Creation of icons based on the Book of Revelation

Icon Retreat with Image of Christ by Manuil Panselinos of Mt. Athos

On St. Luke’s Day, 18th October 2011, I was honoured to be able to run a half day retreat at St. Martin’s in Birmingham.  We worked on the face of Christ based on a sketch by Manuil Panselinos from Mt. Athos in the 14th Century.

I love working with old style materials and had prepared some

tinted papers made with rabbit skin glue and pigments of titanium white and yellow ochre.  This give a wonderful slightly rough surfcae to work on and the yellow ochre emanates a subtle light of it’s own.

We had two and a half hours – a challenge to demonstrate and teach some of the rudiments of iconography to a class of mostly non artists.

Yet this, as always, does not matter, as the work is for Jesus and we begin with reverence and the prayer of the iconographer.

Work started with a basic tracing of the cartoon and then a transferring of the image using red ochre.  Yes, for simplicity I could use graphite paper, but where is the beauty in that?  The red ochre transfer is a delight and confers a basis for beauty from the start.

It is always amazing how different each sketch is right from the moment each student begins to work.  We progressed through the basis use of using tempera pigments and made some light washes, conferred detail and then added some lights.    All kept to the minimum because of time constraints but with enough time to work quietly and with much focus.  Concentration was palpable.

At the end we placed them all on sill under the magnificent Burne Jones stained glass window and stepped back.  All were delighted with what they had achieved and the beauty of Christ was evident in every picture even in the simplest one where a student had to work much more slowly than the rest and only had time for a few washes and some marks for the features.

As a rest, and thankfully we all then sat as I lit a candle by my icon of The Descent of the Holy Spirit and read the meditation by Henri Nouwen about it from his book, Behold the Beauty of the Lord.

This is about the church as a community- not of people who decide only to be with those of similar interests and psychology but of a church of people of all kinds, who listen and work together.

My students were lucky to have me for the afternoon! but I am even luckier – they have one of me but I had the gift of seven of them and their smiling faces and warm and quiet natures.  Thank you to all.

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