Creation of icons based on the Book of Revelation

Apocalypse Icons – art and meditations

Seven Days to World Peace

Woman of the Twelve Stars

Woman of the Twelve Stars – Constantina Wood (Finalist Apocalypse Prize)

 

Day One

Believe that each and every one of us can bring about peace by changing our own attitude to ourselves and others.

We create war by our angry thoughts.

We create injustice by our own prejudices.

We create poverty by our own greed.

We create sickness by our own fear.

We create sorrow by our own envy.

We create hatred by our love for power.

We create division by our indulgence in gossip.

STOP

Capture every thought. Check every action. Change.

We create peace by our loving thoughts.

We create justice by including those who are different from us.

We create wealth by sharing what we have freely.

We create health by having faith that all will be well.

We create happiness by encouraging others.

We create love when we do not need to feel we are right or better than others.

We create harmony when we choose only to hear and speak what is beneficial.

Negative Hand Print

Negative Hand Print

Day Two

Open hands can’t hold guns.

Open hands can’t grab.

Open hands can’t hit.

Open hands can’t hide.

Open hands can’t deceive.

Open hands can’t accuse.

Open hands can’t abuse.

STOP

Check how you use your hands. Stand still for five minutes with your hands open and see how it feels inside yourself.

Open hands welcome peace.

Open hands allow others to share in all.

Open hands soothe and caress.

Open hands show our vulnerability.

Open hands reveal all that we are.

Open hands show our willingness to accept our own faults.

Open hands welcome others in.

Buddha of serenity

Buddha of serenity

Day Three

Love yourself.

Learn to love yourself.

Learn to love your failings.

Learn to love all the things that have gone wrong in your life.

Learn to love the things you cannot do anything about from your past.

Learn to love the stupid things you say, have said and probably will continue to say.

Learn to love the whole being that is you with all the lumps and bumps and bits and bobs and nonsense.

STOP

Regard the Buddha above and see:

He is covered with lichens and mosses and chips of weathered stone, bird droppings and spatters of mud.

He is serene and silent and not phased by what anyone says who may come to stand by him.

He has weathered his existence and remains himself with complete acceptance.

He has withstood all the elements that have berated him.

He has lost a hand but holds on.

He emanates love.

He is love.

Praying girl

Praying girl

 

Day Four

There is chaos.

There is chaos all around us.

There was chaos at the beginning of creation.

There is chaos in our lives.

There is chaos in our minds.

There is chaos in our feelings.

There is chaos in our spirit.

STOP

Consider this chaos.

Chaos is.

Chaos is like a stormy sea.

Chaos is the foundation of all existence.

Beauty has been created out of chaos.

We can step outside of chaos and draw it together like pieces of string.

We can knit it together and form the fabric of a new Universe.

We can embrace creation which includes chaos and not become chaotic.

Tall Angels

Tall Angels

Day Five

Sometimes we feel alone.

Sometimes we feel isolated.

Sometimes we feel no-one understands us.

Sometimes we feel marginalised.

Sometimes we feel hated.

Sometimes we feel persecuted.

Sometimes we feel hunger – physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

STOP

Look up and see the angels. Ask for the gates of understanding to be opened to you. Ask to SEE.

All the time we are surrounded by others, seen and unseen.

All the time the angels stand watch over us.

All the time God knows what we feel.

All the time we are included in the Kingdom of Heaven.

All the time we are loved with a great outpouring of love.

All the time we are being comforted.

All the time we are being fed by the love of God which sustains us completely if we can just believe.

Sketch for icon - St. John the Baptist

Sketch for icon – St. John the Baptist

 

Day Six

We are waiting.

We have been told to repent.

We have been told to forgive.

We have been told to give.

We have been told to help.

We have been told to sow peace.

We have been told to love.

STOP

Consider our failings; our inability to live up to ideals we set ourselves; our inadequacy in understanding that others cannot live up to the ideals we set on them.  This is the foundation for lack of peace in the world.

We are waiting.

While we are waiting let us play.

While we are waiting let us be a little silly at times.

