22 July 2016

Saint Mary Magdalene, Myrrh-bearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles

Saint Mary Magdalene, Myrrh-bearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles, was from Magdala near Galilee. Our Lord cast out seven demons which were afflicting her, and she followed Him for the rest of her life. Even when the disciples abandoned Jesus at the Cross, she faithfully stayed by His side. She came to the Lord's tomb to minister to Him one last time and anoint His body. When she found the tomb empty, she ran to the disciples to preach the Resurrection for the first time in history. For this, she is known as "The Apostle to the Apostles."

20 July 2016

Holy Prophet Elias

I recently finished this icon of the Holy Prophet Elias. He is sitting in the wilderness, being fed by divine providence. The composition is based on a 16th c. icon on Mount Athos by Michael Damaskinos. Rocky terrain is always a joy to paint, and this icon gave me plenty of opportunity! This icon is available for purchase--please contact me if interested!
On July 20 in the Holy Orthodox Church, we commemorate the fiery ascent as it were into the Heaven of the holy and glorious Elias (Elijah) the Tishbite.

Elias was born in the town of Tishba for which he was called the Tishbite. When Elias was born, his father Savah saw an angel of God hovering around the child, wrapping the child in fire and giving him a flame to eat. This foreshadowed Elias’s fiery character and his God-given fiery power. Elias confronted the Israelite King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel. They worshipped idols and were turning the people away from serving the One and Living God. Jezebel, a Syrian, persuaded her husband to erect a temple to the Syrian god Baal. Through great miracles Elias displayed the power and authority of God: he closed up the heavens, so that there was not any rain for three years and six months; he lowered a fire from heaven and burned the sacrifice to his God which the pagan priests of Baal were unable to do; he accurately prophesied to Ahab that the dogs will lick up his blood and to Jezebel that the dogs will consume her flesh. Before his death Elias took Elisha and designated him as his successor in the prophetic calling. Elias was taken up into the heavens in a fiery chariot by flaming horses. He appeared on Mount Tabor to our Lord Jesus Christ together with Moses on the Transfiguration. Before the end of the world Elias will appear again to put an end to the power of the anti-Christ (Revelation, Chapter 11).
By the intercessions of Thy Saint, O Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.

11 July 2016

Saint Ronan of Locronan

Saint Ronan of Locronan.

One of the great joys of being an iconographer is meeting wonderful saints whom I most likely would not have encountered if I had not been commissioned to paint their icons. One such saint is Ronan, whose icon I just finished. He was the son of St. Berach (a disciple of St. Kevin), and was a renowned Irish bishop in the sixth century. To draw closer to God, he chose a voluntary exile to a faraway land to live as a hermit, like his contemporary St. Brendan the Navigator. He landed in what is today Brittany, France, and lived the ascetic life of a hermit. A community grew around his hermitage, known today as Locronan, that is, "the place of Ronan."

09 July 2016

Saint Joseph of Damascus

Saint Joseph, a priest in Damascus (Syria), competed victoriously for Christ, winning the crown of martyrdom in a great persecution July 10, 1860. Instead of fleeing the massacre, as other able Christians did (including the parents of St. Raphael of Brooklyn), he stayed behind to confess and commune those Christians about to be slaughtered because they were too old or too ill to flee to safety. Running from rooftop to rooftop to minister the Holy Gifts to his flock, the persecutors caught up with him, and he consumed the remaining Holy Communion before being hacked apart by axes. Let us not forget the Christians in Syria who, at this very moment, are being martyred for Christ by the very same demonic insanity that slaughtered Saint Joseph and his companions over 150 years ago.

06 June 2016

Saint Justinian

Saint Emperor Justinian the Great, 9x11", Acrylic and gold on panel

I just completed this icon of Saint Emperor Justinian the Great. It is based on a famous mosaic portrait in Ravenna, completed in AD 547, during his lifetime. Occasionally, I can reference photographs of more recent saints, but this was a real treat to work from a contemporary portrait. Saint Justinian made great contributions to the Church, including writing the Christological hymn "Only Begotten Son," which is still sung in the Orthodox Liturgy to this day. He also built the magnificent Agia Sophia church in Constantinople. The patron wanted me to include this hymn and the church in the icon.

19 May 2016

Saint Dunstan

St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury (+988). Acrylic and gold leaf on panel, 8"x10," private commission.

