Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Angel Icon, step one

This photo is of my newest project, icon painting.  In this beginning step the drawing for the icon has been transfered to the gessoed wood panel with carbon paper, then the primary lines (outline, facial features, major clothing folds) have been scribed into the gesso with a pointed tool.  Next the halo and edges of the panel have been painted with red bole.  What I will do next is sand and burnish the bole so it is ready for gilding.  In the photo you can see the reddish smear in the angel's hair.  That is where I accidentally dropped a glob of bole.  I will be painting over this area later and the bole will not be noticeable.

There is a church in San Francisco that hosts icon painting classes twice a month and a very nice lady, Betsy Porter, teaches them.  They are drop-in, so you can go as often as you want. Each student is given assistance and guidance on an individual basis.  The cost per session is $10 - what an amazing bargain!  The instructor gives each new student an information packet (cost $10) and has a selection of professionally prepared gessoed boards ready for starting an icon, available at cost.  There are also supplies available for students to use, including pigments, bole, tools, etc.   For further information, including step-by-step instructions for writing an icon, please look at Betsey's web site

I have long been fascinated by icon painting and think that it dovetails nicely with my medieval interests.  Many current icon painters follow traditions that are centuries old and based on Byzantine painting tradition.  Traditional methods are followed as well, including painting on wood panels, using tempura paints made from egg and powdered pigments, and gilding.  I am very excited about this new project and hope the skills I learn will enable me to paint more icons on my own as well as enhancing my neglected illumination work.

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