Dear 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.
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.
The 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.
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.
Here’s a link to my Art/Icon Facebook page
Hello Fellow Iconographers:
This month, on June 24 at 7PM, my advanced class of Icon writers and I will be sharing some of our newest Icons at a special organ concert by Al Fedak at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State Street, Albany. The concert is at 7PM and all are invited. Free will donations will be accepted.
I’m very excited about this opportunity to share our new work in the context of an amazing organ concert, and an added joy is the Icon Coloring Book the students are putting together for the concert and beyond. We are using our original Icon drawings and including a short description of that Icon. Coloring books are so popular these days for adults and children. It’s a great way to center your thoughts for a few minutes and come up with something creative. We are making the coloring book to be user friendly to all age groups and will be asking for a donation to help with printing costs. They will be amazing!
More local news: the Icon writing retreat at Holy Cross was really wonderful. Such a great group of people and a wonderful setting to learn and practice in. We were able to join in with the rhythm of daily prayer with the monks – heavenly!
Here’s a video Michael made for us of that retreat:
One last thing: there are two rather long but important articles that I would like to share with you all about the correct schooling of Iconographers. These links are to The Orthodox Art Journal blog:
For my part, the revelation I experienced when first exposed to Sacred icons was that they embodied the principles of good art. In my art school training, those principles were not presented, although other important ones were. I am interested in hearing what each of you think about the articles.
“We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road.
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load…
When we sing to God in heaven we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together, of Christ’s love and agony”
excerpted from Celtic Daily Prayer, Northumbrian Community.
Peace, love and prayers,
Dear Fellow Iconographers:
How do we meditate and contemplate God through the Icons? A good question now that at least more than half the world I live in here in upstate New York associates the word “meditation” with Eastern philosophy.
But Icons have a long history of being used in contemplation and meditation, and we specialize in bringing the valuable truths of the past into our present time. Mystical Eastern spirituality has as its aim for the Icons “to open the heart in contemplative prayer to the transforming vision of God’s Glory.” The Glenstal Book of Icons.
Carl Jung wrote extensively on the power of symbols on our unconscious minds. Symbolic imagery in Icons helps to bypass our intellect and send a message straight to our hearts. For example, I can’t see an image of Mary and the Christ child without immediately identifying with the the Christ Child, and sensing what it was like to be mothered by the gentle, sweet Mary, or identifying with Mary and deeply experiencing what it was like to hold Christ in her arms and nurture him so that he could flourish. Whenever I see that image I think of my newest painting or Icon and ask in prayer, how can I be Mary to my painting? How can I be the Christ child in Mary’s arms to my art work? Each time, in contemplation and meditation new facets and ideas come as a result. Ideas I would not have had otherwise.
“Through the symbolism of the icons, access is gained to the absolute otherness of God in the silent union of mystical prayer: one goes through the sense of sight to the one who is beyond all vision. The meditative work demanded in absorbing the imagery of the icons is essential if prayer is to reach such a state beyond ideas, images, and acts- beyond the work of the head. Only thus can the prayer we make with the body and the mind become a real “heart work”, a deep transforming union with God in love. The mystical traditions of Christianity, East and West, all teach that such prayer is the only source of inner peace and stability. It is the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, of which the Gospel speaks. Matthew 13:44-46″ The Glenstal Book of Icons, Gregory Collins, OSB
The Saint Luke’s Guild of Iconography will be sharing our newest Icons with outreaches to the community this spring and early summer. We will try to share the stories of each saint in our Icons as well as have dialogue with the public about prayer and meditation with the Icons. The first two venues are planned to be: Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, 1st Presbyterian church in Hudson. We plan to create a traveling exhibition so if your church would like to host one, and perhaps hear a lecture on Icons, let me know. “Never forget the joy of spreading Icons throughout the world”!
RECOMMENDED SOURCE FOR ICON MATERIALS:
Natural Pigments is an excellent source of tempera materials, gold leaf, anything you need to make Icons- they probably have. They also have a section called “articles” another page on their website that is full of useful materials information.
