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

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