Time Travel and Iconography I

Miraculous icon of Mary (considered to be a pa...
Miraculous icon of Mary (considered to be a painting by St. Luke); church of Our Lady of Trsat, Rijeka, Croatia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever wished to visit a faraway land.

Well, I always wished to do a little time travel: go back in time to well-known historical places and see how the people lived at that time.

However, the chances of this happening soon is nil.  So, I decided to bring the history into my life by spending a whole week writing an icon.

I know what are you thinking: I am not talking about the little squares featured on your computer screen.

I am talking about a very old form of art: painting ( or writing) portraits and/or landscapes of Biblical events.

How old?  Two thousand years old.  According to church tradition, St. Luke wrote the very first icon of St. Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God).

The process of making an icon is called writing because it assumes the inspirational presence of the saint or saints depicted.

From a purely artistic point of view, icon writing is the opposite of painting:

  • perspective: an icon draws you in closer to the faces and action while a painting requires the viewer to step back;
  • creativity: a painter is required to find new and innovative ways of expressing a subject while an iconographer follows a pre-approved pattern of the subject for many, many centuries to come;
  • recognition: both the author and the subject of a painting can become famous while the author and the subject of an icon help us get closer to God (most iconographer do not sign their work).

The spiritual dimension of writing an icon makes my week of Icon Workshop into a Spiritual Retreat.  Not a quiet retreat.  Because it is filled with presentations, demonstrations, prayers, fellowship, singing and a lot of painting.

The Workshop starts with introductions: of the teacher and the participants.

Our teacher for the week is Master Iconographer Phil Zimmerman from Pennsylvania.  He is a former Art teacher with over twenty-five years of experience in iconography and thousands of icons to his credit.

To find more about Phil, please go to his website: http://philzicons.webs.com/.

There are fourteen participants from all walks of life: from a high-school girl to Grandmas and Grandpas.

We get to choose from two available patterns: St. Mary Magdalene and St. Kateri Tekakwitha ( the newest Catholic saint).

I choose St. Kateri lovingly nicknamed The Lilly of the Mohawks.

We start with a pure-white wood board, a pattern, paints and a prayer.

Next, I will introduce you to the five step process of icon writing.



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