The Icon of the Council of Archangel Michael – Part 3
Where was I? Oh yes, sometime ago (maybe 2018?) I began to share my work-in-progress photos of this large icon of the Council of Archangel Michael here on my blog. I’m sure you’ve forgotten all about it like I did but now that I’ve mentioned it, you’d like to see what happened next!
Here’s a reminder of where I left off:
After I had drawn the figures in place and applied the gilding, I wanted to work from out to in, by painting the lower clouds and outer ring of Seraphim. It helps me to break things down into manageable parts and start with the easy things. This way I feel I’m making progress.
Before I start work on bare gesso, I apply a coat of egg tempera glaze: a watered down layer of egg tempera mix. This helps seal the porous surface of the gesso ready to receive the paint. Let this glaze dry out.
Mixing Azurite for the cloud base, I painted the circular forms, gradually darkening the outer edges by applying several layers of azurite.
It always looks really messy at this stage – the chaotic stage – but the variety of tones and marks will come into their own as the work progresses.
Look for the spaces between the cloud formations and deepen these by building up the layers of azurite. The underpainted spiral lines will be guides for the white highlights at the next step.
Strating from the central eye of the clouds, work outwards with ‘eyebrows’ of thin layers of Titanium White. Whilst the paint is still wet, use another fine brush to draw out a fine glaze of white from the eyebrows.
One of the benefits of working on a large icon like this is that whilst you are waiting for things to dry in one place, you can start work in the next area – such as here where I’ve laid down some glazes of yellow and red ochres on the wings of the Cherubim. At least, I think it is the Cherubim here – a singular image given with a plural name on the original icon.
I find it a bit confusing how this icon (seen here) has been shown in many different iterations – the Seraphim and Cherubim have been shown in interchangeable positions and colours along with a variety of positions for the standing archangels. Either way, I chose this icon because I loved the strength of the overall composition, the beautiful loving faces and their expressions, the colour, balance and harmony.
Although egg tempera dries quickly, it’s very easy to disturb the layer you’ve just laid down unless you leave it to really dry well. There’s no harm if you can only work on small areas at a time and you have to pick up the brush months later.
Here’s a look at the finished cloud layer along with a look at the completed Cherubim.
My next post will look at the stages for painting this Cherubim and it won’t be such a long wait as I have things in mind for February 2023. Watch this space!
In the meantime, my next post will take you through the steps of painting this Cherubim which would make a wonderful stand alone icon in its own right.
As always, thank you for reading,