UPCOMNG ICON WRITING CLASSES:
Albany, New York Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chestnut St., Monday evenings 6-9PM. Class size is limited-email to ensure space.
Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY May 6-8 Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon, Introduction to Icon Writing.
Here is a video that my husband, Michael who most of you know, made recently about art and the Creator.. Hope you enjoy it!
Until next month, be blessed!
The Beginning of September was the start of our trip to the UK for a family wedding in Leeds, but we were able to make a detour to Shropshire and interview Aidan Hart, Iconographer and author of the book we use in Icon writing class: “Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting”, for Yale University Radio.
I was so happy that Aidan could make time for us, and upon leaving he said that he had just completed a large Icon for a church in Leeds! We were in Leeds at Michael’s sister’s home about 15 minutes when we realized that church was a fifteen minute walk- so off we all went. The icons were beautiful, and Father Michael of St. Urban’s invited us to come the following morning to his other church, also in Leeds, to see another Aidan Hart Icon. Once there, we were amazed to see the 16′ fresco of the Transfiguration that Aidan had recently completed – in ten days according to Fr. Michael. It is the largest commissioned fresco since the Reformation, he told us.
Our next travels took us to Venice to see the Biennale and the wonders of the Byzantine Cathedral of San Marco. I’ll be giving a gallery talk this Saturday, Sept 26, 6-8pm at the McDaris Gallery on Warren St. Hudson that will touch on the Biennale and Byzantine art. (You’re all welcome to attend!).
From Venice, we got to Rome, where we stayed at a convent within walking distance of the Vatican-our destination! God blessed me with achieving my heart’s desire to give Pope Francis the portrait I had done of him! At breakfast, the nun suggested that I might give my portrait of the Pope to him if the guards would help me. By God’s grace, we met a friendly Italian music composer at breakfast who offered to walk with us to the Vatican. after Mass, he began asking the guards around the Vatican if I could give my portrait to the Pope. He pleaded eloquently, in Italian, to seven sets of guards! Finally I was able to write a note to accompany my gift and the last guard promised that he would personally deliver it to the Pope the next morning! I was the happiest I could be! We had such a wonderful trip but that was the highlight for me. Seeing the Sistine Chapel again and the architecture in St. Peter’s Basilica, too, impressed me with a sense of excellence that can only be experienced in that place.
So, back to earth, the Albany advanced Icon writing class has changed venue and is now held on Monday nights 6-9PM at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State St., Albany, NY.
Also coming up is the Introduction to Icon Writing Retreat at St. James Church on Madison Ave, in NYC, Oct 16-18. Registration is still open, email Grace Beecham at: GBeacham@stjames.org to register.
Stephan Rene will be lecturing at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts on Coptic Iconography.
British Association of Iconographers will have its annual members exhibition October 14-16 at St. Saviour’s Church, St. George’s Square, London.
Until next month, be blessed,
“”A full reward will be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Ruth 2:12
Hello Fellow Iconographers:
Such a beautiful summer. God’s creation is never so felt and experienced as in the beautiful summer months and upstate NY has been in a sweet weather pattern for most of august with beautiful sunny warm days.
Our Saint Luke’s Gild is comprised of eight students, several of whom have studied Icon writing with for several years. The emphasis that I bring to the sacred art of Icon writing is that of color theory, fine art , and sacred geometry principles in composition. The work of the guild members is unique and interesting, bringing both the spiritual qualities of prayer and sacred reading in an integrated approach to the creation of an icon with good fine art principles as well.
The Guild has a Facebook page: We are an ecumenical community of artists and artisans who are committed to making art that is reflective of a deep Spirituality and Faith in God. We do this primarily through the practice of writing Christian icons and studying the historical background and hymnody, and lectio divina relationships within the visual imagery of iconography. We believe in the didactic value of icons and engage with prayer as part of our painting practice and have exhibitions of our work in order to engage our community with God’s presence and action of His Holy Spirit at work in our Icons.
