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Towards the beautiful soul through icons

We rejoice that Baby Jesus was born and art helps us to imagine this mystery. I was surprised to learn that staring at a piece of art is actually a type of prayer and very recently I was introduced to Visio Divina. Lord Jesus spoke to me through a painting. It was one of these moments... You God are God indeed and nothing is impossible for You! Art seems to be the easiest way to express beauty. Looking at it, praying with it or just being around it impacts us and hopefully changes our souls to be more beautiful.

I got interested in icons and the one above presents Baby Jesus with His Mother Mary. My impression is that they are serious, almost sad and very still yet the colors make them alive. Studying about the icons explains the history, the process of creating them, the reasons for what they are used and symbolism that is hidden behind the images. In one of the articles, I read that an author of the icon is not that important because they're a copy of a previous one. I disagree because the pictures of the icons included in my post are written by my friend Mariola and they are beautiful. She's learning to write the icons from Fr. Marek, whom I had a pleasure to listen to and get truly inspired.

The icons are so much more than I'd think about them. Over the centuries they served different purposes like:

  • bring beauty to a church or home

  • be used as a focal point during a prayer

  • help to teach history, especially during the illiterate period

  • be inspired to follow examples of its figures

  • prepare for Heaven, when we'll be seeing God face to face.

The reason I wanted to learn more about the icons is possibly because of all the symbols that go into the process of creating them. The process itself consists of many steps and it's also not painting but writing the icons.

Prayer, as everything else involving God, it shall start with a prayer.

Existing icons or other samples are to study first to decide on the icons.

Preliminary sketch is done on the paper with pencil that will be used as a starting point.

It gives the rough draft of the icon and it helps to outline your own drawing.

First draft gets copied using the transparent sheet.

Board is the base for the icon, using tracing paper the picture is drawn on it. The board itself consists of three parts, that have their symbolism: wood as a Christ and tree of life, linen as sheets that Jesus was buried and gesso as the thumb (that's the mixture of powder, water and glue that's applied many times).

In the board is where the secret about the colors lies. The gesso is the reason that the light luminates the colors.

Paints, that are used are either acrylic or in the traditional way of egg tempera.

This is where all the colors are coming from and again each has their symbolism behind; gold for God, blue for humanity, red for divinity, white for purity, green for life, brown for natural elements, black for lack of God and so on...

Technique of writing the icons is to start with dark colors and then apply light ones over it.

Then there are directions to count proportions of the bodies, faces are written in a way that eyes and ears are large, nose long, lips small. There's reverse perspective, flat buildings, not many details in the background, Greek letters. Everything has a reason and ultimately is to draw us closer to God.

Looking at the icons with the knowledge that's behind its creation gives a completely new view. What I have learnt it's also just a beginning yet it gives me a motivation to find out more and try writing an icon myself one day. I don't have many icons or other sacral art in my current house but I should improve this in my new home!

I'm grateful that God finds new ways to deepen our relationship. I can't tell that the icons are new, they are around for centuries and the fact that they find new followers proves that there's a divine thing happenning between the person who writes the icons or the one who admires it and God Himself.


a beautiful artist, who graciously shared her experience in iconography and the icons for my pictures

Fr. Marek

a beautiful iconographer, who not only writes the icons himself but also teaches others how to do it and serves in Catholic Byzantine church

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