Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

French Ochre Sahara with a dash of Avana

Hello icon friends,
Good to be back to share what has been going on this last month. I set Gabriel to one side to for a short while to make way for the Prophet Moses – homework time!


Moses detail

Moses detail

Now that we have our first six months behind us, there are signs of all our efforts beginning to bear fruit. It was wonderful to see over 24 homework studies from 12 students all laid out together, they made quite an impact. Let me tell you a little about this particular example
I have tried a different mix of pigments for young Moses: French Ochre Sahara and Avana (75% – 25%) just to explore a different colour. Aidan had said that each colour has a personality, some are more translucent or gritty and it is good to get to know their qualities.


Moses pencil outline

Icon of Moses, St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai with sketch pencil outline to identify key forms

Aidan reminds us that when we start out, we should spend some time studying the icon before we begin to sketch. Look for the dominant movement, the centre of gravity, the direction that the body takes, the qualities that the person is portraying. Icons start with spiritual truths which are then expressed in matter. Study the main forms and don’t worry about the detail just yet. Is it dynamic or still? Check the proportions of the body in relation to the head, use your dividers to check relationships.

Spending time pencilling out the form on tracing paper helps me to identify some of these points. First I drew the centre of gravity then outlines around the main forms. I drew an axis on the head and divided the vertical line into head lengths. I found the array of garments a little perplexing to draw without some help so I drew a head-sized, free-hand grid either side of the vertical line.

Pencil sketch of Moses

Pencil sketch of Moses

The figure seems quite top heavy, but the whole image is balanced by the burning bush at the bottom. Once I was more familiar with the form, I was ready to set Moses out on my watercolour paper. I allowed 2cm for a border then divided the given area into 9 head lengths which allows for halo space and ground (approx. a head length).

Light wash over pencil outline

Light wash over pencil outline

I’ve learned that it is best to start with a very light wash over the main forms, then rub out the pencil before the drawing gets muddy. This is also the time to look again at the main areas of light and shade, look at which parts of the figure are nearest the viewer (the lightest) and which recede (the darkest).

I will leave you with my final piece and once again, thanks for reading!

Moses study complete

Moses study complete



2 Responses to “French Ochre Sahara with a dash of Avana”

  1. Anne

    This is truly the most amazing work. The amount of detail and anatomical knowledge behind your work is incredible. It is lovely to see your work in progress.

    • ronniecruwys

      Thanks for your kind words Anne! Lovely that you can appreciate some of the background work. Aidan has strongly encouraged us to learn to draw the human form so we can apply one of the golden rules of icon painting ‘although you abstract, model form according to the essential laws of nature’. I’m only just finding my feet with figure work!


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