Iconography: Windows of Light

A 2012 Course in Review

There's such a spirit here, when you're writing your icons, when you're gazing at the face of Jesus, Jesus is gazing back at you, there is something that happens. The prayer, the Mass, it all comes together to make your Jesus and your whole experience complete... it's Jesus saying, 'Enter deeper,' and that's what my experience has been, to enter deeper.

Margaret Logan, student

Iconography is a contemplative craft, yet one that draws you out of yourself the further you enter the process. As our students will tell you, it is an intimate encounter with the subject of the icon. Our group was able to introduce themselves to St. John the Baptist over 17 days, coming to know him not only as one of the first figureheads of the Church, but as an individual who engaged them as a personal connection to God.

The Iconography 2012 students were a calm and easy-going bunch, settling into the intensive daily schedule with seeming ease and readiness. As the longest course in iconography yet, there was a balance to the schedule which fit with the personality of the class. We had 4 returning students who lent their expertise to their less experienced fellows and everyone enjoyed the opportunity to work on St. John the Baptist for the first time.

Jesus said, 'Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father.' And so, this face, coming to life, I can look at his face, and I can actually see the Father...This is a real beautiful journey.

Shirley Goulet, student

Frank Turner, the fine arts instructor, was as masterful as ever, guiding the students through the journey, one layer, one pigment at a time. He worked with the students individually as well as in the group, coaching on proper technique and helping the students understand the intricacies of shading and layering with the pigment. Iconography must always be a patient art. As many as 30 layers of paint are required to bring out the radiant hue that accurately depicts the saintly radiance of the subject. Naturally, the gold leaf also adds to the brilliance of the icon. To watch it go onto the red bole in strips, adhered to the board by one’s breath and then be smoothed into a seamless glow is a fascinating process. One signature feature of St. John is his untamed head of hair which is all the more accented by the gleaming halo.

Jesus said, 'Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father.' And so, this face, coming to life, I can look at his face, and I can actually see the Father...This is a real beautiful journey.

Shirley Goulet, student

Throughout the painting of their icons, the students engaged in academic sessions and discussion on the history and theology of the East, as well as the culture and symbolism surrounding iconography. Fr. Danylo Kuc (St. Joseph’s College U of A), and Fr. Bohdan Nahachewsky (pastor of the Lloydminster and surrounding Ukrainian Catholic parishes) imparted their knowledge, understanding and inspiration of the East.  Only a few of the students had any prior experience with the Eastern Church. These studies balanced the fine art portion of the program by connecting a depth of understanding to the craft in which the students were immersed. They also opened up to the depth of prayer associated with the icon at every stage of its development.

The backgrounds of the 9 students attending the program were varied and always interesting.  For example, Rose traveled from Ontario, having just completed her certification as a piano technician. While also an electrician and a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, she plans on traveling the country as a piano tuner. We had the pleasure of hosting our webmaster and co-designer of the Living Water crest as a student at the program. Tim, a graphic designer, singer and graduate of Thomas Aquinas College wished to learn iconography as a new art form and discovered more than he expected. Kathleen is a wife and mother who worked as an illustrator for 25 years. With experience in watercolour and oil paintings, she entered the world of iconography after a workshop in Oregon and is currently working on 3 images. She appreciates the opportunity to evangelize through the beauty and symbolism of this art.

In the final days of the program, the icons took their final form as beautiful images of St. John Prodromos (the Forerunner), just in time for their blessing on Saturday, July 21. In a meaningful ceremony led by Fr. Kuc, assisted by Fr. Taras Krawchuk, a local monk, and attended by family, friends, and supporters, the words of the blessing were sung over the images. All who wished to, were able to venerate each new icon, and experience first-hand the icon pointing to Christ.

Frank Turner was pleased at the journeys of the students and their final results. Looking at the group, he said that he was even more gratified by the supposition that he had been able “light the fire” in at least a few of the students and hoped that he had helped to start them on a much longer journey with iconography.

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