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Monday, May 04, 2009

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Angels Stages 2

So here is a detail of one of the Archangels in a beginning stage. After the greenish brown sankir was applied, the drawing lines were reestablished and the facial highlights begun. The lighter skin colour looks patchy, but that was corrected later. Egg tempera can be a little unpredictable -- sometimes that's wonderful, at other times not so much. That is, for a beginner with only eight years under my belt it's unpredictable! But I'm getting a little more comfortable with it every year.

The red you see on the halo and the collar of the angel's robe is underpainting for the gold leaf. Gold leaf is so thin that it's transparent. You can affect the overall look of it by your choice of colour underneath. A good bright red results in a warmer gold once the leaf is applied.

I generally prefer to gild over bole (more on what that is later) -- if you know gilding at all you know why. But because I had not used bole for the Christ and Theotokos icons, I didn't use it for the saints or archangels. I can't remember why I didn't use bole to begin with; it must have been expedience, since gilding with oil size is much faster and easier.

Bole is a clay mixture which goes on wet, dries into a hard surface and provides a slightly raised effect to the gold -- very pleasing to the eye. It also makes a 'cushion' so that the gold can be burnished. Burnishing is basically polishing to a high shine. Up close I think it could be described as sort of 'mashing' the gold flatter so it is more reflective. There's my high tech description. Later I'll describe the whole bole-gilding process, at least as I know it (imperfectly). It's quite an involved thing in itself.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Angels -- Stages

Christ is Risen!

I'm trying to recover a sense of this blog as my art/ studio/ iconography blog, so I thought I'd put some "stages" photos up of recent projects. The archangel you see here is now completed, along with its companion. To the right you can see the (underpainted) edge of the Christ Enthroned (also completed, a long time ago). The dark yellow is the underpainting for the blue robe. Ultramarine blue cannot be trusted to go onto white gesso on its own. It's hard to explain.

If you are new to icons, the greeny colour of the face and hands is called sankir (gotta look up what that means literally -- never thought about it!) In iconography you work from dark to light, so the faces seem very dark and depressing at first. As you put on the highlights the face comes to life and seems to glow from within. It is a wonderful and humbling process to participate in!

As I look at this drawing it's interesting for me, because I've not seen it without colour for a long, long time. The drawing seems weird and top-heavy, and I'm not sure whether that's the photo, or whether I changed the drawing, or what. I think it's the angle of the photo. Ha ha, no pun intended -- angle. Ouch.

So, in the next while I will put up the photos of the angels completed (and any mid-process photos I find -- there are a few) as well as some more 'stages' photos of my next projects. These are 'secret' commissions by clients for their loved ones, so I have to be a bit cagey about what they are in case said loved ones check out this blog! I also have a Sign icon (more on what that is later) for a dear friend in Fife, Scotland, whom I've not seen in far too long. Could have something to do with her living in Scotland. I will put up some photos of that too, very shortly. The icon, not Scotland. Scotland you need to see in the flesh.

Oh: Dream projects for when I get time, or someone sponsors me to do them, HINT HINT:

St Euphrosynos the Cook for Jamie Oliver (a hero of mine, although I hate cooking. I actually think he is a saint of sorts.)

St Maria Skobtsova (the former atheist) for Ricky Gervais (who said in a podcast that he thought icons were incredibly beautiful -- made my hair stand on end!)

Sts Boris and Gleb AND St George for Mikhail Ryabko (greatest living teacher of Systema -- Russian martial arts -- from what I saw of his home chapel in a documentary that cat needs a few original icons!)

St Vladimir for Vladimir Vasiliev, greatest student of Mikhail, teacher of my teacher!

St Thomas for Fr Thomas Hopko, dear to my heart.

St John Chrysostom for Dr Jeannie Constantinou, my scholar-priest's-wife-kick-ass-take-no-names Scripture heroine!

Whoa, this is way too fun. To be continued!

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