On the Iconography course, professors of Pero Art Centar will introduce the participants with the key aspects of icon painting. On this course participants will be able to acquire the fundamental knowledge about the types of preparations, to familiarize with the canons that are used in iconography, symbolism on the icons, different types of gilding and in the end with the different protective coats and the ways of protecting the board.
The goal of the teaching program is familiarizing with the entire process of making an icon. The painting of the icons is done exclusively with the pigments by using an egg emulsion. Participants will use templates from original icons of the old artisans. Participants will paint on every class. This course includes lectures, individual approach, introduction to theological significance of the icons, group discussions and practical work.
Iconography is special painting technique that is nurtured by Christian Church. It has roots in early Christianity, but with the time it took its shape to the final peak in the times of medieval Byzantium. Today, we distinguish icon painting and fresco painting.
In the Orthodox Church the cult of the icons is very widespread and developed, even thought icons are also respected in the other religions. Orthodox Christianity has developed iconography in the finest and most detailed way, so all the rules and means of icon painting are characteristic for the Orthodox Church. In other confessions that respect icons these rules do not have to be strictly respected (the good example is Roman Catholic Church that doesn’t have detailed and dogmatically specified rules of painting an icon).
In Orthodox Church there are certain canons of iconography that every icon painter works by. The rules are not officially declared but they are transferred through generations of masters and apprentices. The basic unwritten rule is that an icon is done by a template of some older icon. The painting of the icon by the imagination of artist without knowing this rules do not represent the ecclesial doctrine and cannot be called an icon in the true meaning of the term.
Every icon is composed by a carrier and a paint layer. The layers of an icon are: icon carrier – the board, the gauze – that serves as armature for the base, the base – made of chalk and glue, shellac – it is applied on a places that are meant to be gilded as an isolator, mixtion – the glue for gold, golden leaves, painted layer, the protective coat – varnish.
Painting icons is done by the egg tempera – a color that uses yolk of a chicken egg as binder. Painting with the colors made of egg yolks is very old. Almost every icon of medieval age has been done by egg tempera. Egg tempera is very stable and persistent, and that is the main reason that icons that are old even a thousand of years have stayed in a good condition even today. Egg tempera is composed form two parts: the binder and the pigment. Pigment is a powder of mineral or synthetic origin that gives the paint certain coloration. Binder (in this case the yolk) is a substance that serves to glue the particles of the pigment. Egg tempera may stay in the fridge for about a week. The procedure of making egg tempera is the following:
1. Separate the egg yolk form the egg white. From the yolk, carefully extract the content, and discard the membrane.
2. Add the water to the yolk, the same amount as yolk’s volume.
3. Mix pigment with small amount of yolk until paste-like consistency. Smooth this paste with a spoon to remove lumps.
4. After smoothing the paste, add more yolk in 1:1 ratio.
5. You can add few drops of vinegar for conservation.
6. Transfuse the color in other dish, so the lumps can settle on the bottom.
In medieval times, the pigments that were used were usually of mineral origin: different shades of yellow, red, ochre, and brown ground. Powdered charred sticks of grapevine were used for black pigment (sometimes of ivory or beech). Yet in medieval times the techniques for producing artificial pigments were known, and lead white or vermilion were one of them. Today, synthetic pigments are mainly in use, although there are some natural pigments that made to this day – ground ochre and grapevine black. Sometimes, pigments used to be grinded and powdered manually, but today we can buy pre-made one.
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