Wednesday, April 18, 2012

icons as spiritual practise

Last year, as a thank you gift for their ministry here in Adelaide, I gave John and Olive Drane an icon I had “written.” They now want to use it as a resource, both in worship and in a class they are running on worship later this year. So they asked if I might shoot a “homemade” video, reflecting on the spirituality of icons.

I thought I’d also place it on the blog, in case any of my readers are interested – why do I “write” icons? what is a “pioneer” icon? how do icon’s work as theology and for spirituality? how to craft an icon?

A short personal reflection on the icon as spiritual practise.

Two most helpful books in getting me started as an icon “writer”:

And for those who can’t access the video, here are my notes in preparation to speak

The icon that I gave to John and Olive is my 4th icon. Did a retreat with an icon painter back in 2002. Last year I brought a book on icon painting, just started making them myself.

It’s called Christ the Savior. Although I call them “Pioneer” icons. First, because Christ is a pioneer, as it says in Hebrews. The pioneer of our salvation” in chapter 2, and “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” in chapter 12.

Second, I’ve only just starting making icons, so it’s a bit of a pioneer thing for me.

Third, I often end up giving them to pioneer people – like Andrew Jones, or John and Olive.

For me, icon painting, it a way to open myself to the unexpected. I am a fairly goal orientated person, I like to live life by projects. So icons are a reversal of that. I make them to be, to slow down, to simply breathe. I don’t start out with any reason for making them. Quite spur of the moment. Yet I find that at some point in the process, I suddenly realise who I’m meant making the icon for.

So there’s something wonderful about creating something that has to be given away, but you’re not sure when you start, to who or when or why.

Long term, I want to make icons of important indigenous Maori leaders, as a way of honouring God at work in indigenous cultures. But for now, I’m simply a learner, just enjoying the process of letting the icon find me.

Icons are a mix of 3 things – spirituality – they are a window to God. The icon is never signed by an artist like most paintings, because they are meant to not be a mirror back to the artist, but a window into a prayer encounter with God. So you just sit and look at Jesus. Realise he’s looking at you. So the converstation starts. So icons are about spirituality.

Icons are also about theology – you don’t paint an icon, you “write” an icon. In a time when people couldn’t read, icons taught theology. Explained Christian faith to people. Each colour is important. brown for human, red for divinity, green for clothed with the Spirit. So icons are about theology.

So icons are about creativity – but a very traditional creativity. Icon’s are not about self-expression, about me doing what I want.

With icons the design is “given” to you. Follow something that’s 000’s of years old. So I love that sense of being creative not by me doing my own thing, but being creative by connecting to a communion of saints, to those who’ve gone before who have loved Jesus, thought about Jesus, sort to follow Jesus.

and anything else that might be meaningful and worth sharing. 

They take 2-3 months.
10 coats of gesso.
Find a pattern.
Trace it using carbon paper
Write the outlines.
Write the base colours.
Add highlights.
Add writing – Jesus Christ
Gold plate the halo.

Posted by steve at 09:44 PM

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