TEXT AND LECTURES


Techniques of the icon-painting

A real icon has never been painted by and on any material. Wood as a support, chalk, linen pavoloka and animal glue, gold, natural minerals and pigments, egg emulsion, boiled linseed oil – all these are the best materials for the process of the icon-painting. Perfect preservation of the ancient icon-painting is the evidence of this fact. Ancient manuscripts and codex’s are preserved intact to this day up to our days. The first icons, as known, were painted in the techniques of encaustic (wax tempera), but it was the icon-painting which used egg-yolk attempered with unsweetened wine, beer or kvass as a binder that flowered. Everything is symbolic in icon-painting, i.e. filled with the inner sense. A golden background is the symbol of Heaven and Deity Himself. The gold of the background not so much depicts as manifests light. Aperture of gold in the icon-painting can be corresponded with using minerals for preparation of colours. The hyaloid structure of minerals on the physical and mystical level is equipotent to the depth and luminescence of the golden background. Minerals (cinnabar, lazurite, malachite, etc.) attempered with pigments (ground) and binder (egg) constitute paint-colorant (the icon-painter rubs up the colours for painting by himself both in the former times and now). In the icon-painting there are from between 2-3 and 10-15 of the thinnest layers-scumbles of different undertone which help the icon-painter to reach the needed colour tincture. The sophisticated structure of a paint layer allows the paint to reach magical by its beauty and depth color tone, because it absorbs, refracts and reflects the light differently in its various parts and coatings. Manufactured paints (i.e. powdered pigments with oily, glutinous or acrylic binder) do not suit icon-painting in structure. They are "drawn" inevitably on the golden background of the icon, and become a spiritless imitation. Studying the icon-painting techniques reveal the inner sense of the icon. During the learning process you will necessarily comprehend that the technique by itself isn’t a goal but a tool. The sense of the icon starting from its theological comprehension and ending with the icon-painting techniques can be briefly defined as Annunciation on one hand and a "window to eternity" on the other hand. Contemplation of an icon is first of al,l an act of meditation - better to say an act of prayer, during which comprehension of the sense of beauty becomes comprehension of the beauty of sense. Contemplation of an icon is not an act of the aesthetic gloat. Icon painting has never been an art for art’s sake ("l’art pour l’art") but witnessing of Church and incarnation of God.