St. George and the Dragon

I suppose it was the stylized horse against the cinnabar background in the old Novgorod Icon of St. George that initially fascinated me. I wanted to recreate its colors and forms but, alas, felt no overriding spiritual reason for doing so. 

St. George and the Dragon
St. George, by the hand of Gay Pogue, 14x11 in., acrylic on board

Then one evening, while watching the news, I felt depression descending as story after story, both international and domestic, played out. What I wanted was a fierce warrior to come in on his white horse and deal with the bad guys and right the wrongs. 

It was at just such a time that a 14th century iconographer created an image of a third century martyr about to thrust his holy spear Ascalon down the throat of a fearsome beast that was threatening a town and killing its children.  No record exists of anything like this happening during George's lifetime. But, myth or not, we see this icon of a battle waged and won as a prayer for good people to step in and protect the innocent. 


Seeing is Believing.

Aidan Hart says it so well, I will simply let him speak: 

St. Benedict
St. Benedict By the Hand of Gay Pogue

If our worship consists just in words and we worship in front of blank walls there is real danger that we see life in Christ as a set of laws, as a moral code. But icons continually remind us that life is relationship, is face-to-face encounter, life in community with the saints and angels who surround us and who are depicted on the walls. Perhaps it is because seeing is so immediate that St. John of Damascus calls sight the noblest of the senses. We can only see what exists and what is close. Seeing is believing.  (Aidan Hart, Beauty · Spirit · Matter, Icons in the Modern World, Gracewing, 2014, p.16)

That is one reason I paint icons. I am that introvert that would often prefer to be left alone. Each icon reminds me that the people I read about in my quiet room were real and I need to get out and be with other people–all of whom are God's children. 

Painting in the Dark

I wonder what it was like painting in the near dark in the winter in Russia. 

Horned Owl in Tree2
Moon over Studio 7:30 AM

This southern gal grew up with lots of sunshine, or at least daylight. Living in Kansas and Kentucky, I learned that winter stole the light from the sky. And then Michigan was a real deprivation of light in the winter, what with the short days and usually overcast skies. Lamps by which to paint and work suddenly rose high on my list of necessities. 

Then there is what the various lamps can do to the colors that lie on the palette. I have finally settled on my favorites. 1) long-arm two light source lamp, having both cool and warm bulbs, each of which may be used separately or in combination. 2) lamp on adjustable stand with "natural" light bulb. Best is a combination of both. 

But just imagine how Rublev must have struggled to paint in dark spaces in the dead of winter with only a few hours of available light. Candles? Expensive. It is humbling to consider that. And the cold! Monks in monasteries in the north had no central heat, no hermetically sealed rooms to keep out dust and vermin, no Gore-tex and Thinsulate. 

It is no wonder that calling Jesus The Light of the World is so important.

Maybe I should try to paint by candle light just to see how it feels.

Moment of Conception


Virgin of the Sign (in progress)Virgin of the Sign - in progress - By the hand of Gay Pogue - 14 x 11 inches - Acrylic on board

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Whether or not you subscribe to the absolute and forever virginity of Mary, there was that moment of conception where the spark of life that was Jesus began. That moment is depicted in the icon of The Virgin of the Sign (sometimes called Our Lady of the Sign). It portrays Mary with hands uplifted in the orans (God, help me!) position of prayer. Over her breast is a medallion holding The Christ. He is fully formed, often appearing as an old man. He raises his right hand in blessing and holds a scroll with his left to signify his work as a teacher. The medallion the that surrounds him is much like the one surrounding Jesus at the Transfiguration

I am painting this icon for my personal spiritual enlightenment. What can Mary and that spark of Christ teach me as I think about the next year? Looking at Mary carrying the seed of the fully formed Jesus inside her causes me to consider that fleeting thoughts may be seeds planted in me by the Holy Spirit–seeds that I need to examine, nurture, and carry to full term. Or, maybe they are just crazy ideas, or both.

Blessings be upon you and your kin.