I love Saint Dunstan and consider him an unofficial patron of my life. I was born on his feast day, May 19 and have really felt his influence in my life.  I feel very close to him in many ways; we are both English by blood and ecclesiastical artists and musicians. He lived from 909 to 988 and was the definition of a polymath: he was a talented artist, musician, clergyman, and statesman.  
I did quite extensive research for this icon. He is wearing X century English archepiscopal vestments. English bishops did not wear mitres until XII century. He wears the pallium (as an archbishop), as well as chasuble, dalmatic, alb, maniple and amice. As a bishop, he holds his crosier facing outward, shepherding his flock, as well as holding the Holy Gospel as a teacher. As an artist, he is holding smithing tongs and hammer, a quill and brush, and a harp. There is a story that St. Dunstan pinched the devil's nose with red-hot tongs when he tried to tempt the saint as he was smithing a chalice.
St. Dunstan was from Glastonbury (home of the Glastonbury Thorn, which grew from the staff of St. Joseph of Arimathea when he planted staff in the ground when he evangelized England after the Resurrection of Christ).   He was a monk, abbot, and bishop, eventually becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury.  St. Dunstan led a cultural and monastic revival in tenth century England, which had been ravaged by the vikings.  He established many monasteries.  He encouraged the arts; Glastonbury became a center of culture.  St. Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury, and advised kings (of whom was St. Edward the King-Martyr). 
As a visual artist, St. Dunstan was an icon painter, he illuminated manuscripts, designed vestments, cast bells, was a goldsmith and made holy vessels from precious metals (such as chalices and censers). Below is a manuscript which St. Dunstan illuminated, and contains a self portrait of the humble Dunstan prostrate at the feet of the mighty Christ.
In one of his manuscripts, Saint Dunstan left perhaps the earliest self-portrait in history. Source
As a musician, St. Dunstan composed hymns for the Church.  He played on a harp to accompany the nuns of his abbey as they worked.  His dying words were sung from the Psalms of David. One surviving hymn is "Kyrie Rex Splendens," which Saint Dunstan, in a vision during Mass, heard the angels in heaven  singing.  He quickly wrote it down to preserve it.  It is sung below.

Troparion, Tone 8:
By thee, O Dunstan, hath the whole land of England been wondrously adorned, for thou didst labor unceasingly to restore all the monastic houses laid waste by the heathen, to people them again with zealous monks and nuns, and to provide them with strict rules of pious order wherewith to govern their lives. Wherefore, the Church of Christ doth ever praise thine all-honorable name, O holy bishop.

Kontakion, Tone 3:
Like a master helmsman, O Dunstan, thou didst ably pilot the ship of Church and state in England, skillfully avoiding the treacherous rocks and reefs hidden beneath the tides of thy times, and bringing it safely to the calm harbour of heaven, fully laden with its freight of men's souls, which thou didst deliver, rejoicing, to Christ thy Master.

Daniels, R. W. (1987). Dunstan, jewel of the English. Tulsa, OK: St. Dunstan's Press.
Lambertson, I. (n.d.). Service to St. Dunstan. Retrieved from: http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/servduns.htm

Norris, Herbert (2002). Church Vestments: Their Origin and Development. Dover Publications.

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16 May 2016

Saint Brendan the Navigator

Saint Brendan the Navigator

Saint Brendan the Navigator (+577) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, an abbot who founded many monasteries across Ireland. He undertook an epic voyage across the Atlantic Ocean; some believe he is the first European to reach North America.

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08 May 2016

Saint John the Theologian

Christ and Saint John the Theologian

"There was at table one of His disciples--the one Jesus loved-- reclining with his head on Jesus's bosom." John 13:23

This icon was painted for a close friend whose patron is Saint John the Theologian. His favorite passage in the Gospels is the Mystical Supper, showing the intimate friendship and love between Christ and His disciple, John. The rest of the disciples abandoned Christ; of the twelve, only St. John remained by Christ's side when He was on the Cross.

In composition, this icon was based on the fourteenth-century fresco of the Mystical Supper from Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos.

The Mystical Supper, Fresco from Vatopedi, XIV c.
Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/foto/image5222.htm

The colors come from a series of eleventh century panel icons, originally from Vatopedi Monastery. I was inspired by the brilliant colors of "The Raising of Lazarus," which I've been able to see in person several times at the Byzantine Christian Museum in Athens and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Mystical Supper, Panel Icon from Vatopedi, XII c.
Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/foto/image5221.htm

The Raising of Lazarus, Panel Icon from Vatopedi, XII c.
Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/print61101.htm

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07 May 2016

Saint Thomas the Apostle

Sign for Saint Thomas the Apostle Orthodox Church, Kokomo, Indiana. 36x60"

In this icon, Saint Thomas believes while Christ looks us in the eye, asking us "Who do you say that I AM?" Let us join St. Thomas' confession of faith in the Risen Christ: "My Lord and my God!" The clothing of the Risen Christ is glistening with His life-giving, resurrected glory. My inspiration and prototype comes primarily from a beautiful 700-year-old fresco in the church of St. Clement of Ohrid. The composition is cropped in to focus on just Christ and Thomas.
The Belief of Thomas, Saint Clement of Ohrid, c. 1295 (Source: orthodoxy-icons.com [defunct website])

Saint Thomas Orthodox in Kokomo, Indiana commissioned this large outdoor icon for a sign on the side of their church. Because the icon is outside, exposed to direct sunlight and the elements, I used Keim mineral paints, which are designed for outdoor murals.

