The Byzantine Legacy of the Balkans


Pec Patriarchate

I am about to embark on a pilgrimage to Byzantine churches in the Balkans, to sketch on location some of the greatest extant Byzantine frescoes and icons. I've longed to visit these incredible churches for almost as long as I've been painting icons, and the time has finally now come. Over the next two weeks, I will be following an exhaustive itinerary to visit important Byzantine monuments across Serbia and the Republic of North Macedonia, studying and sketching frescoes and icons on location. Join me on my journey over the next two weeks!

Pec Patriarchate

I recieved a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship for the summer of 2020 to study privately with Aidan Hart in England and to visit important Byzantine monuments in Greece, Serbia, North Macedonia, Constantinople, and Italy to study and sketch frescoes and icons on location. The global pandemic postponed and altered these plans. I've made great progress in my iconography by study with Aidan Hart privately via zoom for the past 17 months. The pandemic at first halted, then complicated, international travel, but I am finally able to embark on the first leg of my journey, thanks to  Father Ilya Gotlinsky and Orthodox Tours. Fr. Ilya and Ivan Krucican developed a wonderful itinerary that is even better than my original grant proposal.

Visocki Decani Monastery

Byzantine art has become my raison d'etre -- a perfect marriage of my art and my faith. When I was 15 years old, I was first struck by the beauty of Orthodox churches and their iconography while in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Since then, my passion has become the art of icon painting in the traditional Byzantine style. It has become a way to express my Christian faith visually. A Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship received in 2012 jump-started that otherwise slow icon painting journey. As part of that project, I visited Athens, Greece, studying Byzantine chanting and icon painting from masters in their fields, Ioannis Arvanitis and Tom Athanasios Clark, respectively.

Studenica Monastery

The subsequent nine years since that trip of a lifetime have been fruitful and productive. At my own church in Goshen, Indiana, I took what I learned and painted numerous icon murals to adorn the holy space. As director of the church’s music, I taught Byzantine chant to our parish choir. In my community and beyond, I began teaching icon painting workshops and have now taught this art to over a hundred students across Indiana. My first Lilly fellowship gave me a boost to connect more deeply with my local community, and find deeper meaning and fulfillment living in Indiana.

Pec Patriachate

Now, I seek to deepen my knowledge by both experiencing important Byzantine masterpieces firsthand. Drawing is the single best way to grow as an artist and to experience art, I plan to extensively sketch the art I see. When drawing a master study, one very carefully studies every line, edge, shape, and color in an artwork, as each line is followed by the eye and transferred to the paper. When I visit these churches, sketchbook and pencil in hand, I will grow artistically and spiritually by absorbing myself in sacred art and sacred places.

Saint Sophia Cathedral, Ohrid

My goal is to spend as much time as possible at each church I visit in this journey, immersing myself in the language of icons as I draw and study these masterworks. Spending 15-30 minutes in front of a single artwork, carefully studying it by drawing it, gives a much deeper and enriching experience and understanding of the work than a cursory glance.

Church of Saint George, Kurbinovo

Although it is rooted in tradition and antiquity, Byzantine art isn’t a dead artistic style from a fallen empire. It has been kept alive within the life of the Orthodox Church, and is currently experiencing a renaissance. I hope to make my own small contribution to this artistic revival by bringing my own experiences back to Indiana and sharing them with my church community, high school students, and adult iconography students.

Church of Saint Panteleimon, Gorno Nerezi


Popular Posts