“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.

 

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

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