Message to an Iconographer

Greetings:

Dionysus Fresco
Dionysus Fresco

This month is a continuation of last month’s article on Hesychasm and Icons.  There is an interesting book that was produced in fifteenth century Russia called, “Message to an Iconographer.”  Message to an Iconographer is believed to have been written by St. Joseph of Volokolamsk.  It is helpful in explaining the role and meaning of sacred art and Iconography. It is believed that this book was put together at the request of the famous Iconographer, Dionysius for the purpose of training future Iconographers.

Part of the reason for creating Message to an Iconographer was a concern that after Andrei Rublev’s Icons, there was a progressive lack of focus on the spiritual depth and meaning of the Icon in favor of beauty of artistic form.  Message to an Iconographer  provides an answer to the prevailing heresy of the time and is a defense of the Icon and its veneration.  It is also a positive contribution that explains its spiritual content. Here is a quote from “Theology of the Icon, Volume II” by Leonid Ouspensky:

“How much more appropriate is it then, in this new time of grace, to venerate and bow down before the image of our Lord Jesus Christ painted on the Icon by human hands…and to adore His deified humanity taken up into heaven.  This also holds true for His All Pure Mother.  Likewise, to paint images of all the saints on icons, to venerate and bow before them is equally appropriate.  By painting images of the saints on Icons, we do not venerate an object but, starting from this visible object, our mind and spirit ascend toward the love of God, object of our desire.”  This statement echoes the defense of Icons by Gregory of Palamas.  Taboric light and the divine energies form the basis of this treatise.

Dionysus Fresco, Mary
Dionysus Fresco, Mary

The Jesus Prayer

Here is another quote from the Message to an Iconographer: “When adoring your Lord and God…let your whole heart, spirit, and mind be lifted toward a contemplation of the holy, consubstantial and life giving Trinity, in purity of thought and heart…Let your bodily eyes ascend to the divine …venerate them spiritually in your soul and visibly with your body.  Be completely turned toward the heavens.”

“The Message” is about a lifestyle of asceticism and inner prayer that is appropriate to an Iconographer.

“Wherever you may be, O beloved, on sea or on land, at home, walking, sitting or lying down-ceaselessly pray with a pure conscience, saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.’, and God will hear you. ” “Close your eyes to the visible and look at the future with your inner eye.”  These are instructions to an Iconographer from The Message.  They are intended to create a platform of prayer and faith from which to work on the Icon.”

Christ Fresco, Dionysus
Christ Fresco, Dionysus

I would suggest reading this chapter in its entirety to fully understand the context and  intent of the author.  It is from Chapter 13  Hesychasm and the flowering of Russian Art, in Theology of the Icon, Volume II, Leonid Ouspensky.  There is a great deal of value in the rest of the book also, and I highly recommend it for Iconographers.

One last quote that is a gem:

“The painter must be acutely aware of the responsibility that rests upon him when creating an Icon.  His work must be informed by the prototype it represents in order for its message to become a living, active force, shaping man’s disposition, his view of the world and of life.  A true Iconographer must commune with the prototype he represents, not merely because he belongs to the body of the Church, but also on account of his own experience of sanctification.  He must be a creative painter who perceives and discloses another’s holiness through his own spiritual experience.  It is upon this experience of communing with the archetype that the operative power of an Iconographers work depends.”

Dionysus Icon
Dionysus Icon

May God bless your Icons, as you grow in wisdom and understanding in the practice of writing the Holy Image.  Next month will be an article on the fifteenth century Iconographer Dionysus.

Christine  Simoneau Hales

Icon Website

Icon Classes

 

 

 

 

 

Advent

Dear Fellow Iconographers:

Black Madonna Icon by Christine Hales
Black Madonna Icon by Christine Hales

December 2, we enter into that period of Advent that is so full of excitement and anticipation.  How appropriate that it comes for us in the Americas at a time of profound seasonal change- the end of summer and the beginning of winter.  Advent marks the end of all that we know belonging to the old Testament and the beginning of the  fulfillment  of the Old Testament prophesies with the birth of Christ, our Redeemer.

Advent is a journey into the heart of promise and fulfillment with the Birth of Christ.

We share the hope of the Archangel Gabriel and Mary and witness the incredible faith journey that began the earthly life of Jesus Christ.  Mary models for us the essence of spiritual preparedness, the willingness of a faith filled acceptance of God’s will manifesting in her life.  Her surety and preparedness for this miracle is again a model for us to develop such a surety and willingness for all that God has for us.