While we are waiting let us learn some things about ourselves as human beings.

While we are waiting let us admit how foolish we all are.

While we are waiting let us admit we have no power to overcome this idiocy that is the state of humanity.

While we are waiting let us love each other anyway especially those who are most hated.

My First Painted Image of Christ - monochrome

My First Painted Image of Christ – monochrome

Day Seven

A Dream of a New World in Seven Days

Wouldn’t it be something if all nations could lay down their weapons for seven days.

Wouldn’t it be something if we could all give freely to others for seven days.

Wouldn’t it be something if we could stop judging others for seven days.

Wouldn’t it be something if we could all call one another, have a laugh with each other and tell silly jokes for seven days.

Wouldn’t it be something if world leaders would all stand united, hold out their open hands and admit their powerlessness to change things and to ask for help.

Wouldn’t it be something if money became obsolete and we all decided that it is better just to learn to become true human beings and not use resources as a means of power over others.

Wouldn’t it be something if we could simply see that how to learn to love has already been given to us.

 


We Are Resurrection People

Christ - the Light of the World within us.

Christ – the Light of the World within us.

This New Year’s Eve heralds the advent of the year that marks the centenary of the beginning of the Great War in 1914.  My father was 4 years old when it began and a young man of 29 when he enlisted in the army to fight in world War II.  He died within a week of becoming ill on January 7th 1982 at the age of 71.  We lived at number 71, too.

Three 71’s!

Are numbers significant?  Does a centenary confer some special meaning? Numbers are prevalent in the Bible. The Jewish Gematria is based on the numerical value of the Alef Beit.  We can create mathematical algorithms for the most complex systems even biological and meteorological ones.  When I was a young teenager I was fascinated by this underlying and possible order for all things though my love for the natural world superceded it and I became more in love with biology as I went through school. Nevertheless I became obsessed by numerical equivalents and possible interpretations to the point I was almost unable to do anything or meet anyone without first making some kind of calculations as to the possibilities and probabilites of where it might lead.

I became a slave to an idea. Limited by my own mental fabrication and the reality I had imbued it with.

We have so much power to realise even the most ridiculous and it will come about and bolster the illusion.  We create our own tyrannies even before we are subject to the tyrannies of others.

How did I escape myself!? There is no one single point of salvation or realisation; more, perhaps, a long journey through life with many ups and downs and sufferings, some quite extreme and still painful; some incredibly joyful times.  We all have such lives, we are all subject to the same foolishness of the imaginary kingdoms we create. But if we are quiet within; if we become still, we can see some thread that passes through it all and remains constant.  We see we are what we always were – a beautiful soul, created by Almighty God  with one purpose – of returning to Him.

Slowly we might become aware that we are not our flashy cars, expensive clothes, big house, powerful position of authority, centre of the clique, the mover and shaker.

We are not the bum on the street, the chav, the white trash, the criminal, the drunk, the addict, the prostitute.

We are not the holier than thou, do-gooding Christian or member of any other faith, perfect person, follower of ritual, person who always does the right and proper thing.

We are stupid.

We are blind.

We are deaf.

We are dumb.

We are unfeeling.

We are ignorant.

We are faithless.

But we have something special.

We have hope because we have the unconditional love of God.

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well she immediately valued the word he spoke, desired the living water he wanted to share with her – the water of life, of awareness, of love eternal, love that makes your legs turn to water when you feel it descend upon you, makes you shed tears of remorse from so deep a place of pain you know you are being washed clean.

The Samaritan woman had many husbands, Christ knew her whole life. But he loved her still, he loved her.  He did not judge like we judge.  He saved her because he loved her.

In this world we create rules.  Abide by them and you are accepted. Reject them and you are outcast.  An illusion.  We are all outcasts of our own making.

But we are all saved.

We are all redeemed.

We are all loved.

We all have hope.

We are all Resurrection people.

What does it mean when we say Christ has taken our sins upon himself and in doing so, saved us? What does this mean to you?  Christians, especially Evangelists often talk about this but has anyone ever explained what it means to the extent you are satisfied with the meaning, can feel it in yourself as the truth, or does it just wash off as empty words?

