Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Posts tagged ‘Icon Diploma course’

Membrane Technique for icon faces

icon painter's work space

Spring cleaned workspace

I’ve had a few requests for a glimpse at my notes from the icon diploma course taught by Aidan Hart at the PSTA. There are a lot to sift through and they’re a bit illegible, even to me. However, I plan to revisit and re-write them at each stage of painting an icon but bear with me as this may take a while!

painting with italian Gold Ochre pigment and Ivory black

Underpainting the faces

I’ve already made a start with the pigment grinding crib sheet and now that I’m currently underpainting an icon, I’ve written up my notes for this stage. They are on my website on the Crib Sheet page and I will share a link at the end of this post.

underpainting face of Blessed Virgin and Christ Child

Underpainting complete

For the underpainting, I’ve found that mixing an earth green from Italian yellow ochre and ivory black has been a little less sticky than using terre verte.

Don’t forget to apply a dilute wash over all the unpainted areas before applying the membrane or it won’t cover evenly.

I still find it tricky to apply the membrane layers evenly but at least I know better not to fiddle with uneven areas. Just go and do something else for a few hours to let it properly dry then apply another couple of thin layers.

icon painting with membrane technique

Three layers of thinly painted membrane applied

Next stage is applying the shading and highlights, but for now here are my notes: Membrane technique part one underpainting and membrane

By the way, the pigment grinding demonstration went well. More on the results of that when I use the pigment to paint!

finished mid tones on an icon face

Five layers of the membrane applied

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

All gone quiet

It’s all hands on deck at home as finishing off seems to take almost as long as actually painting an icon. Our last icon session is only days away and details of the graduation show next month are now up on the PSTA website. I would be delighted if you could come along though I know many of you are miles away. It promises to be a great show as my fellow students have produced some breath-taking work.

I plan to continue with the blog after the course has finished as I haven’t posted any where near as much as I had intended.

I will be back in touch when I get a moment and will leave you with these two icons which are almost complete…varnishing, picture hooks and cord still to add.

iconpainting of St Hilda of Whitby by Ronnie Cruwys

St Hilda of Whitby

Icon painting in egg tempera of St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assis

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie

 

 

 

Northern Grace

monochrome study of st hilda of whitby on fabriano paper

St Hilda of Whitby

St Hilda had been left to one side as a drawing on stretched paper (fabriano artistico 300gsm hot pressed) for the past two years.  I chose to paint St Hilda because she is a local saint to me. When I was a youngster, Mum and Dad used to take us to Whitby on family trips and as a teenager, I worked in York Minster, close to where she was baptised, so she has always been there in the background.

The drawing was in preparation for my painted panel icon which I last wrote about here, but had always intended to paint it. Today was the day.

Here’s the drawing in full – I’ve darkened the photo so you can see my construction and correction lines. After erasing lines that might be distracting, I began painting using a blend of pigments which I know are really warm and earthy.

2 Hilda first washes of colour

Building up the tones

There are some pigment combinations which are lovely to work with – one of which is French Ochre Sahara and French Ochre Havanna. Pigments look quite soft on water colour paper.

3 Pigments ochre sahara

Mixing pigments

Mixing up pigments is best done separately (unlike how I’ve shown!) then add small quantities of the stronger colour to the weaker colour. A very strong pigment, such as English Red Ochre, would overwhelm any other pigment and has to be used sparingly when mixing.

When all the painting was done, I gilded the halo.

St Hilda work in prog Cruwys

Gilding paper is a breeze compared with water or oil gilding an icon boards!  I used Roberson’s acrylic gold size which works well with transfer gold . The size is painted on in two layers, thinned down with a few drops of water. The first layer seals the paper. (Tip: If you rub some washing up liquid into the brush before you use the size, it’s easier to wash out after and protects the brush).  I add a touch of red ochre to show where I’ve painted and to give some background to the gold.

5 applying gold size to halo

Applying gold size to the halo

It’s been good to reflect on the life of this strong northern saint, patron of learning and culture especially in these post-Brexit days. St Hilda lived through dangerous and difficult times – her father was murdered when she was a child. Baptised in 627AD, close to the place where York Minster now stands, she grew up as a noble woman but later became the founding abbess of a monastery in Whitby. More pertinently, as a Celtic Christian, she chose to graciously accept a vote at the Synod of Whitby which didn’t go the way she had wished. Quoting from this last link:

     ‘In Northumbria, along with the politics of the time, there were two strains of Catholic Christianity, and they could not be reconciled: Celtic and Roman. Celtic Christianity, which emanated from Ireland, was less structured than the Roman variety. The Celts were independent, wandering from place to place all over Europe, where they would establish centers of learning and teach. Celtic Christianity relied on monasteries and abbeys where the abbot was supreme rather than the cathedral and bishop system the Romans followed. The Romans viewed the Celtic brand of Christianity as “rural.”’