This month I wanted to mention one of the guild members: Jennifer Richard-Morrow, who is a fine artist, specializing in pastels, oils and icons. She is a long time member of Saint Vincent’s Church in Albany where she serves as a member of the funeral ministry, helping with the funeral services, particularly with elderly people who have no relatives or few friends left.
Jennifer has also had a lifelong interest in local New York history and has worked as an historical interpreter for the State at upstate Historic Houses and museums. She is currently on staff at Thomas Cole House in Catskill. Her Icon of Kateri Tekakwitha is one of the most historically accurate ones in existence today.
On September 14, we will be moving the location of our Icon writing class to Westminster Presbyterian Church on State Street in Albany, NY. We meet on Monday evenings and it is recommended that interested people take an introduction to Icon Writing class with Christine before starting the Monday evening class.
UPCOMING INTRODUCTION TO ICON WRITING CLASSES
St. James Episcopal Church Fri evening, 6:00 – 9PM, Saturday, 9-5PM -Sunday, 1:30-5:00PM October 16-18th Cost $215 includes materials and lunch Saturday. Email Grace Beecham to register: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
INTERESTING ARTICLE ABOUT GREEK ICONOGRAPHY
The following excerpt is taken from The Orthodox Arts Journal blog, and I include this because internationally many of us Iconographers have a similar approach – that of bringing forward the good from the past, but not slavishly copying. The task of creating a fully authentic 21st Century Icon is before us.
“Kontoglou and the rest of the 30’s generation where not turning to the past out of conservativism, but as a step to redefine the path of Greek art.
He was interested in reviving the orthodox aesthetic that had been heavily compromised by Western naturalistic ways of expression. In this aspect he was a real revolutionary; he managed to overturn the established church painting norms of the time (which was heavily influenced by the so-called ‘Munich painters’) by letting in, a “strong breeze from the east”. It was much later in his career, I believe, that his teachings were over-systematized. This led many of his followers to a stagnant and uninspiring way of painting icons based on mere copying with lack of artistic personality.”
Another Greek Iconographer in this article is Spyros Papaloukas who has another interesting approach to the creation of an authentic contemporary Icon, and here again, I quote from the blog :
Spyros Papaloukas saw in Byzantine art elements that were critical to the modern art movement and in many cases realized that solutions to artistic problems posed by his contemporaries were to be found in Byzantium. In several cases these gave him the answers to formal problems that were vital to painters of his time. Flatness and the adherence to the two-dimensional character of a painting, the possibility of the coexistence of multiple view points, the vital part that color played as an expressive and not merely descriptive element – all these were characteristics that modern painting shared with Byzantine art. This has been noticed even by modern painters whose art had no obvious religious focus such as Malevich and the other Russian avant-gardes, or like Henri Matisse. Matisse made a statement very much in accordance to Papaloukas, about 20 years later, in 1947, when he confronted for the first time Byzantine icons on his trip to Russia: “It was before the icons in Moscow, that this art touched me and I understood Byzantine painting. You surrender yourself that much better when you see your efforts confirmed by such an ancient tradition. It helps you jump the ditch.” You can read the entire blog and see the color illustrations here.
Thank you all for reading, and we ask your prayers for us in this work.
Christine Simoneau Hales
Dear Fellow Iconographers:
Even through the freezing temperatures and snow storms, Icons are still being made in New York! I’m about half way through the series of large Icons for Saint Vincent’s Catholic Church in Albany. There are eight panels, 4’x3′ in egg tempera with gold leaf gilding, of Holy people- some of them like Dorothy Day, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Louise De Marillac, Pope John XXIII, and Kateri, have not often been portrayed through Iconography. It’s exciting! And exactly what I’m interested in -creating Icons for contemporary (within the last 150 years) Holy people who perhaps have not had Icons created of them yet. Here are a few work-in progress photos: Saints Louise de Marillac, Rose of Lima and St. Francis drawing, and Pope John XXIII.