I often ponder about it.  I can and have grasped the idea with my mind but I know from experience this is superficial.  But this past year I have felt something new.  It has not come from understanding, argument or theological study.

It comes from humility.

Humility saves us.

Humility is God’s love in action.

He humbles us, especially when we have been proud or vain.  If we can accept the realisation, and embrace the humility we have learned a litle more of love, we have become a little more Resurrected.  There is a point now where I am so conscious of my stupidity, ignorance, unholy motivations, little daily shams and excuses I make to cover my sorry ass, that I feel like one of the Franciscan Brothers in Assisi, I forget which, possibly Bernard or Juniper, who when arrested and condemned admitted to everything, even though in fact he had done nothing at all.  He also freely asked to be convicted of the sins of his persecutors as well, for he said, he may as well! He was willing to accept the sins of others even though he was guiltless – just as Christ accepted us and our sins outright, forever.  Yet he was holy and guiltless and he spent his life working miracles and loving and caring for those around him.

He condemned only those who thought they were better than anyone else, who created rules and regulations which kept out those whose need was greatest and means were least.

This world is like the Temple.  We have to buy and sell and bring our doves and lambs to the marketplace and jostle for favours and positions and any little thing the arbiters of the Temple wish to dole out if they deem our sacrifices as worthy. We are like beggars, like the sick who sit around the pool waithng for the angel to come stir it up and then hope to dive in first to get the miracle cure.

Christ studied and learned and understood but he did not become like the people of the Temple.  He was from God. He showed us the way to Life and it was not by becoming like those in the Temple who used rules and regulations to strangle and impoverish so many people; who took hope away rather than give it.

The only lie in the world is that you have to be part of something, behave in a certain way, become like some significant other, in order to be accepted.  Being accepted is not the same as being saved.

We are all saved.

You do not need to buy into anything anymore to be able to experience Resurrection of your soul.

Wake up in the morning of this New Year and every morning thereafter, ask for forgiveness and begin again.  Christ makes us new every day.  He loves us and forgives us and helps us to move to complete Resurrection.  We are already on the path.  Do not let anyone, least of all yourself, doubt it.

We are Resurrection People.


Art is trash – No!

IMAG0708

On a recent trip to London to stock up on art supplies from one of my favourite wholesalers – Atlantis in the East End, I beheld this piece of art made from rubbish outside the building.  For those of faint heart, please excuse the language.  It made me laugh and I guess that is the purpose of art – to get a reaction of some kind.  What that reaction is, depends on the artwork, I guess.

We had just spent a few hours in the Tate Modern.  I so love the Tate Modern.  I was disapponited the regurgitating, upside down grand piano was no longer on show but there was a special exhibition of Paul Klee, which I did not go to due to time constraints, and needing mucho spondooliks for the purchase of art equipment.  However, I walked from gallery to gallery and delighted in the great variety of exhibits from Tracy Emin to Picasso.  Miss Emin would understand the above, no doubt, as she also uses such harsh language in her work.  I am always prepared not to like her work but invariably do.  There is a certain freedom in being able to express oneself so.  Some woman had undoubtedly upset her for her latest piece.

Reactions to brutal language and expression in art are just as valid as reactions to works of sheer skill and beauty.  Regarding a cubist figure by Picasso simply filled me with joy.  His technique is flawless and the composition utterly sublime.  I get as much of a visceral response to his work as I do to Miss Emin’s, even though both reactions are poles apart in content.

The two finest pieces, in my mind, were Giacometti’s sketch of his brother-in-law and Emil Nolde’s landscape that has me in ecstasy with its moody, heaviness and powerful colouring.

My inner artist was well fed and I subsequently am spending hour upon hour trying to meet the deadline for my latest icon.  Number 2 of a triptych based on the Book of Revelation. A creative needs to spend time amongst the creations of others.  It is a necessary part of the artist’s journey to feed the soul and to inspire and energise.