6 st Hilda monochrome gilded Cruwys.jpg

Completed study on paper

If you would like to read a little more about St Hilda, there is a good write-up about her life by the Order of the Holy Paraclete here.

We still live in troubled times and it helps to connect with the saints. Hilda was considered so wise that kings and princes sought her advice. The Venerable Bede describes her:

“All who knew her called her mother because of her outstanding devotion and grace”.

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

PS The original is now framed and available to buy from my Etsy shop here. Prints and cards are now available from Smith York Printers here.

Face lifts and highlights

banner mandilion

It’s now feeling uncomfortably close to the end of this course – and I haven’t finished one of my set icon pieces!  So, for the last few days I have knuckled down and revisited my first project, the Mandilion. It’s been untouched now for two years and looking back I’ve learned a bit but there is much more still to practice.

Before we go on, if you’d like to see the earlier stages of this mandilion project, you can look back here and a bit later here.

I deliberately stopped working on the mandilion as I wanted to get a bit more experience under my belt before I finished it. I’m glad I did as looking at it afresh, I could see quite a few things that need attention.

Before I set to work, I had a good look again at the prototype that I’m working from:

icon of Sinai Christ Pantocrator

Christ from the Grand Deeisis, St Catherine’s monastery, Sinai

mandilion  before editing.jpg

My version of the mandilion from two years ago.

Here’s the list of the main things to work on:

  1. Halo too bright. Vibrant lapis lazuli competes too much with the face.
  2. Left side is the ‘nearer’ side yet the righ eye is much bigger. Rebalance eyes and brow.
  3. Hair is a bit dull and lifeless.
  4. Facial tones lacks warmth.
  5. Strengthen eyebrows and shadows.
1 Rub out halo on mandilion.jpg

Scrubbing off the bright blue

Since it’s such a long time since I’ve worked on the icon, I started by applying a couple  of glaze coats over the entire face and hair to provide a key between old and new. When these had dried I then applied two thin glazes of French Ochre Havanna over the face (but not hair/eyes). Whilst it was drying, I made a start removing the bright blue halo and the unsightly black lines – what was I thinking?! I still wanted a blue halo but not as vivid, so I used a flat headed brush to soak the paint and scrub most of it off. The black lines had set quite hard though and I ended up carefully scraping them off with the tip of a blade.

3 halo and hair mandilion.jpg

Underpainting the halo and adding shading to the hair parting

I had seen a graded blue halo on a contemporary mandilion which I thought would work, and began by underpainting the bands of blue using lapis lazuli dark, titanium white and a touch of ivory black .

4 fine coat of white.jpg

When the paint is dry, I applied a weak egg glaze, then added a fine mist coat of white.

At first, the fine coat of white seems to cloak the colour too much but if it is applied as a thin layer, it soon dries much lighter and transulcent. It took three or four mist coats before the blues blended and softened.

While the paint was drying, I made a start on modelling the hair. I applied ivory black in thin layers to the parting and to the sides of the head to strengthen the form, paying attention to the ‘waves’ and the ‘ripples’.

5 modelling hair 2.jpg

To add a little warmth to the hair, I added a thin layer of English Red Ochre either side of some of the ripples towards the front.

Now for the eye surgery. The eye on the right was much too big, especially as it is on the receding side. I applied a thin layer of white over the upper eye lid and it looked green! I reduced the right hand side of the iris and lowered the shadow between lid and brow. When all dry, I then applied French ochre havanah over the eye flesh to help harmonise the colours.

eye op 1.jpg

Eye surgery – lowering the upper lid and lifting the lower lid

Then, on the pic below, you can see where I added the new line of the upper eye lid. I may revisit this eye, but it’s step in the right direction.

 

 

red and green

Red shadow under hair on near side to help it advance, green to the right

Warm colours advance and cool colours recede and you can often find faces with a wash of red somewhere on the near side and cool green on the far side.  On this icon, the left side of the face is the nearest, so I used a thin wash of red ochre under the hair line to add a warm shadow and a light green (cool)  on the right to help this side recede.

eye surgery 2

I added a little more cinnabar to the lips, corners of eyes, nose and ears (after this photo was taken) and will let it settle overnight.