Bishop PAUL of Chicago and the Midwest (OCA) blesses the icon before the installation.

The installation of the icon.

The completed and installed icon. I also painted the sign on the ground in 2014.

05 May 2016

Saint Irene, the Great Martyr

Saint Irene the Great Martyr, detail from analogion

Analogion with the Theotokos and St. Irene, Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, Wantage, New Jersey

Saint Irene was raised in paganism to royal parents. She embraced the Christian faith, converted thousands to Christianty through working miracles and miraculously surviving innumerable tortures.

The analogia at Holy Spirit Orthodox Church, Wantage, New Jersey, were donated to the parish some years ago. They were beautifully carved in Romania, with hand-painted icons of Christ and the Theotokos in the top circles, but the lower circles were blank. A parishioner commissioned icons to be painted on the lower circles of both analogia, in memory of her parents, George and Irene. The commission also included gilding the halos and backgrounds of all four circular icons.

Analogion with Christ and St. George, Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, Wantage, New Jersey

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Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri

Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri, 8x10" Acrylic and Gold on Panel

Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri was a hermit who lived in the mountains above a monastery in Nea Makri, on the east coast of Attiki, Greece. Once, when returning to his monastery for the Divine Liturgy, he found the bodies of all of his monastic brothers, slain by Turkish pirates. He buried his brothers, and lived in the monastery and prayed the Divine services until the Turks returned. They tied him to a tree, and beat him mercilessly every day for nine months, trying to convert him to Islam. Finally, they impaled him with a burning stick, and he completed his martyric race on May 5, 1426. He was utterly forgotten for almost 500 years. On January 3, 1950, the nun Makaria uncovered his relics as she was living in the ruins of his monastery. Since that time, he has been a continuous fountain of miracles and the grace of God.

This saint is very dear to me. I visited his grace-filled and wonderworking relics twice. This icon is now in Trikala, Greece, St. Ephraim’s boyhood home.

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03 May 2016

The Wedding at Cana

The Wedding at Cana, 11x14" Acrylic and Gold on Panel

Christ's first miracle was performed at a wedding. The wedding celebration exhausted the wine, and Christ's Mother urged Him to provide more. The Lord miraculously turned ordinary water into the finest wine. This event is commemorated in the Orthodox Christian wedding service, and this icon was commissioned to be a part of an Orthodox wedding.

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02 May 2016

Holy, Glorious, Right-Victorious Great-Martyr George the Trophy-Bearer

Saint George Slaying the Dragon, 9x12", Acrylic and Gold on Panel

Christ is risen! Today, Bright Monday, is the feast of the Holy, Glorious, Right-Victorious Great-Martyr George the Trophy-Bearer. He was a Christian and a well-respected soldier in the Roman army. He rose to the highest ranks, joining the personal guard of the Emperor Diocletian. When Diocletian issued an edict of fierce persecution against Christians, St. George refused, was tortured tremendously, and finally beheaded on April 23, AD 303. His feast is transferred to today since April 23 was in Holy Week this year.

Saint George, the Great-Martyr and Trophy-Bearer, 5x7", Acrylic and Gold on Panel

Kontakion, Tone 4
God raised you as his own gardener, O George,
for you have gathered for yourself the sheaves of virtue.
Having sown in tears, you now reap with joy;
you shed your blood in combat and won Christ as your crown.
Through your intercessions, forgiveness of sins is granted to all.

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29 April 2016

Christ the Bridegroom

Christ the Bridegroom, 9x12" Acrylic and Gold on Panel

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a tree.
The King of the Angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple robe of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped in the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.

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28 February 2016

The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son, 9x12", Acrylic and Gold on Panel 

When I disobey in ignorance thy fatherly glory, I wasted in iniquities the riches that thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, I have sinned before thee, O compassionate Father, receive me repentant, and make me as one of thy hired servants. 

On this day, we make remembrance of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which occurs in the noble Gospel and which our deified Fathers instituted in the Triodion.

O thou who art like me, a prodigal, come forward with confidence and tranquility;
For unto all has been opened the door of Divine Mercy.

In the parable our Savior tells, Jesus illustrates three things: the condition of the sinner, the canon of repentance and the knowledge of God’s compassion. For in the person of the prodigal son, we view the wretched condition that sin creates for us distant from God and His Sacraments. However, we become aware of ourselves and awaken, hastening with hope to return to Him through repentance. Our Savior wants to call back to His mansions all those who have been
overtaken by despair, lacking hope of forgiveness for their grave sins. The Father encourages all of his lost children to remove the desperation from their hearts, and revive their energies for virtuous deeds.
Through Thine ineffable love for mankind, O Christ our God, have mercy upon us. Amen.

From the Synaxarion