05 February 2015

Saint Katherine

Over the past couple weeks, I painted Saint Katherine the Great Martyr. It was a blessing to paint her icon on and around her feast day. She is wearing the ring Christ gave her, and holds a quill to represent her wisdom, and a wheel to represent her martyrdom.

St. Katherine was the daughter of the governor of Egypt during the late third century. She was raised a pagan, received the greatest education of her time, and was extraordinarily wise and beautiful. She determined that she would not marry a man unless he exceeded her wisdom an beauty. Her mother (a secret Christian) led St. Katherine to her elder, who introduced her to a suitable bridegroom, infinitely wise and beautiful: Christ. She had a dream in which Christ betrothed her with a ring; upon awaking, she found the ring on her finger, where it still is to this day. Through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, she outwitted 50 pagan philosophers, was condemned to torture on a wheel. The wheel flew off its axle and killed many pagans, while many others confessed Christ. She was finally beheaded.

Her holy relics were moved to Mount Sinai, where they are still enshrined in one of the oldest monasteries, which also protects the Burning Bush of Exodus. Last summer in Thessaloniki, we were blessed to venerate a portion of her relics, and a neokoros (sexton) gave us a ring blessed on her hand in Sinai.

Saint Nicholas, Friend to Sailors

Saint Nicholas of Myra is often referred to as a friend to sailors, and is depicted standing in a boat or rescuing a drowning sailor. A traditional story tells of a ship on the Mediterranean caught by a storm that became grounded. Unable to maneuver it back into deeper water, the sailors called on Saint Nicholas for aid. The saint then appeared on the ship and gave the sailors a helping hand in order to set sail once again.
To see more of my iconography work, go to www.brianwhirledge.com.

Saint Carpus, One of the Seventy

The Apostle Carpus was one of the Seventy sent out by Christ (Luke 10). St. Paul mentioned him in his second letter to Timothy. He was the bishop of Veroea in northern Greece. I was inspired by the Macedonian School of iconography, especially the stunning frescoes of St. Clement of Ohrid (AD 1295) for this icon: http://www.orthodoxy-icons.com/frescoes/105-the-frescoes-of-the-church-perivlepty-ohrid-macedonia-1295-part-ii.html
To see more of my iconography work, go to www.brianwhirledge.com.

26 January 2015

Christ Pantokrator

Christ Pantokrator. 34x34"Acrylic on canvas.

This is the finished large icon of Christ Pantokrator for the ceiling of a small private chapel. I painted this with the ancient membrane technique described in yesterday's post. For the icon (especially the drawing), I drew inspiration from all eras and places: the ancient Sinai icon, Daphni (which I saw firsthand in Greece in 2012), Chora, St. Clement of Ohrid, and contemporary icon painters Tom Athanasios Clark, Father Zenon Theodore, Aidan Hart, and George and John Kopsidas.

I'm thrilled with the subtle colors in Christ's face and the almost-translucent red/blue tunic. been moving  The rainbow (described around Christ's heavenly throne in Revelation 4:3) was quite a feat of geometry and patience. This icon is on canvas, waiting to be installed on the ceiling. I'll post another photo in a few weeks after installation. I love working on a larger scale!

25 January 2015

Saint Vincent of Lerins

Sanctus Vincentius Lerinensis (Saint Vincent of Lerins). 8x10" Acrylic and gold leaf on panel.

Recently I've been working with the "membrane" technique, an ancient technique beginning with an under-painting, a translucent mid-tone, then pushing colors both dark and light. I have enjoyed the rich warm/cool contrast achieved with this technique, and I find myself painting more, well, painterly: limiting my color selection (I used only five pigments total in this icon), and mixing colors fluidly on a palette, rather than mixing one color/step at a time. The more common "proplasmos" method (beginning dark and moving toward light) has been the exclusive method for almost 500 years. Russian master painter Archimandrite Zenon Theodore resurrected the membrane technique in the 1980s after studying medieval manuscripts and ancient icons. He believes that the membrane method predates the proplasmos. He and his students have been popularizing the technique in the last 30 years. Stay tuned for more icons using this technique!

Last week, I completed an icon of Saint Vincent of Lerins for a parish in Georgia, USA, using this membrane technique. The patron wanted the name and scroll in Latin, most appropriate for this venerable western father of Christian Orthodoxy. St. Vincent was a leading theologian of the Church in the 5th century, and is celebrated for his definition of the Orthodox faith in a time plagued with errors and heresies: "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus, creditum est." Or in English, "That which has been believed everywhere, always, by all people." His defense of the traditions of the Fathers and his condemnation of innovation and novelty in the Church are as appropriate today as they were in his time.