Annunciation Icon by Ohrid, 14th Century
Annunciation Icon by Ohrid, 14th Century

Byzantine Iconography and Advent

And there is a similarity between Byzantine Iconography and Advent.  Canon Edward West, in his article on Byzantine Religious Art said that  an Icon is “notably the reflection of something which exists, but in its own way, it conveys something which actually exists  and conveys it really….Byzantine religious art is concerned with conveying truth, witnessing to the truth, and indeed, making it possible for the sensitive and aware Christian to have some part in that truth…”.  The birth of Christ 2000 years ago allows us to be in the present tense with God today, to experience His love, protection and guidance.  One could also say that Icons share in that ability to bring us into God’s presence, as symbols of the incarnation.

Canon West, who was a noted Iconographer in addition to serving at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City for over forty years, goes on to say that  what makes an Icon important is, “that it is a meeting point of this continuum from the past with the vertical thrust of the Spirit of God at the right moment- in terms which the individual Christian can understand.  It is essential that we remember this attitude about Tradition.  The Byzantines were concerned in Witnessing to the Truth.” Madona and Child

Icons in 2019

May we all be blessed with Mary’s patience, devotion, and willingness to carry out God’s plan in the coming year.  May our Icons be bearers of God’s Grace and Presence as we move towards a world where Holy Scripture is made visual through the sacred imagery of Icons and made available to all those who seek Him.

Christine Simoneau Hales

Icon Class Schedule for 2019                      Icon Book Available on Amazon

Icon Website

 

 

 

Sacred Geometry II

Greetings Fellow Iconographers:       images

When we open our eyes to see the sacred geometry inherent not only in nature, but also in Iconographic composition we enter into the world of sacred symbolic language.  The Byzantine culture understood that it is essential to understand and use abstract symbolic representation.  The primary reason is that we are depicting God’s universe, that heavenly realm that operates differently from our humanistic, materialistic world.  We want to  convey this God centered point of view in Icons and the best way to do that is to understand and implement sacred geometry within our compositions.

Shapes and Patterns        images-2

Identifying shapes and patterns helps us understand principles of symmetry, balance, and motion within the Icon. When we cooperate with and work in agreement with universal principles handed down through the centuries, we can participate in creating a universal visual language that can speak the truth of God, the Bible, and the Gospels, bringing our everyday lives into this sense of harmony and cooperation.

Simple Geometric Constructs

Blessed Pauli Murray Icon by Peter Antonci
Blessed Pauli Murray Icon by Peter Antonci

A simple geometric composition for single figure Icons is the triangle which is set upon a plinth.  By measuring the height and width of the Icon composition, finding the vertical and horizontal axis, and drawing the diagonals from each corner of the base to the central axis point at the top of the composition, one can create an Icon using sacred geometry.

In the recent Sacred Geometry Icon Retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY, students used this method for the construction of their Saint Francis Icon.

Olifa of Saint Francis Icon
Olifa of Saint Francis Icon

One of the most famous Icons using sacred geometry is the Rublev Holy Trinity Icon.  With this drawing, you can see the figures are arranged in relationship to the circle and contained within the square.  The circle is the symbol of unity, and God, in that it has no beginning and no end, but is energy in eternal motion. Rublev had been asked by Saint Sergius of Radoneh to create an Icon of unity and harmony which the community could pray with.  This now famous Icon was lost to the world until the early 1900’s when a resurgence of interest in Russian Icons caused an art restorer to clean the centuries of black soot and dirt from the icon, revealing a true masterpiece.    dee63ca17b15d01e89cffa4fa7aec172

May 9-12, 2019  Sacred Geometry retreat

Sacred Geometry is a foundational concept for Iconographers who wish to paint in the Byzantine Tradition.  The next Sacred Geometry Retreat at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY, will be May 9-12, 2019.

New Icon Book

“Eyes of Fire, How Icons Saved my Life as an Artist” by Christine Simoneau Hales is an in-depth study on the evolution of religious arts and iconography, this book is about spiritual strength, timeless artistry , and groundbreaking personal transformation achieved through experiencing Icons. The power of religious images is  well documented in this book, as well as their influence on contemporary art.  There is an appendix containing valuable information to creating sacred art for the twenty-first century.

"Eyes of Fire" Book by Christine Hales
“Eyes of Fire” Book by Christine Hales

This book will be available on Amazon and a Kindle version will be available for a short period of time at no cost during the book launch in early October .  Email to receive a link for the free Kindle book (available during the book launch in early October only).

Blessings and prayers until next month,

Christine

Icon website

 

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

 

April is Holy Fool Month!

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.

photo copy 15 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!

Faces announcement low res 72dpi

 

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.

Coffee with Sister Vassa Ep 24, ( Week 5 of Lent)

 

Here is a link to a beautiful art/faces video.    Really a treat to watch!   stlukeweb

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.

NEWSWORTHY

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.

photo copy 13

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!

Prayerfully,

Christine Simoneau Hales

www.iconwritingclasses.com

www.christinehales.com

www.newchristianicons.com