Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Living up a Tree (St David pt 2 of 3)

study on watercolour paper of st david of thessaloniki

St David offering food to a bird

Before I began to paint an icon of St David the Dendrite, I sat down to draw him. There are many lovely icons of St David, but there is one fresco in particular which really appealed to me.  The saint is depicted as an elongated figure with a toe-length beard wearing a light ochre garment set against a green background, amidst a leafy almond tree.

I haven’t been able to find the name of the iconographer to acknowledge him or her and would love to hear from you if you recognise the original fresco image.

pencil sketch of st David

Pencil sketch of Saint David up a tree with print of fresco image alongside

I used this fresco image as a reference to make my own drawing sketched on watercolour paper. Adding colour was the best way of seeing how it would look on the long thin icon board which I had already gessoed using a thick 25mm birch ply.

pencil sketch of st David

Pencil drawing of St David the Dendrite

I referred to my library of icon images to find male saints which helped me to construct the face.


English ochre and black - colour palette

Colour palette – English ochre and black

Here’s the overall study with some more icons of this tree dweller.

st david of thessaloniki icon

Drawing and study on watercolour paper together with reference images

This icon study is now available to buy in my Etsy shop here. I will sign off with an image of my finished study in black and white.

drawing st David
Drawing of St David of Thessaloniki

Last part of this article will be about the finished icon…to be continued soon.

Thanks for reading,



5 Responses to “Living up a Tree (St David pt 2 of 3)”

  1. Chris (Rowington group)

    Hi Ronnie, hope you’re well? Do you always prepare by painting the image on paper first?

    • ronniecruwys

      Hi Chris, lovely to hear from you! Yes, I’m very well thanks, trust you are too. In answer to your question:no! Aidan encouraged us to to do our own drawings rather than trace from an existing icon but for some icons, I find painting monochromes (or just a couple of colours) on smooth hot pressed watercolour paper really helpful before I start on the real thing. I only do it when I’m referring to several icons and it helps me check I’m happy with the overall composition. With St David, I loved the fresco image, but the figure was really elongated so I shortened it. The tree and face were from other icons. Aidan saw the finished icon and there were several significant things he pointed out which I might do differently next time, but I was still happy with how he looked! Always learning eh?! Love to all the Rowington Group! Ronnie

  2. Chris (Rowington group)

    Thanks for all that background Ronnie. Very interesting and helpful.


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