Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Sacred Art of Icon-writing

My icon-writing in progress of Archangel Michael in the Russian Byzantine style offered at the Prosopon School of Iconology. Further illuminations will lighten the face and hands.

Since this blog is about spiritual and sacred art, I wanted to do at least one post about the sacred art of icon-writing. After painting the initial stages of only one icon, shown above, I am still strictly a beginner, and there is so much more to learn, but I was fortunate to spend my Saturdays for about a year's time at the New York Studio of the Prosopon School of Iconology. When my art sales improve, I also hope to resume icon-writing lessons.

I initially learned about the presence of Russian master icon painter Vladislav Andrejev in the U.S. through artist friends Suzanne Scherer and Pavel Ouporov. Later when I heard he had formed the Prosopon School, which included a New York Studio, I was thrilled to start lessons with one of Vladislav's sons, Dmitri Andrejev, and later with Tatiana Berestova. My reaction when I entered the icon studio for the very first time and saw all of the icons in progress lining the room, was to cry, because it is such a very wonderful and moving sight.

Icon-writing is done with egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed icon panels which usually have a niched border and vary in shape. Partly because it is considered to be a spiritual practice, it is probably true that as many as 50% of icon-writers have no previous artistic training or background, even though artists also enjoy the craft aspects of this art form. Icons stand apart from other forms of spiritual art because they are created to serve as an interface or portal window between the spiritual and physical realms, and it is for this reason that classes at Prosopon give equal emphasis and time to teaching the spiritual and symbolic meaning of each part of the physical process involved in this sacred art.

To learn more about icon-writing, and to see wonderful pictures of icons and sacred paintings, please visit Prosopon School of Iconology . There are also some wonderful icons from around the world currently posting in the Facebook group Egg Tempera Painters


7 comments:

Miniature Art by Karen Hull said...

How absolutely fascinating Mona - thank you for sharing that with us!!!

Tatiana Myers said...

It is very interesting, Mona! I really like your version so far. Looking forward to see more.

Dean Grey said...

This looks amazing, Mona!

I love the style of this so much and you pumped so many colors into this piece.

I love the reds and greens in the face and the curled hair too.

So much detail in the wings and gold adornments on his chest!

But why is it called icon "writing" when there are no words present? Writing with paint perhaps?

The idea that icon-art is a portral between the physcial/spiritual realms is so intriguing to me!

Please do more of these!

-Dean

Mona said...

I'm not sure if it was clear from my description Dean, or that I can even put it into words, but although a personal hand will still surface, my personal style is not at it's central core when it comes to painting an icon. I could say the icon writes me maybe, instead of the other way around, or heals me in some way as I work on it.......

If I say that something mysterious and spiritual happens when icon-writers try to emulate a prototype drawing and formulaic mixes of colors prescribed by the teacher through the master, it feels like I'm leaving something out there too.

I wish I could afford to resume lessons, and wish too that it was sooner than it feels to me right now.

suzanneberry said...

This post is fascinating, your work and the information is incredible. Thanks for sharing!

Karen Bruson said...

Gorgeous work.

artbyakiko said...

Very interesting. The process of creating icons sounds like a spiritual training by itself. I love the colors of your icon.