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Plumtree Church

Icon Making

What a fun event!

And, how talented are some of our church community?

In the cultures of the Orthodox (Russian and Greek) and Roman Catholic churches, an icon is a religious work of art, usually a painting. The most common subjects for icons include Christ, Mary, saints and angels.

In our icon making workshop we looked at the traditional art of painting icons on wood and attempted to create icons of our own using the traditional methods. The results were rather impressive.

Paul managed to work into a single day something that would have taken a creative, orthodox monastic community weeks, if not months, to complete.

The session was hands-on from start to finish. Without any serious mishaps, we...

  • sanded pieces of wood that Paul had scavenged (anyone missing a floorboard?).
  • glued muslin onto the working face of the wood, nailed the edges of the fabric and glued the remaining fabric to the back. Traditionally, the glue should have been made from fish heads, fortunately Paul had something more modern (and less pongy) for us to use.
  • painted the muslin-covered face of the wood with gesso and allowed it to dry.

At this point we took a break from our hard work and were rewarded with a splendid Greek-themed finger buffet, consumed to the accompaniment of Russian Orthodox singing.

Back to work refreshed. We...

  • chose an image from a selection of pictures of icons that Paul had provided (the trick here was to find one that fitted on our piece of wood).
  • traced it. Some brave souls went for the hand drawn option.
  • rubbed the back of the tracing paper to copy our outline onto the (now dry) gessoed wood. (Do you remember doing this at school - charcoal and black pencil everywhere?)
  • painted our icons. The fun bit. Paul had provided lots of acrylic paint in suitable colours. Silence reigned as everyone brought their icons to life (and realised why they'd failed O-level Art).
  • mixed linseed oil and crushed amber to add a glow to our haloes (well, not "our" haloes - the haloes on our icons - you know what I mean!).
Greek-style lunch Choosing our images Tracing
Some of the Greek-style lunch Choosing an image for our icon Tracing the image ready to transfer to our blank icon

Finally, we took our creations across to church for a few minutes’ quiet reflection. We left some of them on the side altar where they continue to be admired.

The resulting icons

Above: Some of the icons we made

We all had a fabulous time, all thanks to Paul's hard work. We're now trying to persuade him to run the event again so you can have a go yourself. Watch this space!