“… And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field…” Genesis 2:20 –
A custom order inspired by the murals attributed to the famous Theophanes the Cretan (or Strilitzas) .
The original fresco is found in a structure that is seemingly suspended on the air; the Holy Monastery of St Nicholas Anapafsas, build on the top of the gigantic rocks of Meteora mountains in mainland Greece.
The eye-pupil was the first to be painted inside a hole in this driftwood piece, and then all the rest just fell into place: The deep wrinkles carved by tears , the hair line, the thin, almost transparent body: A painted “natural sculpture” of the patron saint for penitence- The venerated St. Mary of Egypt
Icon of Theophaneia – that is literally translated as the appearance of God – a multi-person, multi meaning religious theme – The symbolism of the icon -the simultaneous apparition of the Holy Triad- , the dual nature of the Incarnate God- is obvious here, even in the colours used (red for divine, blue for human) .
An icon that bears the promise of the new beginning: the blessings of the waters, where all nature is purified and ready to start anew- Amidst the Jordan river our Lord;submerging in it as a prelude to his ministry passion and death- rising from water as a promise of his Resurrection.
The promise of the passion is also present: The axe beside the Baptist, talking about his death, the chiton (hypokamison) that the angel holds bearing the colour of humanity (blue) and crosses on.
A heart -shaped slice of birch wood- and the haloes of Sts Joachim and Anne merged as to form an actual heart after their embrace.
A very pious couple and a couple that loved each other dearly for many – many years. Our sources (mostly the Protoevangellion of James, a text that belongs in the Apocrypha ) tell us that both were especially tormented for being childless so, St Anna at the news that she was with child: “…saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck…”
That is exactly the moment that this icon pictures, being a study from an older work made by an unknown master from of the 16th century, found in Sofia.
The use of a very bold, almost “explosive” red on the garments of Hannah, and the lines of the painting were ideal in communicating all this unexpected joy, all this energy gathered after countless years of longing and show it in this icon.
“… Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God…” . That is the account that comes from the book of Genesis. Another reason to paint Noah with a biblical, austere face and expression in a dark blue background like frescoes.
The image of Noah was painted on a type of canvas that was “cracked’ to produce the antique effect of craquelure. Additionally an organic dye was applied on top to produce an antique, copperish patina to the painting
A piece from a cedar tree trunk from the small island of Chryssi on the southeast edge of Crete- The shape of Archangel Gabriel, Virgin Mary and the light emerging. I ve taken advantage of the shape of the wood, for the wing, and also the empty space on the Holy Mother’s body as an outlet for the Light- And that was exactly what She was carrying “The light of the world”
“Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”: The title for this icon of Annunciation and a video of the final step: Polishing the wax varnish applied on this cedar tree trunk with the icon painted with eggtempera.
The art of the byzantine icons’ painting , an art form that was expressionism centuries (maybe a millennium) before expressionism /symbolism or surrealism ever even existed. Some of the characteristic elements of this painting “genre” that point towards this direction are:
-The main figure/ feature Enlightened being -The saint, the Saviour or the Holy Mother) is bigger that anything else in the icon You can see saints in the background that are bigger than the ones in foreground- You can see Saints on horses that are equal in size with the animal.Proportions in general are based on priority that is a sort of unrealism: But then again, we we seek meaning
-The background too- it may be buildings (which are always distorted or proportionally wrong, rendered with reverse or inverse perspective ) it may have rough mountains – but the main mentallity is that the background shows a distortion a lack of space or time. That is also why gold is used symbolizing enlightement, eternity, something infinite and eternal.
We speak by symbols. As we alter proportions in space we also alter facial features or body proportions in order to highlight a spiritual quality. So that is why the ears are longer lips are thin, eyes are big, noses are way to long and that is also why bodies are “bodiless” – There is no muscular tone, and certainly no curves 🙂 The body is just like a cloth of convenience that would soon be thrown away. Finally in byzantine painting we are speaking of , we are narrating (the first word in Greek for painting icons is historein which means sayng the history of) the story of another reality, one that is more real than this one we are living in.
