What is modern iconography?

“Iconography is the original tradition of Christian sacred art, and has been an integral part of the worship and mystical life of Christians since apostolic times. Referred to in the Eastern Christian tradition as "windows into heaven," they have inspired and uplifted millions of the faithful, and have at times been the instruments for demonstrating God's miraculous intercession in the life of mankind.”

I call my interpretation “modern iconography with a folk-art twist.” Traditional iconographers use centuries old icons to paint and copy from. One of the most popular styles is the Byzantine style. You can find a great resource for more information HERE if you are interested in studying further.

Icons are generally painted using egg tempera on specially prepared wooden panels, or on cloth glued onto wooden panels. Gold leaf is frequently used for halos, background areas, and gilding of special items depicted with the saints. Because I do not follow these traditional techniques, I consider myself a modern iconographer. I use the materials available to me, but with respect and honor to the traditional art by studying the saints before I paint them, praying with them, then adding my own style and technique.

 

What does it mean when you say a “written” icon?

Russians sometimes speak of an icon as having been "written", because in the Russian language (like Greek, but unlike English) the same word (pisat', писать in Russian) means both to paint and to write. Icons are considered to be the Gospel in paint, and therefore careful attention is paid to ensure that the Gospel is faithfully and accurately conveyed. Saint Basil the Great wrote: "What the Book of the Gospels explains by means of words, the iconographer shows by means of his works." 

 

How can I commission an original written icon? How long does it take?

The first step before placing an order for an icon writing is to contact me first and make sure that your requested saint is available and not on the reservation list. From there you get put in line on the reservation list and I will let you know how many icons are ahead of yours and therefore, how long you can expect to wait. I spend approximately 2-3 weeks with each Saint that I write, but some saints ask more of my attention than others in studying and learning their individual stories and history. I ask for your patience and understanding and knowing that when you ask for a saint to be written, it is a holy act that cannot be rushed. If you are choosing a saint as a gift and are looking for a specific date for completion I will do my best to honor that request. 

 

What is your process of writing icons? What materials do you use?

Icon writings take time. Not just because the sketching, painting, and details take time, but because I study each saint before I write them. I pray with the saints, I learn their unique stories, and sometimes certain saints require more of my attention. Before I start painting, I search for documentaries and books and educate myself as much as I can on their unique stories. As I discover interesting information about them, I will share it with you as part of the process. I prepare a wood block panel with gesso and gather as many image references as I can on your saint to use as I am painting. I freehand sketch and layout the drawing directly on the wood panel once the gesso is completely dry. I use a combination of gouache and acrylic paints, and ink/paint pens for the details. As I am working through the process, I will share images with you from sketch to finish so you get a behind-the-scenes look into the process before I share anything on social media. Once an icon is complete, I seal the paint with an acrylic spray and sign the back, then I scan it into the computer at a very high resolution so I can make reprints. Once all of this is complete, I have an Episcopal priest bless the icon for you (unless you have someone you know that would like to bless it) and then it is packaged for delivery and on their way to you!

 

Why don’t you do more than one original painting?

Because icon writing is such a sacred art; the time, research, and study that it takes in preparing to paint an original, I will only depict that saint one time. The only exception that is made is for saints that are traditionally painted in more than one way, for example Joan of Arc, she is written as a portrait and also written riding a horse. Or Jesus, he is depicted in the Sacred Heart, or the Divine Mercy etc. This is why there are two different sizes of icon writing. The 5x7 block wood is meant for bust-up portraits and the 9x12 block wood is meant for full-body depictions with more detail. You are welcome to purchase reprints, mini-icons, and other merchandise of saints that have already been depicted.