The icons done by my hand are almost universally done with egg tempera and ground pigments, in the ancient traditional style. Iconography involves "reverse perspective". Unlike western art which has "vanishing points" that cause the background of a painting or drawing to recede, an icon's background is brought forward. This is why, for example, that a saint's head seems so disproportionately large: you are seeing both the face and the sides of the head brought forward as if on one plane. While the features of the saint, or the Lord or the Theotokos, are naturalistic to a degree, there is also a stylistic specificity, differing in detail from one geographical area to another.
The style in which my work is done is Russian, as both my teachers come from Russia and were trained there. I am currently working and studying in the school of Xenia Pokrovsky, a spiritual daughter of Fr. Alexander Men. Previously I studied under the Prosopon School, founded by Vladislav Andrejev. Xenia gives yearly seminars on iconography which I would recommend to anyone seriously thinking of learning this ancient Orthodox art.
The Anastasis, or the Harrowing of Hell
The descent of Christ into Hades, or Hell, is an event of which the Scriptures themselves are silent. However, the Nicene Creed has proclaimed "He descended to the dead", or "He descended into Hell" (in the Apostle's Creed), thus witnessing that the universal Church has always known that Christ descended and "led captivity captive". In this icon, we see Christ trampling down death by death: He pulls Adam and Eve from their graves, as the prophets and kings and holy ones, including John the Forerunner, look on. The great blue mandorla in the background is a testament to His presence *in* heaven, with the Father, even as He is *in* Hades, leading the righteous out of their prison and into Paradise. The prayers and songs of the Paschal season are the height of sublime theology in the Orthodox Church, and this icon is only one of many which tell, in paint and gold and wood, the truth of Christ's saving work for us...He, the Lover of Mankind.
Christ the Life Giver
Late 2006, private collection, Texas
This icon of Christ the Lifegiver is done with assiste, gold threads running through the Lord's garments and through the Gospel book He holds.
My saint's name, taken at my chrismation, is Mary Brigid: Mary, to honor the Theotokos, to whom I have been devoted since childhood, and Brigid, to honor the saint who, along with Patrick, is called "Enlightener of Ireland". Orthodoxy was united, east and west, until the Great Schism a thousand years after Christ; and many hundreds of saints are venerated by both west and east from that first millenium. I have had the priviledge to write icons for some of those saints, particularly some who are less well known .
I welcome commissions from Orthodox and non-Orthodox to write icons of western saints. It is a great honor to depict those amazing heroes and heroines of our western tradition, who held the "faith once delivered" and brought Christ to western and northern Europe. A few of the icons I've done to date in this tradition are shown below.
This icon is in a private collection in Texas.
St. Adelaide was a truly remarkable woman. She was the daughter of the king of Burgundy, and was married to the son of the ruler of Provence as a means of ending a feud. When her husband was murdered by a rival prince, she was shut up in captivity until freed by Otto I, who became Holy RomanEmperor and Adelaide, his Empress. She ruled with her husband until his death, at which time her jealous daughter-in-law had her banished from the court twice! Yet she remained steadfast and faithful, known for her liberality in giving and her piety; and eventually she was restored to court as the regent for her grandson Otto III. She was active in the reforms of the great abbey at Cluny, and reposed in 999. Despite her exalted status, she was a wife and mother, and lived both hard times and good, always faithful to her Lord, and always ready to give generously to those in need. She never took revenge on her political enemies once she gained the regency and it was said that her court was much like a monastery itself in its piety. She is a reminder to me that regardless of how much or how little I may have, my work remains the same. It was true joy to write this icon.
St. Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland
Private collection in Texas
This new icon of St. Patrick uses the same pattern I had used years ago on an icon for my middle son of that name. St. Patrick, of course, is a saint that "everybody knows", or thinks they do. He, along with St. Brigid of Kildare, carries the title "Enlightener of Ireland" or "Apostle to Ireland". He most likely was not the first Christian priest to visit the Irish; and certainly the Irish knew something of Christianity from the British slaves they raided for and brought home. However, he was the best known of the missionaries to Ireland, and he had a burning zeal to see Ireland become Christian. His passion for his adopted people was well placed, as Ireland was a beacon of learning and Christian culture in the west during the Dark Ages. St. Patrick carries the Gospel book in this icon, as a sign of his apostleship.
Soon to come....more icons of western saints. Please check back frequently.
Since I became a catechumen, preparing for chrismation into Orthodoxy in 2000, I have been taught by the saints of the Russian Church. I began reading St. Theophan the Recluse very early, as he wrote some very basic materials for "beginners" in the faith, or for those who were just starting out their adult lives. I highly recommend his writings to all. I was encouraged, taught, and inspired by those who have fought the good fight since St. Vladimir first received the faith in the 900's. I intend, over the next few years, to spend some time with those saints and writing more of their icons. Below are two that were done by my hand...one, a lady nearly as high as one could be in Russia, the other, a humble servant of God. Both depict the soul of the church in Russia.
St. Elizabeth the New Martyr was Grand Duchess of Russia and the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England. When her husband the Grand Duke was assassinated, she took the veil and became a nun with several other women. She served the poor of Russia until she, along with the remainder of the Royal Family, were martyred. She is depicted in the martyr's red, but with the veil of a nun, and without the regalia of her station and rank, as she chose to forsake all that for the humility of a nun.
St. John the Russian was a soldier who went to fight against the Turks in an attempt by Russia to liberate ancient Constantinople from the Moorish yoke. The campaign failed, and John was captured and made a slave to one of the caliphs. John served humbly and well, and became a trusted servant. The story goes that John had made a dinner that his master loved well, but his master was off on a military campaign far away. His master's wife remarked how well he would have loved the dish; and John prayed, and was able to miraculously deliver a platter of the food to his astonished master. He is known for his humility and willingness to serve without gain despite great personal suffering and loss.
The icon is different from many I have done, because the humility of John's station, his clothing, are intentionally depicted. The shirt is done in a coarse linen weave, and he wears only a simple leather belt and the confessor's red tunic. It is a very peaceful icon to contemplate