Most people do not understand why a person would take an icon painting workshop. The answer is simple. Icon painting is a meditative process, a work within the spirit. How is that? The process helps you identify your own spirituality, no matter your religion or lack of it. It is this that helps your life turn. Let me explain by telling you the story of my own experience when I first began on this icon painting learning process.
Egg tempera is one of the oldest mediums used in the history of paint to make art. The only medium which precede it are blood used in early cave paintings and early Egyptian wall painting painted with colored minerals. The process reaches back to pre-historic humans, and since then we have created an ongoing river of creativity to depict who we are, our history, soul and spirit.
Egg Tempera consists of dry earth pigment, water and egg yolk. To temper something is to make it hard, in this case, to adhere earth pigments to a surface. The grease in the blood hardened to keep the cave paintings fast to the wall, much later, wax, lime gesso and egg yolk were used as other tempering agents. The colored earth pigments are not only used in tempera, but are found in fresco, encaustic (wax) and oil and watercolor paints as well. Tempera was utilized around the world for the icons of Russia and Greece, for the giant panels of Italian painters, for Islamic manuscripts, and artist like Andrew Wyeth.
The Nun in the House
Many years ago I took a quiet vow, never revealed it to anyone; it was between the universe and me. I vowed to live my life as if I were cloistered in my home and studio. There was no lengthy set of rules or obligations only the intent to always place God first and remember to retreat to my home as often as possible to find him/her there. It has been a marvelous past 20 years. The vow I made was a covenant to be faithfully teach myself the technique of egg tempera and turn away a bit more from the world in general.
The Nature Revelation
The idea of becoming an iconographer and getting completely wrapped up with Mary and Jesus was never a desire of mine, Revelation is when something is seen brightly and unavoidably understood by the recipient. There was very little understanding as I began, but now I see the commitment unfolding in Gods time while I dedicate each hour in the studio. One of my greatest revelations was realizing the earth is precious in all its abundant diversity. Pushing around small particles of sand to create a divine image is still the main reason I find this process and technique so emotionally deep and spiritually rich. The challenge is to allow transformation through your love and awareness of what you do. If you Love Golf and you are aware of the time and dedication you have to the game, then ask yourself how has it transformed you. If it has not changed you in some profound way, I would find another way to spend your time.
A Sacrament That I Teach in My Icon Painting Workshops
The meditative process that took me years to learn is the process I teach my students in my workshops. This mystical process does not come from sacrament or from church. It is an expression of who you are and what God loves. The work of painting divine image is mystical as well as sacramental. I show up every day to slug my way through something which I will never fully understand and regretfully; the work will never reflect fully the magnificent spiritual awareness i feel within. My sister would repeatedly remind me, (may she rest in peace), Mary Jane it is not about you and the icon it is about the Love of God. So harsh really, my ego and pride is at stake. She called me into accountability for how great is my love of God? Yet where sacrament is concerned, it is not about the priest or the one who officiates but rather the effect it has on the participants.
In this regard I hope these icons have a sacramental quality that might alter your perspective and orient it towards the WOW of being here now, and that will have to be enough.