Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One 2014 Resolution I Hope to Keep: Return to Iconography

Created c. 1996
For one thing, I don't generally get too twitched about making New Year's resolutions on or around January 31. By the time January rolls around, I've already observed the beginning of two new years: 1) Rosh Hashonah; and 2) first Sunday of Advent.

Typically, my new year's observations include deep cleaning; plowing through tolerations; taking stock of what I've done and failed to do during the previous year; repentance/teshuvah/making amends in some form; and contemplating what might be next. By the time January rolls around, I'm ready for yet another do-over.

At this point (i.e., 1:30 PM on January 31, 2013) I can't remember what I resolved to do for 5774 or how I planned to embrace this new liturgical year. And, my so-called retreat at the monastery completely threw me off track. Actually, that last bit of whinging isn't completely true because when I finally gave up on my mortal flesh keeping silence and started talking with people, I ended up talking about art.

When one woman let me play with her Inktense pencils, I felt a painfully deep and tightly coiled inner something start to release, both physically and emotionally. I spent less than two minutes futzing with these pencils and saw icons emerge in my mind's eye, something that hasn't happened for years.

Inktense pencils morph into either vibrant or subtle watercolors when whatever is drawn with them is brushed with, uh, water. The intensity of the color seems to depend on the amount of water (duh?) and the size and use of the brush. All this is to be discovered because I immediately went online to order my very own set, which arrived on Saturday.

So, on my To Do list for this afternoon or tonight while binge-watching crap on Netflix: sorting through and ditching art supplies I know I won't be using. Acrylic paints top the list.

Never liked that medium, although it was certainly easier than egg tempera to use and clean up. Of all the icons I've painted over the years, I have either tossed or given away ones I've done with acrylic.
(I have, of course, kept and treasure the Christ the Teacher icon I received from iconographer Peter Pearson as partial payment for line editing I did on A Brush With God and Another Brush With God. These are wonderful workbooks for beginning and advanced iconographers.)
What I loved about egg tempera was the rich dimensionality that became possible, especially as layers were added using the "Byzantine float" method. Decades later, I can still hear iconographer Vladislav Andrejev, with whom I also studied, saying in his deep Russian accent, "puddle and push; puddle and push."

Neither puddling nor pushing possible with acrylic, so I stopped painting icons. In all fairness, I stopped for a lot of other reasons as well, but my frustration with acrylic medium was a key factor -- and a great excuse.

Now? No more excuses.

Got my new pencils, will clean out my acrylic paints as a symbolic and real way to move forward, and then...move forward. Returning to iconography is one New Year's resolution I hope to keep.  You're invited to hold me accountable!