CURRENT AND UPCOMING ICON WRITING CLASSES
Albany: Ongoing Advanced Iconography Workshop, meets weekly, Monday evenings 6- 9pm, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Albany, NY
Hillsdale: Christian Community Church, Hillsdale, NY, Beginning Icon Writing Class, Thursday evenings 6-9pm
New York City: Saint James Episcopal Church, NYC, Introduction to Icon Writing Retreat, Fri-Sun, February 20-22.
Troy, New York, Arts Center of the Capital Region, Introduction to Icon Writing Wednesdays 2-5PM, Feb. 25-March 25
The Museum of Russian of Icons is having an exhibition of Ethiopian Icons from January 23 through April 18. We hope to have a field trip sometime in March.
Recommended book of this month: Danny Silk: Culture of Honor-Sustaining a Supernatural Environment.
Until next month, Blessings and prayers,
Christine Simoneau Hales
Intercessory prayer is the act of praying on behalf of others. One can pray for one’s family, friends, the poor, World Peace, for a nation, while painting or writing Icons. Stories of Brother Laurence praying in the Monastery kitchen while peeling potatoes show us a humble and dedicated way to focus our prayers while engaging in other activities. When we are able to do this, we begin to be able to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) as Paul exhorts us. I always love the moments in Icon writing class when you can almost hear the prayers in the beautiful silence of students working on their icons.
Phillip Schwartz and I visited the Clark Museum in August- eager to see the new renovation. It was the perfect day to see it -warm sunny expanses of green rolling hills met the shallow reflecting pools in front of the modern addition. From inside viewing the Ancient Ritual Vessels from the Shanghai Museum it was a great contrast of inside-outside, nature-interior modern spaces and old versus new. Phillip and I are in the same “Artist Way” group, exploring the spiritual discipline of writing morning pages every day along with other exercises to help focus our creative practices.
I lead the first Healing Icon Retreat in Saratoga Springs on Sept 6&7, now another one is scheduled for October 25&26. We have a waiting list for a possible one in November, so email if you’re interested. It was an amazing weekend. Held in the beautiful Saratoga Springs home of Catherine Lanci, we had twelve students who eagerly encountered icon writing for the first time. Egg tempera and gold leaf gilding were demonstrated and each person left with their own individual icon of Archangel Raphael. Catherine and her husband John are gourmet cooks and we had lunch and dinner in the garden. Couldn’t have been better!
Visit the website:www.iconwritingclasses.com for updated information on icon writing classes. The Arts Center in Troy will be the location of the next introduction to Icon Writing course, starting October 28 and will run for 5 Tuesday evenings, 6-9PM. Give them a call to sign up!
Last winter I heard a talk sponsored by the Catholic Artist’s Society by David Clayton called “The Way of Beauty” It was a fascinating talk and I thought pertained particularly to classical artists and iconographers. He has now created an interesting online course that I’ve been asked to review. I hope to have that for you by the next blog.
COMING UP: At the Christian Community Church gallery in Hillsdale starting September 27 I will have an exhibition of some of my favorite Icons and landscapes. I will be giving a talk soon and will email the date.
The Beauregard Fine Arts exhibition is still up – visit if you can.
PS Don’t forget to sign up to receive this blog for free.
August has been filled with amazing weather, good friends and lots of house repairs! Storm damage added to the list so it’s been challenging keeping to the teaching and painting schedule that is my regular studio practice but it’s been working out – with a little help from my friends.
Here are some Icon Classes that are ongoing or coming up that I am teaching – all egg tempera: Here’s a photo of last Saturday’s class in Philmont
- Monday evenings 6-9pm Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Albany, NY next class is Sept. 1 . We will celebrate Labor Day – anyone know of an appropriate patron saint of Labor Day 🙂 ? The class meets every Monday night in September and October, except October 20.
