Byzantine icon making- The Icon panel

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)
Zinc oxide
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.
Quantities used
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!


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

August a "How to do" month- How to make byzantine icon panels

Make your own byzantine icon panel?-Well that is actually not as difficult as it initially looks!

Making wooden panels in angelicon’s workshop

First  (after choosing a wooden board of the size you like) we have the connective medium, a type of hide glue that is turned into a gel with the addition of water.
Then zinc and gypsum is added in it and thoroughly mixed and then the pure linen cloth is attached to the wooden board with the assistance of the above materials
After layers and layers of the white paste, there is a lot of sandpapering (I really don’t like this dusting part…) till the white surface becomes perfectly smooth.!

Finally we have the painting on the back and on the sides with glue and red color as a finishing touch.

And not to forget to add your metal hanger on the back. The panel is now ready!

A Little driftwood and a Pink kinono- Sweet mother pictured with roses

I tend to get very creative when it comes to a theme with roses and of course motherhood,

In a bed with roses

This is one in the One of the line of “Young Mothers” I’ ve produced in a specially treated pice of driftwood found by the beach. Somehow I had this icon of a Pink Japanese Kimono when drawing the mother’s dress. I ve also added copper gold all over the little piece of wood as a background.

Sweet mama in pink kimono driftwood

Usually I paint religious themes- but for me personally, the relation between a Mother and her Child belongs to the things that are holy. And that transcends my culture, my race, my nationality. Motherhood is beyond all these concepts, being so very ‘human”, bringing to mind the archetypical image of the Holy mother that protects and nurtures us all, therefore so very “divine”.

Sorrow when painting- a custom order to deal with sorrow

Custom order and challenge are somehow synonymous, but somehow dealing with the extremeness of sorrow that the theme of Lamentation of Christ presents as a painting- is somehow more than challenging.

I was initially handed with a picture, looking like a photo and was asked to paint the person portrayed there, as the Christ, after descending from the cross.
It was almost impossible for me to picture a person dead, alone by itself in a picture, as a corpse in a cold- cold morgue. It made me feel a sence of disrespect for the person portrayed. It somehow seemed as blasphymous, for I intended to portray the Son of man

Then all issues of position, surroundings, colours, symboslism emerged- What would be the size, who would be with him, expressions, reactions, symbolism.

Again a piece of driftwood came to the rescue that could host- two faces. Then the image of lamentation was revealed in the wooden surface. Lamentation is actually the greek Epitaph. A procession of the orthodox church in Good Friday, that brings the sorrow the passions of Christ to its ultimate point. To its climax.

Christ could never be represented as a disrespected corpse. Only as peson much loved -as he did with us all – by his mother. In this icon Virgin Mary embodies all mothers losing their offsprings, all people left behind, all women, even nature. All the sorrow in the world.

And that what is making Lamentation, or Pieta as it is widely known,  the most powerfull form of all the representations of Christ from the Descent from the cross – to the Entombement.
And so hard to paint.
And so liberating.

Mother and Child- A piece of driftwood telling its own sweet story

A young, serene mother, holding her little baby. This is always an image that is very touching and very human. I just wanted to fill her with flowers so I ‘ve added some jasmins to the picture.
I think they suit her perfectly…

It all started with a piece of driftwood, found in a beach of southern Crete.  And actually that’s the most intriguing part of the creating process seeing a shape emerging from an old piece of wood, a stone, a metal…

I ve added a layer of gesso and drawn the image of the archetypical Mother “Panagia” (The Holy mother ) which came to mind as soon as I ve seen this small driftwood

For the rest I ve used used copper gold and  eggtempera. Using as few colors as possible, blue for her humanity, red for her divinity and white for baby Jesus..

Let’s keep her sweetness in our hearts and share it with the people surrounding us.