Register for icon painting class

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By Special to the Monitor

An icon painting workshop in the Byzantine-Russian tradition will be held July 6-11 in Santa Fe.  The Prosopon School of Iconology introduces students to the practice and theory of the ancient Christian art of icon-writing in the Byzantine-Russian tradition.

During the intensive, “hands-on” workshop, each participant will paint an icon using traditional techniques and materials.

The workshop is accessible to those with no art background as well as advanced artists, workshop coordinator Elizabeth Bezzerides said.  The task is accomplished through refinement of artistic nuance and attention to the iconographic canon and principles, rather than simply “copying.”

The course, as organized by the Prosopon School of Iconology, represents the study of the ancient ‘floating’ technique of icon painting in the Byzantine-Russian tradition, which reached its height in the 15th and early 16th centuries.

Students will become acquainted with the preparation of an icon board, learn gold leaf application by the bole method, study the horizontal “floating” technique of egg tempera and will be instructed how to finish the icon with boiled linseed oil.

As in antiquity, natural materials are used, and the multi-step process characterizes the iconographic method in which the succession of steps is concrete and definite.

Students are introduced to iconology, both the practical and the theoretical part of the ancient iconographic tradition, as well as explanations of iconic symbolism.

Also, the theological and philosophical basis of each step of the process is presented in parallel with the technical instruction.

The workshops offer a unique opportunity to study this ancient artistic tradition as well as the opportunity to focus on personal spiritual growth.

At the end of the workshop, each student, in most cases, will have completed an icon painting.  Beginning students will work on the icon of the Archangel Michael.  

Dating to the lifetime of Christ, icons have been around for centuries, the earliest images being of St. Luke the Evangelist, and of the Theotokos holding her Child, Bezzerides said.

“The multi-step process of painting an icon is quite involved, and the process of icon painting can mirror our own lives; as there are trials and tribulations in painting, so there are in life,” Bezzerides said.  

Iconographer Vladislav Andrejev, who was born in 1938 in St. Petersburg, Russia, founded the Prosopon School.

After receiving a formal education in fine art, Andrejev worked for a time as a book and magazine illustrator.  After working for several years in this area, he became interested in religious art.  

During the Soviet regime in Russia, he was not able to express this art freely, so at great risk, he journeyed in the search for deeper meaning in art and life.

This led him to solitary travels in the Russian wilderness from monastery to monastery in remote areas of Russia in order to meet with those who practiced Christianity in the midst of Soviet religious repression. In these travels, Andrejev met an artist and icon restorer who was also a monk with whom he spent a year studying the Russian Orthodox tradition.

Andrejev was able to emigrate to the United States in 1980 and currently lives in New York State. He has written a large number of icons, which can be seen in many churches and homes throughout America and the world. He has taught iconography in North America for more than 20 years, and during this time, a growing number of students have been introduced to this ancient Christian art.

The instructor for the Intensive Workshop this year, Father Mefodii, is a priest-monk (Hieromonk) from the Skete of Saint Maximos the Confessor in Palmyra, Va.

Mefodii has been an ordained priest for almost 31 years during which he has been a parish priest, spiritual director of a college seminary, diocesan representative to various religious and interfaith organizations, and an author and student of Byzantine-Russian Iconography. Mefodii holds two degrees in theology, one from the Theology Faculty of the University Innsbruck, Austria and the second from the John XXIII Institute for Eastern Christian Studies at Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y.

Mefodii has been a student of Master Iconographer and founder of the Prosopon School of lconology, Vladislav Andrejev, since 1991.    

Tuition for the workshop costs $565, which covers the cost of all materials: gessoed board, pigments, gold leaf, brushes and other materials, and a share in the workshop expenses.  Space is limited; so people are encouraged to contact Bezzerides at 660-9113 or e-mail her at ebezzsolo@juno.com as soon as possible.