Adventuring in Iconography

Hey y’all!   How’s everybody doing?  I’m doing great!  I so love it here.  Hope y’all are doing as well.   Grab a glass of something cold to drink, find a dry comfy spot (it’s raining here) and I’ll give you another glimpse into the adventure!  The Lord does not make mistakes – even if we are clueless as to what His purpose could possibly be.  If you’re a regular, you know about my “Adventure”.  If you need to catch up, you can read some older posts.  In the meantime, grab a glass of something cold, find a dry and comfy spot to relax, and I’ll tell you more about the adventure!  

College is going very well.  I managed a 3.4 GPA for my first semester.  I’m happy.  It was a collage of core classes – everything from Biology to Art History.  I honestly thought my brain would explode during finals week.  But we made it.   Sadie is a trooper!

This summer, I decided to take a fun class – Iconography.  If you don’t know what Iconography is, you can find an explanation here.  The first 3 short paragraphs are the basics, the rest of the rather lengthy piece explains more in-depth.  If you want to see an icon, you can find a lot of popular ones here. 

One does not ‘paint’ an icon; one writes an icon.  First lesson.  This is not art for art’s sake; this is creation of an aid to prayer, a visual to draw in the imagination and help us focus beyond ourselves.  The images represent the perfections of heaven.  Now, anyone who knows me knows also that I cannot draw a straight line with a sharp pencil and a ruler – let alone with a paintbrush; but we do what we can.  Perfection is very relative in my case for the sake of the class.

The process is lengthy-  I put in 80 hours in a 3 week class.  If you ever go to purchase a hand-painted icon, written by a real iconographer, you will understand why they are so expensive!  Not to mention that better hand-written icons use real gold leaf as part of the process.

I learned a lot about art and painting.  I also learned a lot about myself, as well as about how God deals with us!  The first thing the instructor did was to impress the prayer aspect of the class and how we would differ from tradition.  We would be able to talk, and we would not engage in fasting; we would use acrylic paint instead of egg tempera and gold leaf.  Next, he played Gregorian chant music as our atmosphere.  Peaceful, deep and spiritual.  We began with a pine board and a cup of gesso.  Gesso makes the board perfectly smooth and white to paint on.  We applied gesso and sanded coats the entire first week, but I didn’t sand enough and my board was rough.  My spiritual take away from this is how the Lord takes His time to purify us, and doesn’t quit until He’s done.

Next, we transferred and engraved the image.  If we are the board, and the Lord is engraving, it could seem painful at times.  I thought of times He has worked on me, and I was begging for Him to be merciful (in other words, stop hurting me!).  But I learned something.  I didn’t engrave deeply enough on my board.  The engraving must be fairly deep to guide the paint.  So it is with our lives.  The Lord knows what He wants to do with us; we just need to hang on and let Him work.  It will be so worth it!

Mixing paint colors was time consuming.  It took me literally 13 tries to get the correct red.  Paint colors don’t mix like you would think- adding black can actually turn a color green!  Only God know what He’s doing with the mixture of experiences in my life.  He knows what colors and areas He wants to work on to use me for His purposes.

There is an incredible amount of detail in these, and the smallest brush stroke can change the appearance of the icon.  So it is with our lives – God’s tiniest movement in our lives or the smallest prayer can change us profoundly.  A simple ‘yes’ can take us a very long way!  Consistency is key.  God knows what we need, and we need to let Him do or give that.

What about you?  Where are you in the process?  Do you need some help?  Find a pastor or priest.  They will be more than glad to help you connect with God.  His movements are always about love, no matter how they look or feel.  Sometimes we just need someone to guide us.

Next time, I’ll talk more about the symbolism that appeared in my icon, and maybe a link to the finished piece.  Don’t miss it!


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