowledge of God, one of the means of communion with Him.” Leonid Ouspensky, The Meaning of Icons.  It is not a question of either or, but both and.

Jesus, Peter, Icon
Icon by Dahlia Herring

I know that many of my students’ Icons are reflective of a deep relationship and personal experience with God.  An example of one student’s faith and desire to bring others into relationship with God, is Dahlia Herring’s Icon of Jesus pulling Peter from the water.  Another student, W. Michael Shirk, an Independent Catholic Priest, writes his Icons while praying constantly, and this is often reflected in attention to detail.

Icon, Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea Icon by W. Michael Shirk

When I wrote my Icon of the “Entry Into Jerusalem”, I was identifying with Jesus and thinking about the human aspect of what it’s like when one goes forward to one’s destiny.  His looking back seems so human, and his movement forward, Divine.  As an artist I gain strength and guidance from this moment, and I keep this Icon to remind me to pray for God’s will, not mine.

This country is so vast geographically, and there are many Iconographers in each of the 50 states.  I hope someday to have a list of all the American Iconographers and their contact details on this site, in order for people to contact them for commissions and classes.  I do get asked if I can recommend an Iconographer in different cities and hope to be able to serve as that kind of an association for Iconographers in the future.

Please contact me if you are an Iconographer, if you’d like to be listed on this site with a link to your website.

In prayer and blessing,

Christine Hales

www.newchristianicons.com      Icon writing retreats and classes    Christine Hales’ cv

January Icon News and Links

Sign up For Free Monthly Icon Blogs!    photo copy

The nice thing about writing icons is that whether it is “January Freeze” or “January Thaw”, you can usually manage things to be able to write icons for a few hours a day!

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My new “Christ” icon study has accompanied my prayers over the last two weeks in the area of inner healing.  Particularly  the idea that Christ came to FORGIVE us of our sins. That call for us also to forgive has been part of the prayer journey for this icon.  I really love it!  It’s almost finished now.

“The degree to which art has a liturgical quality is in direct ratio to the spiritual freedom of the artist.” from The Meaning of Icons by Leonid Ouspensky

I think that making twenty first century icons has to incorporate the Traditions of the Church as well as spiritual freedom.  Andrey Rublev in the Fifteenth Century being able to occupy that place of Spiritual freedom, training,  and artistic skill points toward what we aspire to today.     photo copy 6

The icon class I teach in New York is a spiritual and artistic container for the students and myself to grow in relationship to each other, God, and the icons.  It’s an honor to be able to serve such a courageous group of people.

The Art Center in Troy, New York is hosting a student/faculty exhibition of our icons later this month. Here’s the description and you are invited!

Contemporary Icon
January 31 – March 2, 2014 | Faculty Student Gallery
Reception: Friday, January 31, 5-9PM at Troy Night Out | Artist Demonstration at 6:30PM

              image001Master iconographer and faculty member, Christine Simoneau Hales will exhibit her icon paintings along with selected pieces from her past students.  Icon writing is a traditional method of painting that dates back to the ancient Byzantine era of using egg tempera, rare natural pigments and gold leaf gilding to create beautiful works of art. Hales takes the step-by-step method of classical painting and infuses it with contemporary inspirations all while keeping with the spiritual subjects found in these works on panel.

I came across the website that offers short introductory art and business classes that looks very good.  Here’s the  link:     Skillshare

Also a link for icon boards that I use and like: St. John’s Workshop.

One last quote from Ouspensky and The Meaning of Icons book to leave you with:

“For a true iconographer, creation is the way of asceticism  and prayer, that is, essentially, a monastic way.”

TO see a gallery of my completed icons visit my website, New Christian Icons. 

 

Blessings,

Christine Simoneau Hales