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

PS Prints and cards are now available to order from Smith York Printers.

 

 

 

Armenian Nativity on Vellum

1 banner armenian nativity Cruwys

Armenian Nativity on Vellum

Every now and then, I come across a manuscript or icon that captivates me. This is one of those pieces. The original can be seen here attributed to Toros Roslin, the 13th century Armenian illuminator.

Although I’m currently working on a large nativity icon for the diploma (which we have to compose ourselves rather than copy)  I side-tracked to paint this particular nativity scene on vellum as Aidan has encouraged us to study other icons to really get into the essence of the feast we have chosen.

Some 12 years ago, I went to Patricia Lovett’s Traditional Skills and Gilding course, which she ran over four days. I learnt how to stretch vellum and to prepare it for painting and gilding and she ignited an enthusiasm for this art which helped direct me towards embarking on the icon diploma. I had a piece of goatskin vellum from William Cowley already stretched on to a plywood board ready for painting so I set straight to work transferring the cartoon on to the vellum in the same way as I would for an icon, by rubbing red pigment in to the back of the cartoon paper, then setting the pigment with a watery red ochre line.

Red drawing outlines on to vellum

Transfer the cartoon on to the vellum

Next step was to lay the gesso for gilding. When we were on Patricia’s gilding course, she advised us to make detailed notes on the method. For anyone who would like to learn more, my notes from one of the gilding days are here and I would also recommend Patricia’s books and dvd’s on gilding available through her website. The ‘Gilding gesso on vellum’ notes can be downloaded as a pdf here.

First washes of Caput Mortum on vellum

Caput mortum used for the earth and shepherd figure

gesso on vellum

Laying gesso for halos, irregularities to be scraped and burnished then gilded.

close up of the gesso halo on St Joseph

Note the pin prick holes in the gesso that shouldn’t be there!

gold leaf on vellum

Applying the first layer of loose gold leaf

lapis lazuli and azurite pigments applied

Layers of azurite and lapiz applied to reach a deep blue within the cave

First wash of Caput Mortuum pigment applied on the earth and shepherd.

Blessed Virgin and Christ child painted in egg tempera on vellum

Close up of the tiny faces of the Blessed Virgin and Christ child

9 finished armenian nativity Cruwys

Completed illumination on vellum of the Armenian Nativity

Colour palette: Caput Mortuum, Azurite, Lapis lazuli dark, vermillion, terre verte, ivory black and titanium white.

All these pigments can be obtained from L. Cornelissen & Son, Great Russell Street, London where this piece is now on display as part of the Heritage Craft Association‘s exhibition with Cornelissen’s celebrating ‘Gold on Parchment’, for the upcoming London Craft Week, where some practical demonstrations will be taking place.

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie

 

Back to lettering Bury Style

4 Letter A Bury

Gilded Letter A adapted from the Bury Bible

I’d like to pick up where I left off on my previous taster post of the Bury Bible’s Romanesque lettering (you can refer back to it here). I’d like to share some examples which I’ve gathered from this great work which may be suitable for naming saints of this period, for example:

Some saints with direct or indirect associations with this manuscript or who lived during the early 12th Century:

Edmund the Martyr (also known as St Edmund or Edmund of East Anglia, died 20 November 869

St Anselm feast day 21 April

St Cellach (Ceilach Keilach) b1080 Ireland d 1129 Archbishop Armagh

St Elisabeth Rose, Benedictine nun, b 1130 Courtenay France

St Stephen Harding, b 1059, d 1134 co-founder of Cistercian order

St William of York, England, b 1154, Archbishop of York

St Wulfric, b 1080, Bristol, England

St Thomas Becket of Canterbury, b1118, Cheapside, London, martyr

St Hildegarde of Bingen b 1098, Germany

St Lawrence O’Toole, b1125, Kildare, Ireland, Archbishop Dublin

St Gilbert of Sempringham, b 1083

St Bartholomew of Farne b1193, Whitby Northumbria

I’m hoping that the painted letters which I’m sharing here will be clear enough to save to your desktop for your own use. They need a bit more refining but they are a reasonable start. If you do get round to using them – I would love to see your work!

lettering based on bury bible

Letters A to D ‘Bury Style’

lettering in red ochre

Letters E to J ‘Bury Style’

KLMNOP

letters K to P ‘Bury Style’

 

4 Letter N Bury

Crisp balanced lines of the Bury letter N

QRSTVW.jpg

Letters Q to W ‘Bury Style’

UXYYZM

Letters U to Z (plus an extra fancy M) ‘Bury Style’

Hope these are useful some day and thanks for reading!

