Iconographers cannot stop themselves from trying to paint these sacred images. This is an ancient tradition that is no longer open to a select few or one particular denomination. Iconographers Paint Byzantine Style Icons because the practice demands you think about the sacred. It goes without saying iconographers cannot help but experience a bit of humor along the way.
I am not alone, but so many of us have a legitimate love for the practice and we cannot be silenced.
A bit of Humor before we begin.
A beginner student, Christine Janke said this technique is difficult, in truth, i think the devil himself created egg tempera and it is hell on earth to work with…..but persevering, penitence and prayer will conquer it eventually!!
Beverly Car wrote to ask how she could fill the wholes on the edge of her icon. Her dog had taken it out to play and chewed through the corner.
Sarah Thayer left her icon on the roof of her car leaving the workshop and when she drove through the first toll booth the attendant said pointing, “Looks like you have Jesus riding with you on the roof.”
Demitri told the story of putting his icon in the oven thinking the oil would penetrate better. He went into the other room with his girlfriend. A good while later they both noticed a strange smell, the icon in the oven was overdone and beginning to smoke.
Mary Jane Miller is drawn to iconography because of its the spiritually rich and symbolic language. Ancient iconographers used pictorial shapes, and symbols to reveal spiritual truth. By working in and through the tradition, new generations of iconographers yolk together the past and future, flesh and spirit. ( no pun intended) The desire to touch such lofty ideas is why we paint Byzantine style icons.
I have been working in egg tempera, the traditional medium of iconographers, for more than 25 years. The process involves mixing together finely ground natural pigments with with egg yolk, to make an extremely durable painted image. I am enchanted and mystified by the chemistry of this ancient medium. Tiny grains settle on the board in shape and color land in new natural patterns holding their own integrity. Seeing color swirling in the dish endlessly spiraling is a constant reminder of the cosmos. Like I said, we paint Byzantine style icons because we cannot stop ourselves from trying.
History of Iconography
The earliest known byzantine icon painters were found in Byzantine monasteries; Mt. Athos, in northern Greece, the catacombs in Rome, and more in the Monastery of Saint Catherine’s in Sinai. The History of Iconography dates back to around the 6th century. They were created as a testament commemorating and honoring the divine mysterious life of Jesus Christ. The icons took the form of narrative images from the bible and magnificent portraits whose faces look out at us in Holy Awe.
During the 8th and 9th centuries, there rose a group of high-powered people who condemned the painting and venerating of icons as well as the iconographers themselves. The movement was called the “Iconoclasm”, literally “the breaking of images.” The movement went through a series of stages wherein they destroyed icons, murdered and tortured the iconographers, and those who venerated icons, driving them to places like Italy, Greece and Russia. The iconographers were then able to train new iconographers, form schools and centers for learning and preserving the sacred art for.
Another image of this sacred art form was the icon of the Theotokos of Vladimir. It is said to have been painted in Greece around the 11th century. Mysteriously it turned up in Kiev, Russia in 1131 and ended up in Vladimir, the religious capital of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Theotokos is wearing a violet robe, and holding the child Jesus in her right arm, while her left hand points to him. Christ’s face is nestled softly in her cheek. He is wearing royal golden robes. On the forehead of the Theotokos’ robe is placed an eight-pointed star. It is a symbol of total harmony between earthly and heavenly life.