The Art of Icon design is structured by lines, colors, values, shapes, textures, space, and movement. I want to take you beyond straight or curved, yellow for the sun, green for the grass, red for roses, etc. I want to take you to where the mixture is made; the earth in all its abundance and diversity can be found in the tiny particles which make up egg tempera paint for an icon.
Egg tempera paint is earth pigment, fine ground dust which took millions of years to create.
The work feels ancient when you look at it because it is! The individual colors are all different some are lustrous, others granular like sand or soft mud or radiantly bright and precious. The sheen from the egg yolk in the pigment can turn the surface glossy and saturated with life. The depth of the color is created as a result of many thin layers, each with its own tone and personality. When one pigment dries and I must apply another layer on top I grieve. I conceal the beauty spontaneously created by the application of another layer of color. Yet with enough layers, new forms arise but richer and deeper in quality. The end product seems to be inevitably harmonious just because the pigments themselves were created side by side in time and space as the planet evolved. Ancient earth history mixed with the human expression for the divine.
Even if you do not have a particular bent towards religious imagery you cannot deny the quality of the pigments and their character is fascinating. To work with such simple beauty is intriguing, pushing around small particles of dirt which dry and form unimaginable patterns. I find myself always looking at sand at the beach, or puddles when they dry or cracked earth in the desert. These patterns repeat themselves on an icon but in miniscule format. It is pure delight and it last forever.
Cave paintings are humankind’s earliest attempts to record our existence.
In France, Thailand and Australia and all around the world there is evidence of our human desire to record history. Cave paintings were done with human or animal bloods mixed with ash, ocher and clay. The images have lasted because they were hidden from the direct light of day. Icons were painted by candle light and for many years remained hidden behind the walls of the Orthodox Church. Today paintings in egg tempera and encaustic (bee’s wax and pigment) are the oldest artistic expressions surviving in some of the best museums around the world.
Each time you pass by one that is positioned in your home, there it is, staring back at you, beckoning you to sit still and open your heart. Every day the message will be quite different, stern, comical, guardian or like a ruse calling you into relationship, even if just for an instant. They are windows because they open us, they provoke us, they encourage us to look again at the life we are living, whatever the condition. Perhaps you soul is yearning for a striking piece of artwork for the entranceway that will greet visitors with a quick reflection which conjures up their best self and most mysterious posture. One thing is for certain Icons are noticeable as well as impressive. A well done Icon is vividly memorable and potentially strikes an unwavering emotional connection or simply a serene response.
Fine Art isn’t passive.
Our work employs two very old and time tested techniques. The silver work is 100% hand tooled pewter. Repouse is a French word which means to push. Valentin my husband and partner in wok, pushes the metal, embossing one side and flattening the other simultaneously. When the forms, all the perfils and curlicues are finished, one side is flat with one side pushed out in a pattern, and then the back is filled with a paste filler, to prevent the embossing from getting dented. The egg tempera surface is sealed with wax or oil. The wax or oil mediums cover the image, permeating each little particle, holding them in place for millenniums to come. All our work is archival; we use the finest materials to bring about the richest quality icon; fine earth pigment, organic gesso, 23kt Gold on a hard wood board.
Have you ever noticed you heart when it leaps because it is struck by the words someone says. Perhaps something as unemotional as creaking floor boards sets your mind to wandering through the past remembering a house you once lived in. Icons are archetypal; nearly everyone has a reaction to them. They either love them or they don’t. But, either way they make us feel alive, they provoke with a gentle stare as we gaze back. We are stuck in the moment. It is good to have at least one icon in your home, to set the stage for such an encounter. Takes courage to own one and only time to learn you don’t want to live without them. May your life become an icon for others and all which surrounds you, a memory of the divine.