A student once asked me, “What is the most difficult part of painting\ with Earth Pigments”; quickly I replied, “forgiving myself ”.
What took me twenty years to learn; I teach in a week. It is not enough time to comprehend the technique of painting with earth pigments in a 5-day workshop. The idea is an insult to the practice. But it does give the participants a taste of the glorious technique and a sense of forgiveness. I am always humbled imagining I have a responsibility for something greater than myself – to God, the students, and other iconographers, past and present.
Iconography is a tradition without a ceiling. Like all spiritual work, we imagine we can realize its depth in one lifetime. One workshop painting with earth pigments is not enough but, like all things done in love, it is a beginning.
Hexaemeron means the period of six days in which God created the world. Icon workshops are usually five days long, painting for 3 hours each morning and the same in the afternoon; the 6th day is rest and reflection. Everyone takes home an image painted with earth pigments.
Icon Painting connect us to a spiritual reality
Iconography is bold and holds back nothing, the process opens and invites us to come and see. See the God who lives in you as you are painting with earth pigments. You begin to see the spirit who lived in those early iconographers. They gave us the signs, symbols and language for real presence; their ideas and images descend into our hearts and make us yearn for more contact with the divine.
Fledgling iconographers should study the “canons” or rubrics of iconography. There are more manuals, guidelines, church council teachings, and books on patterns and techniques available today than 40 years ago. But, I found the most intimate way to approach this practice is to copy an old one. In my workshops, I always use an ancient icon and one I myself have never painted.. Ancient images contain enduring mystical teachings. We all begin with the same image. After painting enough icons in earth pigments, they reveal the early signatures of iconographers. Those painters shared and replicated many repeating shapes, forms, patterns, and colors that preserve the magnificent beauty of painting with earth pigments.
No one can control the history or future of iconography. Generations of iconographers and saints have anonymously supported the tradition. Their ancient icons transcend time and are honored by us painting with earth pigments today. There are many websites of teachers, classes, galleries, and schools popping up around the world to inspire people to this precise yet brilliant craft. Hopefully, students notice that learning to skillfully paint a beautiful icon allows us to experience its message.
Painting with Earth pigments becomes a Language.
One icon after another hypnotizes the mind into seeing God in everything around you. I would encourage all the students to learn the step-by-step process. The process is symbolic and eventually becomes a prayer language for the painter. The curl in the angel’s hair is eternity, just like spirals form when adding milk to morning coffee. The straight brilliant white highlight in the garment is the bright afternoon sun as it streaks across a hillside. The small crescent of light in the eye is the same curve of light in your dog’s eye or the moon above. The thoughts I have while icon painting repeats in my everyday life like a symphony of God’s involvement, ongoing presence everywhere.
What is disjointed around us is continually being organized into order, much like the first layer of the icon is called chaos. Iconography and painting with earth pigments is a lifestyle. You paint enough of them and the world along with everyone in it becomes a beautiful icon.
BIO Mary Jane Miller is a Byzantine-style iconographer living in Mexico full time. Her collections are extraordinarily rich in style and have been exhibited in museums and churches in both the United States and Mexico. As an author, Miller blends historical content and personal insights to arrive at contemporary conclusions about faith. Her six self-published books include; Icon Painting Revealed, Embossing Metal, The Mary Collection, In Light of Women, and Life in Christ. She teaches 4 iconography courses annually, and 5-day immersion workshops throughout the US and Mexico. Website: http://sacrediconretreat.com/ Website :https://www.millericons.com contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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