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My First Attempt at Iconography

I have a fascination and love for iconography, particularly iconography from Eastern Christianity. What draws me to Orthodox iconography, besides the unique style and mesmerizing imagery, is the complete dedication it takes to create one. There are many elements that an artist does to create an authentic, holy icon. For example, it has to be a true representation of anything "holy" by traditional Christian standards. The work and care that goes in to creating such an image is awe-inspiring. The artist must fast for forty days  and live in an ascetic manner, allowing the artist to be in a prayerful state. During the process and after the icon is finished, there are special prayers to be read, and the icon should be blessed. With all this in mind, I decided to try painting a Theotokos icon for my love's family. Even though I knew that any icon of mine would not be authentic, I tried my best to make due with the time and materials that I could afford such a painting.

As far as materials go, wood panels are traditional. They are primed with gesso, and egg tempera is used. Egg tempera requires an egg (yolk only), pigment, and a little water. I used this wooden plaque that I had sitting around my house, and I primed it with a hi-gloss spray. After it dried completely, I sanded down the bumps and sprayed it over again. I then waited until I could paint on the image with acrylic paint and liquid gold leaf (Jesus' robes used tempera, the only orange I had). After I got the base, I worked on shading, then highlights, and then leaf. I decided to keep the wood grain background because it was so beautiful, and looked golden in the light. I maintained a prayerful state through most of the process, and I figured that since I am a vegetarian anyway, that counted as fasting. When I was done, I breathed on the painting in reference to Pentecost, and I asked God to bless the icon.

I am so glad that I finished it in time. I carried it on the plane with me in a paper bag because the coat of gloss that I finished it with was still drying. This was a meditative process for me, more so than with other art I have done, so I don't plan on this being the last icon I create.


  1. that is beautiful work! i love east european iconography too, and even if i´m not christian i still love to have them in my house, they are pretty and i love the femininity of them :)

    1. Thank you! Yes, they are beautiful pieces of art regardless of religion.

  2. That is absolutely amazing! :O

    We bought a couple in Romania that I love, but it never occurred to me to ever make one myself.

    1. I would love to buy an authentic icon one day! They're so expensive here in the states. When I go to Eastern Europe eventually, it would be a good place to buy one.

    2. Oh absolutely! I think we paid roughly $10 each for them, and I'm sure the quality isn't the best but I still love 'em. Everything is cheaper in Eastern Europe - I think that's why we like going there so much! :)


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