Grey Man

Grey Man
I am working on getting the drapery of the garments on the human figures in my icons just right. First, there is the matter of how the tunics and cloaks were worn by first century Middle Eastern or Roman people. They sort of wrapped these large cloaks around themselves in an artful way. That concept works until you really look at what some of the old iconographers painted. 

I was thinking that if I could duplicate on an artist's mannequin some of the drapery that is rendered in paint on on the old icons I could better understand how to paint those images myself.    

Enter, Grey Man. 

I made clothes for him out of an old dish towel and an old pillow case, by hand, since my sewing machines are all back in Texas. Then to get the fabric to have some semblance of proper weight, I wet it down and arranged it. All that engineering worked until I tried to duplicate drapery like the old iconographers had painted.

Then I got out a queen-sized flannel sheet and draped it on Ron--to no avail. I could not duplicate anything that looked like what the old ones had painted. 

Finally, in desperation, I emailed my friend Ronnie Creyws who is a student of Aidan Hart in The Prince's School of Traditional Arts and asked for help. She said they all struggle with the drapery and that even Aidan finds it daunting. 

Ronnie did tell me that one of her follow students is doing a thesis on the drapery and when it is finished she will send me a link to the information.   

Meanwhile, it's just Grey Man and me.


Tim's Vermeer

Tim's VermeerIf you have not seen Penn & Teller's 2013 documentary "Tim's Vermeer", do so. It follows Tim Jenison's obsession with discovering and proving how Vermeer could have produced his masterpieces. 

Why am I telling you to watch it? 

Besides being an interesting foray into how Vermeer might have created his masterpieces, the film leaves the viewer questioning where the line between art and technology lies or even if there is any such line.

Some reviewers criticize Tim for trying to debunk Vermeer's genius. I hold the opposing viewpoint. That Vermeer was able to sort out and apply some very interesting technology in order to produce his amazing paintings does not diminish his artistic ability but rather enhances it. 

Here is a review from the Wall Street Journal

You can watch Tim's Vermeer on line for free in various places and also on iTunes or Amazon for $3.99. 

Stay tuned to this blog. I intend to expose some of my technological tricks for painting icons. Does that make them less holy? I will leave that for you to decide. 

Budding Iconographers

Gay Pogue Teaching 3rd graders about iconographyThis past week, I again hauled a large suitcase of iconography supplies over to St. John's Episcopal Church in Jackson, Wyoming. This time I spoke to third, fourth, and fifth graders–a much calmer group. The music festival chamber group was rehearsing in the chancel so we skipped the field trip up there to look at the icons already in place.

After a brief introduction of what icons are and how they are used, we dived straight into the craft of iconography. 

We ground a bit of pigment with the glass and muller. We separated eggs and made the tempera solution. Each participant picked out three pigments and a brush. They put bits of the egg into dishes and I doled out the pigments. 

I had brought an icon pattern for them to color, but I could see that our limited time would not allow them to finish that. Instead each student received a blank piece of water color paper and painted what they wished with paint they had made themselves. 

Gay Pogue teaching third grader about iconography 3Of course, they were fascinated by the experience, and the parents who came to pick them up just had to wait until they were done. 

 Clearly, one of our artists sees himself in the picture. IMG_4585



Transfigured Christ Icon
The Transfigured Christ / 14x11x1 inches / Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed panel

Last week I wrote about the grinding of the azurite rock into pigment. Here is that same azurite in the background of The Transfiguration of the Lord icon. For those of you who have been following me for a while, you recognize that I have been working on this icon for a long time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and many house guests here in Jackson Hole have put serious egg tempera iconography on hold. Finally, it is finished. 

A note on the subject: With only the figure of Christ in this icon of the Transfiguration, I believe the viewer can concentrate more fully on the "uncreated light" of God and its implications for this time and place.