There are many recipes and various materials to prepare icon panels for byzantine icon making. This recipe is for plywood panel in whatever size you wish to be covered that is covered with the white gesso paste and sanded in order to have its smooth, white surface ready for the egg tempera colors that are used in byzantine iconography.
Various sizes of prepared icon panels
What you need:
Rabbit skin glue (in flakes or in granules)
Stucco (not the acrylic the classic staff that is also used in walls)
Both powders are cheap and we buy them in stores that sell paints and building materials.
1 spoonful- Rabbits-skin-glue for
1 cup of zinc oxide
1 cup of stucco
Preparation of gesso
We add the rabbit skin’s glue in lukewarm water and mix it (try to dissolve it completely)
and then we leave it overnight
Next day we put in a baigne-marie make it warm, and then we dissolve it again
We always keep a part of this glue
In this mixture we add the cups with the powders and we also pass the mixture it through a stiring tool (a plastic mesh like for tea) in order to dissolve any knots
We keep it in the refrigerator
For every application of the mixture we first put it in the baigne-marie so it becomes liquid
Making the panel
You take a plywood of the size you wish (sandpaper the edges a bit) and you add with a flat brush the melted Rabbits-skin-glue
Right afterwards, you add a piece of cotton cloth (a bit larger that the panel)
Leave it to dry for a day
Next day you apply the gesso mixture, You leave every layer to dry a day and keep the mixture refrigirated
In the second layer of gesso, you cut the cotton right on the edge of the panel with a scissor
After the fourth layer you will need to starighten the surface with a spatula. Usually 4-7 layers of gesso are added
Finally you have sandpapering (I really dislike this step) with various types of papers (from a rough to very thin). In the end the surface should look and feel totally flat.
It seems a bit complicated but all it needs is just patience . Best of luck with it!
Archangel Michael holding a scale, taken by the most beautiful Danish fresco painting of “Mikael Sjælevejeren” found in Højby Kirke in Denmark. A combination of Northern european, medieval painting with a modern eye.
St Michael religious icon mixed technique on wood
After 3-4 weeks of wondering how am I going to paint temptation in St Michael’s kalkmaleri- yesterday I decided to skip the question all-together and just focus on what I know how to paint.
And then the rest was pretty easy cause I ve painted a miniature (less risk) – and then to compete with the very impressive feathers of the original I decided to use gold, then the highlights were certainly golden, and the colours were already found (from your welcoming committee) etc, etc
The icon has the proportions to be fitted in a 8×10 icon favor (as you can see in the final pic)
A custom order that turned out as an ideal metaphor, combining two concepts that have long occupied theologists and philosophers on the Christian world Vitta attiva and Vita contemplativa, theory and practice – Sts Martha and Mary and the legend of their life in France (you may read a previous post related to this Saints Mary and Martha in the Legends of Provence)
Saints Martha and Mary taming the mighty dragon of Tarascon
First my background, I almost used perspective in the sky and the mountains behind, there are some lines that indicate movement in the clouds- the same was my choice for the river ( I never knew about river Rhone, lucky choice) I played with the notion of something ominous in the background (like Leonardo Da Vinci 🙂 I know…I am becoming delusional right now) , something unsettling, and contrast with the sisters that have postures that are tall but relaxed. They are tender in their movements and totally serene.
The background has also something “vague” – There is no real detail in it, there is nothing solid- The detail is focused in the sisters- the background is like a mirage (my version of maya) – the sisters are the only thing that is true (with the white “light” line around them that I so much like in frescoes)
In icons, usually the Saints are looking at the viewer but not always…. I played with the ideal of combining theory with practice -so Martha and Maria are looking at each other discreetly- They are connected with each other even from a distance and that is the ideal for theory and practice.
Byzantine icon with the sisters of Lazarus- Egg tempera on wood