- Thursday evenings 6-9PM Cathedral of all Saints, Albany, NY meets August14, 21, Sept 4,11,18,25 and Oct. 2
- Icon Healing Retreat, Saratoga, Sept 5&6 Fully subscribed October 25 &26 some openings available. Email Catherine Lanci for a brochure and application: email@example.com
- Tuesday Evenings 6-9pm , Introduction to Icon Writing -5 weeks, Arts Center of the Capital Region, Troy, NY.
A photo from the opening reception for my landscape paintings at Beauregard Fine Arts was fun and well attended- contact Kathy Donnelly for purchase information on the paintings.
WHERE DO THE ICONS GO?
Some of my students have their icons go to some very lovely people and places- here are some examples: Dahlia Herring’s Theotokos-Hodigitria is at St. Francis Catholic Church, Albany and her Teresa of Jesus Icon is at the Mount Carmel Convent in Maryland. Michael Shirk’s Holy Father Augustine Icon is with the Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Philadelphia, PA and Jennifer Richard-Morrow’s Elouisa Madonna is in a private collection.
I leave you with a quote from a painting I am working on this next week. It is from the book of Joshua 1:7 “Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything that you do.” May God bless you and the World with His peace and love.
According to Mathew Woodley, who wrote “Holy Fools” , the main qualification of a Holy Fool is following Jesus with reckless abandon. “Only a fool would attempt to change the world with a simple message of love and peace…” St. John Chrysostom.
Saint Anthony’s ability to apply spiritual discipline was so extreme as to manifest in victory even over the demons! He demonstrated that , according to poet Kathleen Norris, asceticism is “a radical way of knowing who, what, and where you are in defiance of those powerful forces in society…that aim to make us forget..”. (Holy Fools, Woodley). I think that icon writing, as a form of spiritual discipline, helps us on that path of spiritual discernment and asceticism, a confidence in who we are in Christ, that brings us closer to “a heart overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
The Icon Talk at Saint Gregory’s Episcopal Church was well received and the exhibition is a lovely collection of 32 beautiful icons, different stylistically, but all radiating the same holiness and beauty. Worth seeing if you can get to Woodstock on a Sunday morning.
Coming up in Woodstock: WAAM April 26, 4PM. “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” I’ll give a talk connecting Icons with Matisse, Chagall, Kandinsky and the Blue Rider School and speculate on how that plays out in the New Renaissance in Iconography today. Free and open to all.
Woodstock Icon Writing Class: Mondays, 1-4 PM Beginning June 2; See my website for more details on Icon Writing Classes
This Saturday is the opening Reception for this faces exhibition I curated and partnered with Columbia County Arts Council and Columbia County Chamber of Commerce to present some great art and we will hear from some talented writers who will share their readings on April 12, too. Free and part of Hudson’ below 3rd Dine Arts Celebration – Come and See!
Here is the most recent video with Sister Vassa: All Iconography students will gain important information – a must see! It is well done and humorous.
Here is a link to a beautiful art/faces video. Really a treat to watch!
I’m unveiling my newest, favorite icon at the opening reception and it shall remain a mystery until this Saturday! I’ll include it next month for those who can’t make the Hudson show. This one of Saint Luke is also a recent one.
The Vatican is apparently digitizing 41 million pages of ancient manuscripts: click here for more information on that one.
Art News article in the April, 2014, issue: “Icons on the Barricades” by Konstantin Akinsha refers specifically to Kyiv anti government clashes where artists created various forms of interactive art to participate in the protest. Interesting that they would use the word “Icon” in the title, but they were referring more to contemporary artists. However, there have been Orthodox priests carrying icons on the battle front too. Food for thought.
One last note: David Clayton’s Blog :The Way of Beauty” has an interesting post on naturalism in sacred art. Worth reading to clarify that important issue.
Blessings and prayers to you all. Please keep our School of Iconography and Saint Luke’s Guild of Iconographers in your prayers as you are in ours!
Christine Simoneau Hales