Ronnie

Perfect Proportions: Anglo-Saxon Style

Aethelwold group

Hello icon friends,

Next along in the lettering posts is an example of some gorgeous Anglo-Saxon; the magnificent Benedictional of St Aethelwold. The original manuscript is held by the British Library and considered to be one of their greatest treasures: “A Masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon art”.

f70 r Christ in Majesty TRINITAS British Library

Lettering from St Aethelwold manuscript held by the British Library

The images have all been digitised and are available to see through the British Library’s website here. There is a great deal of embellishment on the images but zoom in past all this and have a close look at the way the garments have been painted on the figures in particular the colours, composition and fabric folds – some wonderful examples for iconographers.

f4r St Peter and 2 apostles crop brit Library

St Peter and two apostles

This entire book was written by the scribe Godeman for St Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester from 963-984 and is one of the earliest and most significant surviving examples of the Anglo-Saxon Winchester scriptorium.

Born c AD 909, the aptly named Aethelwold “noble ruler”, was key to the transformation of English religious life. He initiated the reform of the Benedictine Rule which culminated with his written document Regularis Concordia.

Godeman, the scribe, was a monk at the Old Minster, Winchester. He may have belonged to the group of monks from the Abbey at Abingdon that Æthelwold placed in Winchester Cathedral as part of the renewal of the Benedictine Rule. The artist for the illuminations has not been identified although some scholars attribute these to Godeman too.

Here are just a few examples of the lettering in this manuscript – the British Library is a fantastic resource and there are many good quality images of this Benedictional available to study online.

Having studied as many examples of each of the letters available, here are my attempts to create a painted Anglo Saxon style alphabet which would suit icons which depict Anglo Saxon Saints, or saints contemporary with this period (listed at the end of this post).

 

PATER a.jpg

ET FILIVS a.jpg

I have saved the full set of letters which you can download and save to your desktop as a six page pdf document here: Aethelwold Letters 

Thanks for reading and I will leave you with some suggestions for saints which may lend themselves to icons using this script:

Some saints associated directly and indirectly with the manuscript:

St Swithun                            St Aethelwold     St Dunstan            St Cuthbert

St Æthelthryth                     St Benedict           St Vedast               St Stephen

St Aetheldreda                     St Edgar                 St Gregory

St Mary Magdalene             St John the Baptist

 

 

SOME SAINTS CONTEMPORARY WITH THIS PERIOD

Gaudentius (Radim Gaudentius) born 970 d 1020 Archbishop of Niezno

Firmian d 1020

Heribert of Cologne (Herbert) b 970 d 1021

Herve d 1021

Berward of Hildesheim b 960 d 1022 Bishop of Hildesheim

Theodoric of Orleans b 980 d 1022 Bishop of Orleans

Agatha Hildegard d 1024

Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor b972  d1024

Romauld 952 d1057

Fulbert of Chartres 970—1028 Bishop of Chartres

Elfleda (Ethelfleda) d.1030

963 Athanasius the Athonite buys the island of Kyra-Panagia from the                     Byzantine noblemen of Constantinople as a dependency of Mount Athos.

 

969 Olga of Kiev, grandmother of the Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev

978 Edward the Martyr, King of England, March 18.

988 Dunstan, Abp. of Canterbury, May 19.

980 Translation of the holy relics of Birinus of Dorchester from Winchester to a new shrine, September 4 by St. AEthelwold.

 

 

 

 

Drawing Heavenly Bodies: Virgin and Child Enthroned with attendant Archangels Raphael and Michael

pencil drawing of icon of virgin and child enthroned

Cartoon of the Virgin and Child Enthroned

Hello icon friends,

The summer before I embarked on the icon diploma course, I asked Aidan if there were any practical steps I could take to help my ability as a student icon painter. His answer was immediate: ‘Learn to draw!’ So I signed up to a really good local drawing class with David Brammeld and a year later Drawing the Street was born, not long before I was accepted on the Diploma course.

Drawing is becoming a way of life for me and I am always exploring ways to develop. There are many online classes and one which I have found refreshing and energetic is Sketchbook Skook

In the meantime, there is so much to learn with icon painting that I thought that I could share my cartoons of the figures for the triptych I’m working on, which might help you get started with your own icon studies.

You should be able to save these drawn images to your computers and print them off on A4.

The four images of the Angels of Chora are all borrowed from Aidan’s library. I hope to be able to credit the photographer in an update to this post.