From a spiritual perspective there is the instruction written in the Good Book to be either hot or cold but never to be lukewarm.  One may as well be dead if the latter applies.  I suggest that art has a function here to knock us a little bit off the fence of lukewarmedness.  Either way is valid, if only simply to WAKE US UP! Yes, do wake up!  Become aware and start to live.

To the artist of Art is Trash above, I salute you for waking up the humdrum lives of any passerby and making them react a little.  But try to be more original with the language – I am sure you can think of something more interesting than F*** O**

Here is my reflection in a piece of art work at the Tate modern which consists of seveal large, thick plates of glass laying one on top of the other.  It was rather softening and I liked the effect.

Reflection in plate glasses at Tate Modern.

Reflection in plate glasses at Tate Modern.


Ely Cathedral, a Bunch of Franciscans and a Marvellous Mary.

Virgin Mary, Lady Chapel  at Ely Cathedral

Virgin Mary, Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral

Last weekend (18th-20th October, 2013) was one well looked forward to.  A retreat at Ely Cathedral for the East of England region of Tertiary Franciscans. Our local area, the Chiltern Group had decided to book up en masse at Bishop Woodford House so we could experience the day without rushing there and having to travel back.  We had much opportunity to talk and enjoy one another’s company and I felt this was very special for me. I am now working with my young people most Saturdays so miss a lot of the area meetings or just get the tail end if it is very local and I can get there in time.  Cameraderie is very important for Franciscans, it is not simply an association, we are a true family in Christ.

I loved Ely and the cathedral but most especially the pneumatic sculpture of Mary.  Forgive my adjective but it is the right one.  I was not sure about her at first but as our event progressed and I regarded her overseeing our proceedings in that dramatic pose as if she is about to launch herself over the top of us, I warmed to her.  She is all woman, quite Nordic, almost Icelandic in expression. She would make any man think twice before speaking to her.

We renewed our vows for the year and I was assigned to the workshop called Work.  It was interesting and one of the speakers likened attitudes to work with a set of characters who were affiliated with one or other of our Principles. Work is important for me and I am free to work as much as I like and consequently do.  Being self employed in two areas: tutoring and art, seems to fill my days, evening  and nights quite easily.  I have to be strict about Sundays – my day off from all of it and Wednesdays which are now sacrosanct as my Artist’s Day where I either continue to work on current projects or sort out my art plan or go visiting somewhere new to get new ideas or inspiration. It has become a special day for me and has a strong feeling of holiness.  Indeed the room where I paint is now well set up and I feel an intense inner joy each time I walk in to my work space. For the first time in a long while I feel I am doing the work I was meant to be doing with the right balance of prayer, work and creativity.  Furthermore I am embarking on a small social enterprise that I will set up early next year.  I am excited about this as it has so many Franciscanly values attached to it. It will come shortly before my profession as a tertiary proper and I anticipate this will form the core of my work as a Franciscan in years to come.  I will keep you posted.

One of the highlights of the weekend at Ely was the sculpture at the cathedral. How I loved it and especially the Christ by Hans Freiburg below.

Resurrected Christ with holes in his hands.

Resurrected Christ with holes in his hands.

The figure simply invites you to place your hands in his.  He is life size and above you, so as you hold his hands and feel the cleft of the wounds in the palms of his hands you look up into his strained face and feel so much love and compassion from him it melts you completely and utterly.  The sculptor could only have had the most intense relationship with Him to have produced such a magnificent work.  I will never forget it.

St. Etheldreda

St. Etheldreda

She is magnificent, almost like some ancient goddess and the stone sculture is so fine you have to touch.

Mary Magdalene with Christ by the tomb.

Mary Magdalene with Christ by the tomb.

Fabulous.

Statue of Mary in Bishop Woodford house

Statue of Mary in Bishop Woodford house

I love the sernenity of her face, she is beautiful.

We all enjoyed our visit immensely, especially the bar which was open for us to use and write our own tabs on each night!  I assure you we were well behaved. I had a scotch and ginger with one of my colleagues on Friday night and was reminded of cosy evenings with my own father who was partial to a drop of Bells.

