Noah a righteous man

“… 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.

noah the righteous noe 06-12-17 15-36-38
Noah the righteous hand painted in eggtempera

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

Byzantine art and expressionism

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.

 

Sts Martha and mary; Theory and practice needed to tame the Dragon

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

 

Shedding "light" on St Barbara – and another Iconography "How to"

The final steps on a byzantine icon – adding the lighter colors in the flesh”, “underlining” the facial features, adding even more light in the form of  pure white lines  marks the moment” when a portraits starts to become a saint, the highlight of the whole process.
 
Following the process in this  picture collage of St Barbara on the broken paddle – we follow the path to the light-  the essence in byzantine iconography,
Picture collage with the three final stages
In the first part of the pic the “second light” (the lighter flesh) is applied, near the eyes and nose- as well the blond highlights on the hair
In the second part – pure black in a very thin form , underlines the contour of the face, the pupils of the eye, eyelids and eyebrows, the nostrils and the corner of the lips- the expression.
 
 
Finally we have Psimythia- The pure white lines that are added on the forehead, over the eyebrows and under the eye on the nose and the tip  of the nose, the chin- the radiating pure light of a Saint-
 
Hope I ve “shed” some light on the process !
Danish St Barbara on the broken paddle

Christian symbols – Painting the parable of the lost sheep

I was always interested in the symbolism of the first Christians – that is why I always wanted to paint the figure of the Good Shepherd, but not as the usual imaging of our Lord, as we do in byzantine iconography today, but as a young men as it was in the paintings in catacombs.

The Good Shepherd painted in a slice of an olive wood branch

A slice cut from an old olive branch that was left to to dry for a couple of years so to reveal a part of the Parable of the Lost Sheep: “…Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost./ Συγχάρητέ μοι ὅτι εὗρον τὸ πρόβατόν μου τὸ ἀπολωλός…” [Luke 15:6 KJV]

First drawing on olive wood covered with gesso

The painting was created with egg tempera. On top of the colors shellac (goma- laca) and a final layer of “keronefto” a mixture of wax and turpentine was used to permanently seal the colors.

As tradition demands a full “sensory” experience while participating in the worship -“Keronefto” is meant to invoke the sense of smell apart from the other more obvious senses of sight and touch- and open the way to the awakening of the heart- but that is what I think painting is all about…

A view fro m the top parable of the Lost Sheep


 

There is no absolute black (only absence of light)- St Theodosia of Constantinople

Saint Theodosia Contemporary byzantine art

I only found it natural to photograph Saint Theodosia of Constantinople under a wild vineyard. There is something fierce -if I am allowed to say- a bit unexpected in the nature of this female Saint. The colours used (to my delight) are mostly black and red (for the ladder). Since there is no absolute black (only absence of light) , the colour was mixed with cinnabar red, white and cerulium turqoise to create a mauvish, discreet highlight in her nun’s garments. 

Additionally I was intrigued by the fact, that in the prototype I ‘ve used for my drawing (a much older representation of an unknown painter) the eyes of the Saint are much alike the eyes of the Pantokrator – a quality that I noticed for the first time in a female Saint but I can clearly see the justification for St Theodosia, a woman brave enough to fight the iconoclasts as in the mini icon study of Her



Fighting iconoclasts

The egg tempera was applied in layers and on top of them shellac (goma laca) and a final layer of “keronefto” a mixture of wax and turpentine (wax varnish) is to be used to permanently seal the colours.

As tradition demands a full “sensory” experience while participating in the worship -Keronefto is meant to invoke the sense of smell apart from the other more obvious senses of sight and touch- and open the a “wider” way to the awakening of the heart- the communion with the saints that icons are meant to provide.

God’s pauper – St Francis of Assisi

There is a book written by  Nikos Kazantzakis, a Cretan novelist, for St Francis of Assisi titled: “God’s pauper” that really influenced my view  Saint Francis. which I always wanted to paint in the Byzantine manner, plainly without the company of little birds or more complicated compositions, like I ve seen his representation in old frescoes and medieval paintings.

St Francis of Assisi – Contemporary byzantine icon

One of my favourite quotes in the book is the following : “….One day, Saint Francis saw an almond tree in the middle of winter. So Saint Francis told him: “Brother almond tree, talk to me about God”.And all of a sudden, the almond tree became covered with flowers….(source http://fresques.ina.fr/)

.