Writing icons

March 27, 2007

My fascination with icons and iconography continues. As I mentioned in a previous post, it began a few hours before I got an email telling me (to my great surprise) that I’m related to a Benedictine monk who’s also a brilliant iconographer. I now regularly exchange emails with my long lost cousin the monk, and he recently sent me some fascinating info about “writing” an icon.

Many of you may already know these things, but I had no idea what goes into the creation of each icon. It makes me all the more enchanted with them. He writes:

There is a verb that is proper and peculiar to painting an icon: one speaks of “writing” an icon. This is because in ancient times the art of writing and painting were considered closely related. Also, an icon is considered the Word of God in visual, or pictorial form, so, since a word is “written” so a picture that is a word, is “written”.

Also, when an iconographer writes an icon, he (or she, this ministry is non-restrictive) is considered to be doing theology — really, teaching theology by the skill he employs in his work. The more skilled the craftsman, the more likely he is to attract the viewer to contemplate the Mysteries of Salvation. Generally, young artists work only from prototypes, gradually refining their sense of line and color. Older artists, who are experienced in the practice of the Faith as well, may create new prototypes, but these are always to be approved by ecclesiastical authorities to make sure they are both orthodox and edifying to the People of God.

He goes on to say that he’d like to have a beer sometime while writing an icon but can’t because beer is considered food and artists fast while creating icons. (Quick aside: why on earth did it take me so long to convert to a religion that considers beer food??)

I just wanted to share this interesting info with any fellow icon lovers out there.

[comments closed for Lent]



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