During lunch hour on the day of our meeting I spent a good half hour doing my first brass rubbing of an incredible, almost teutonic image of Mary. I have no photo at present of the rubbing but have the plaque – see below –  it was a magical experience.  I was transported back to childhood when I used to do magic painting with a brush of water on a blank page which would then become filled with an image and wonderful colours.  An elderly couple kept me company and watched as it progressed and then one of the Franciscans came over and gave me a hand bringing up the definition of the lettering.  He was very dear and we worked companionably.  I must also thank the lovely lady called June, from the cathedral shop who expertly set me up and showed me what to do.  She was great and I would go back just to have another go and see her again. She could not do enough to make it a special experience.

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And one final word:

Altar frontal, Lady Chapel, Ely

Altar frontal, Lady Chapel, Ely

I


The Artist’s Eye – A Tale of Two Cities 2

The Prophet Isaiah

The Prophet Isaiah

Today is the 9th July, 2013. From the manual of the the Third Order of St. Francis – Principles, Day 9:

The Second Aim contd.  –  As Tertiaries, we are prepared not only to speak out for social justice and international peace, but to put these principles into practice in our own lives. Cheerfully facing any scorn or persecution to which this may lead.

How is it possible to come to a point in our lives when we are prepared to do this?  Some people are born with such skills and abilities and it is clear from a young age that they have clarity of purpose but for many of us on the path it is far from distinct and a great struggle takes place. This struggle is long and most likely lifelong.  Someone told me not so long ago that even St. Francis himself had struggles and doubts all his life – but he pressed on regardless and that is the key.  To keep going, not to stop, not to wither under pressure of social conformation and public or private opinion.  It is a tall order, especially for one such as myself who was brought up to fear what the “neighbours would think”.  My mother was a non-practicing Catholic and heaped much guilt upon our heads. This guilt is nothing other than fear.

In my tale of two cities I want to venture further into the cities within.  We have at our root a fundamental choice:

     to live in fear or to live in love.

Note the or in bold. Where fear is, love is not.  Where love is, fear is not.  Most choices we make in life can seem hard and convoluted but our response to any given situation is dictated to this root premise.  The two cites of self have characteristics and you can set about learning to recognise them.  We are a little bit of a hotch-potch in general and it takes discipline and contemplation to unravel an awareness of our being and to discern from what motivation we are working from.

The City of Fear

When our lives are lived in the city of fear we are, like my mother, completely under the illusion that everything we do will be judged by others and we will be found to be lacking or wanting in some amorphous, intangible way.  As a consequence of this we build up an image of ourselves that is designed to fit in with those around us and we rally to the call of the significant others we perceive in our circle and aim to please them. One of my non- Franciscan spiritual directors pointed out to me that she sees many people who live in this fear and try to cover up any ‘indiscretions’ or ‘failures’ in their lives.  They are so desperate that no-one sees  these ‘mistakes’.  What a stressful way to live, I thought.  As an iconographer, I assure my students regularly that mistakes or patches of work that do not fit into the idealised image they have in their heads at the outset, are graces from God and lead us to experiment and find new ways of approaching the problem set before us.  In the end these icons filled with error are incredibly beautiful and feel so human and endearing.

In eastern thought the idea that we have to maintain this illusion of being better and perfect is alien. It stems from a need to feel superior to others.  Consequently those who live in this way become panicked when someone throws the proverbial spanner in the works and they run around justifying themselves and what they do or have done and how great it is.  It may work for a time to salve the ego but it is still an illusion. Maintaining the image becomes the raison d’etre of existence.  The Western world is so full of this and we laugh at those in Hollywood who try to keep on with the illusion of physical perfection through plastic surgery but are we any better?  We try to do the same in so many little ways in our ordinary lives, in our workplace or place of worship.  In the church it alienates and so many do not come because of it.  One person spoke to me after my last blog and pointed out that there are millions of truly Christian people outside of the church because of the people inside the church.  I was led to find an article on the Organic Church which is now springing up  where people are coming together in small groups to worship God, just as they did at the beginning in the early church.  So in a remarkable way, the beauty of God manifests itself despite the actions of so called organised religion.  Organised anything, in the end, always tends to become fear based as those who have not understood their own motivations move in to control and organise the system in the way they wish it to be to sustain the image they have created.  Fear based thinking is a direct result of not surrendering or submitting or being obedient to or listening to the word of God in our hearts.

