Thursday, March 11, 2010

Completing the Icon

Once the highlights and floats are finished, there are still many details to attend to. There are borders that will need delineation, cleaning up. Haloes are usually outlined, often with red and white, signifying the spanning of earth and heaven. The outside border of the icon is edged where the bole meets the background. Enliveners are small brush strokes of bright light to emphazize features on faces, hands, edges of garments. And no icon is complete until it is named. Sometimes the name is placed near the image, sometimes it's written on the border.

The icon will need to dry thoroughly before the final step, which is the oiling.

In our class, we lovingly refer to this as "The ahaa moment". When someone is ready to oil, we gather around to watch the transformation. (I wish I had a picture that could capture this. Perhaps I'll remember to do this on my next icon and will post it.) The board is warmed slightly, and linseed oil is also heated a bit. With a small prayer, it is poured over the icon. As you pick up the board to gently spread the oil, you watch as the colors come alive, jewel-like. It's the difference between the stones you find at a beach that are dull gray or mud colored and as soon as they get wet, they gleam with layers of color and detail. The oiling process actually takes a couple of hours to finish, watching carefully to see that the oil is being absorbed evenly, that colors are staying intact. And then the work is to remove the excess gradually, leaving just enough for the level of sheen desired. Linseed oil is another of the smells I've come to love.

I recognize, too, that iconography is not just a way of doing art. It becomes a vocation. And it is always a lesson in humility.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful series of posts. I'm sure I'll never look at an icon the same way again. Thanks!