Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Icon: my Guardian Angel

Two wax paper tracings of the fresco I am copying
Madonna with 54¢ of cull lumber (five 3.25x4" pine boards)
I have put off beginning my first icon for a while: I wanted to start one at the beginning of Lent. Now that it is dangerously close to Pentecost and I am in a lull between classes and summer work, I realize my window is closing.

I really wanted to do this right. I read that some iconographers follow schedules of fasting and prayer. I didn't want to treat the process frivolously, mistreat the sacred, fail in obedience, innovate on top of holy traditions, etc, etc.

However, I also recognized that my desire to paint a holy person comes from a good intention, to spend time thinking about holiness in members of Christ's body and to exercise my devotion in a physical and visual way.

And I looked at the big picture: the Church has no partiality to one style or another (she is, after all, universal). In fact, just looking at the icons attributed to St. Luke one sees extreme variation across time and cultures. Materials, style, method--all these are accidental. What is essential to an image that will increase devotion in the painter and the future beholders is devotion and right intention.

With this in mind, I started last Friday. I am painting my guardian angel, with whom I barely converse at all and whom I barely know. The pattern I chose to copy is an Italian fresco (rather late considering the reported ancient source of many icons). This fresco, more than many other patterns that I could imitate, showed a masculine and attentive figure, with a face communicating significant activity. I will continue to post to record future progress.

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