Reading Ezekiel 11 this morning, we are reminded that it is God who changes our hearts from those of stone, to those of flesh.  We cannot be anything else until He does so.  Even better to have a heart of light, which is the heart of Christ.

The City of Love

The Isaiah, pictured in my icon above, is one of my ‘faulty’ friends.  All my best work is with those who have commissioned it, so I am left with all my ‘mistakes and ‘imperfect’ icons.  I take them with me when I give talks and my little battered collection is loved and cherished by all who meet them. People recognise that imperfection is fundamentally more filled with the beauty of love than perfection – which can seem cold, aloof and unattainable. Isaiah had a problem with his face – the gesso bubbled up and he looked like he had chicken pox.  Drastic measures had to be taken and I had to remove the tempera.  So he has a line around the edge of his face where the diseased gesso had been removed.  I can never discard my little rejects, and I think I love them more than any of my other better works.  He sits at my work table in the corner and reminds me that under the scabs and sickness of modern thought and behaviour there is beauty in all.  That at times, drastic measures have to be taken to remove the disease, and at other times it is the slow and less radical process of renewal and regeneration.

When we work from the premise of love there is no fear.  We do not fear the opinion of others, we do not fear living in places others would turn their nose up at, or being different from those around us. It is a great freedom.  We can be who we are meant to be and we do not need to be what others would want us to be or how we feel they would want us to be.  We follow the inspiration that comes to us each day no matter where it takes us and we often do not know where it will lead but at the same time we accept what comes with delight and joy.  It amazes us when people think we have ‘lost’ status or ‘lost’ some thing, like a house or a job or a car.  Nothing is ‘lost’ at all.  When you live in a life that wants to hang on to these things, then there is loss, but when these things have no importance, because the only significant thing is the love of God, then all is gain and building up and nurturing and renewal. Life becomes an exciting journey as we wonder where it will take us .  We do not need others to recommend or back us as God has gone before us and He will never leave us or forsake us.  No man can take away what God has ordained for anyone.

Imagine a world where everyone could truly become the unique person they were gifted to be?  We have everything within us to make right the wrongs of the world, to have enough for all, to live without want, need and poverty.  The solution to every difficulty is within each one of us if only we could allow ourselves and others around us to be the person they were and truly meant to be. If governments could learn to allow people to ‘be’ to develop and find their true talent, to allow teachers to inspire and to nurture the true talent of their students – all their students, not just a select few – every country in the world would have a wealth of everything they need with regard to skills and abilities.  It is fear and the need to control that prevents this true education from happening. We have at the heart the solution to all problems the world faces; we cannot utilise this solution because we contaminate it and suppress it before it has the chance to flower.

If we could move into the City of Love then there would be no pressure or stress to be like anyone else, we could delight in collective uniqueness. Both Isaiah and my friend Ezekiel did not fit in and at times had to run for their lives.  Has the world reached a point of consciousness yet, where this need not be the case anymore? Perhaps the poxed face of illusion has to be dramatically removed before the light of love and truth can freely shine and perhaps the woes of this world today are simply the signs of this removal. So have hope, and work hard for truth because the City  of Love is needing builders today.


A New Series of Videos

The Spiritual Journey with Icons

The Icon Board- the spiritual foundation

Click on each title and be transported to my living room for a cosy chat about icons in this new venture.

If anyone can tell me how to get rid of the noise of my laptop fan from the videos I would be eternally grateful as I am completely baffled by video editing software.


Francis and Mary

Madonna Hodegetria

Madonna Hodegetria

A new Pope called Francis I who calls us to pray through the icon of Mary. An advocate of the contemplative life and a man of compassion.  May Christ’s love shine through him and spread throughout the world.

My joy is complete.

This image of the Madonna Hodegetria written by the iconographer can be found at All Saints Fulham London.


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