Painting an Icon of a Contemporary Saint, written by Aidan Hart

8 04 2011

I wrote a piece a while ago about the creation of an icon of a contemporary saint. I learnt about this from directly from my teacher Aidan Hart. I can remember once when I was visiting him he had created just such and icon – of New Martyr Elizabeth: a member of the Russian royal family who was murdered by the Bolsheviks. I thought I would ask Aidan to describe how he created this icon. What follows is his reply. Note how he is very clear that he is not aiming for a photographic-like likeness, but rather an image that infuses her physical characteristics with those elements of the iconographic form that will reveal more fully the true person.

Aidan wrote as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

How an Artist can Seek Creativity and Inspiration

4 04 2011

Nearly every artist I meet acknowledges a need for inspiration to guide creativity. The application of every stroke of charcoal or paint must be guided by a picture in the mind of the artist of what he is aiming to create. Sometimes the creation of the work of art involves a carefully thought out, obviously reasoned approach and sometimes it is or more intuitive and spontaneous. However, as long as the process is the realization of an idea and not just a random process without any thought of what the result will be (as with a chimpanzee throwing paint at a canvas) then the artists is employing his intellect and is making decisions about the form he creates. Artists need inspiration in both the formation of the original ideas; and in the decisions about how it will be best achieved. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Man Read the Symbolic Book of Nature Today?

1 04 2011

Or Should We Just Rely on Our Gothic Forebears? I recently wrote about the quincunx and its relationship to the traditional image of Christ in Majesty showing with symbolic representation of the four evangelists, here. Frenchman Emile Male described how the understanding of how these four figures related to the evangelists in the 13th century (his book is called, The Gothic Image). Male is drawing on a commentary on Ezekiel by Rabanus Maurus, the 9thcentury Benedictine monk and bishop of Mainz in Germany, which, he says became the authoritative text for the later gothic period. Reading this is helpful in understanding the roots of this symbolism, but rather like an earlier discussion of the pelican and the peacock, not without a few difficulties also.

Male recounts it as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

The Relief Carving of Jonathan Pageau

25 03 2011

Here is some relief carving by Jonathan Pageau, an artisan based in Canada. Jonathan is Orthodox and is working very much within the iconographic form, the principles of which he will not compromise, as one would expect. However when I chatted with him about his work, it struck me that as well the more familiar Eastern forms, he has an interest in traditional Western forms of iconographic art as well.
He is happy therefore to consider the portrayal of some Western types that are not part of the usual Eastern canon. He works in wood and a soft soapstone from Kenya called Kisii stone. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pythagorean Prayer of the Cosmos

22 03 2011

The powerful prayer for creativity and inspiration and joy, which is perfected in the Church (Others in series on Divine Office here) Since the ancient Greeks there has been the idea that the happy life is the result of a good life, and a good life is a beautiful life. In the 6th century BC the philosopher Pythagoras (the same one who has a geometric theorem named after him) gathered around him a religious group of ‘Pythagoreans’ who sought to order their lives according to this principle of beauty and order. They drew their inspiration from their observations of the beauty of the cosmos. When viewed in the way of the Pythagoreans, making our actions and work beautiful becomes a guiding principle in life, just like morality. Morality tends to guide by placing boundaries on our activity – it tells us what not to do. This is necessary. Beauty, however, complements this by providing a positive principle of choice. Read the rest of this entry »

The Quincunx – a Geometric Representation of Christ in Majesty

16 03 2011

One of my hopes for the cultural renewal is the revival of a Christian form of geometric patterned art. With this in mind I have done my best to study past work, and try to discern the principles that underlie its creation. I wrote about resources that help in this respect in a previous article, here.

If tasked with the design of an ornate sanctuary floor now, for example, how might one go about it? Read the rest of this entry »

The Sacred Art of Manuel Farrugia

11 03 2011
Manuel Farrugia, who painted these, is a young man just 22-years old from Gozo, Malta.
Most of the skilled naturalistic painters today have received the traditional academic training in a form that resembles that offered in the ateliers of the 19th century. This is an excellent training for portraiture and still lives particularly, but it sometimes causes problems when painting sacred art. Regular readers will be aware from past articles, for example here and here, of how I feel that a strong emphasis on individual facial expressions and characteristics, which is appropriate in portrait painting, creates overly sentimental sacred art. Read the rest of this entry »