Meanwhile, happy drawing!

Ronnie

pencil drawing of angel of Chora

Archangel Michael after one of the Angels of Chora

pencil drawing of Archangel Raphael

Archangel Raphael line drawing after one of the angels of Chora

Now for the full size images:

Virgin and Child Enthroned line drawing low res

angel of chora pencil drawing

Full length drawing of Archangel Michael taken from an angel of Chora

pencil drawing of Archangel Raphael

Archangel raphael full length line drawing

Image of Angel of Chora

Angel of Chora image courtesy of Aidan Hart’s image library

image of Angel of Chora

Angel of Chora images all courtesy of Aidan Hart’s image library.

Angel of chora

Angel of Chora images all courtesy of Aidan Hart’s image library.

angle of Chora black and white

Angel of Chora – images all courtesy of Aidan Hart’s image library.

Three days on a Triptych

icon class

Icon Diploma Students taken at Aidan Hart’s May session 2015

Hello icon friends and class mates,

I’m just back from a three day intensive painting our standing/seated figures. I brought my gilded triptych centre panel already prepared with the image transferred so I could start to paint in class.

icon outline drawing

Transferring outline on to gessoed panel

Just to rewind a little, I photocopied my drawing on to tracing paper to locate the outline prior to water gilding. After gilding, I rubbed red ochre pigment into the back of the tracing paper/drawing itself (rather than using an intermediary sheet), and using a fine propelling pencil with a fairly hard lead, transferred the image on to the board.

tracing paper drawing

Drawing of icon on tracing paper

Once all the main lines were transferred on to the board, a weak mix of pigment fixed the lines in place. I then began the underpainting and modelling of the garments.

underpainting icon

First stage of underpainting

Aidan suggested that I used Red Ochre for the Blessed Virgin’s upper garment as it has some blue in it. I also used Lapiz Lazuli Dark, a beautiful natural blue and Ivory Black to deepen both colours; all pigments are from Cornelissen’s.

ivory black and red ochre

Ivory black and Red Ochre pigments

Both pigments are very strong so I mixed them up separately first, then blended. For the underpainting I used a lovely size 2 Roubloff 1010 kolinsky sable brush which I had recently ordered from Vesta-k. It has a really sharp point and holds the pigment well.

underpainting garments

Building up the underpainting of the garments

I mixed black to the lapiz lazuli and red ochre in varying degrees to give depth to the underpainting. The deeper shadows are painted using a lot of black in the mix.

lapiz lazuli

First layer of membrane applied using a wash of pure Lapiz lazuli over the underpainting.

membranes on icon

Membranes on the garments

Pure red ochre and lapiz membranes washed over the underpainting with a very thin layer of lapiz washed over the red afterwards to unite the garments.

After several layers of membrane, I applied a nourishing layer of 20% egg 80% water and let it dry before going over the shadows and adding highlights. Aidan suggested fine layers of pure white dry-brushed over the membrane to give translucent layers of highlights.

The underpainting of the Christ Child is in English Yellow Ochre with a little Red Ochre added to model the form. The colours are painted quite densely as the garments will be gilded using shell gold assist. I understand from my class mate Lee that for the crispest, most gleaming gold lines, hand-made shell gold is the way to go – thanks Lee! Watch this space for adventures in making shell gold – I rang Wrights of Lymm for a couple of books of gold today!

three days work

Three days work

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Triptych begins

Bole and water gilding a triptych

Gilding a Triptych

Hello Icon Friends,

I’ve begun work on a triptych for my sister Anne, in Australia. She made a lighthearted requests some 7 or 8 years ago, saying how much she would love to have one of those icons that ‘open out’. I never forgot her wish and it was wonderful when Aidan confirmed that standing and seated figures were part of the curriculum so my triptych could be included in the course work.

triptych treated with cuprinol

Treating the oak with Cuprinol

Dylan Hartley, in Ironbridge hand-made the quarter-sawn oak panels and gessoed them ready for me to sand. With the great benefit of hindsight, I should have asked him to treat them with Cuprinol in the workshop so they could be covered evenly on all sides – but it was only when I thought about posting the boards to Australia that I realised they would need to be treated due to their strict import regulations. A few days after I had applied the treatment and varnished the oak, the boards warped but the gesso was unharmed – no cracks.

sketch drawings for triptych

Planning the triptych layout: Upper panels include the Holy Face in the Mandilion, with Bethlehem and the New Jerusalem either side.

Anne had told me what she had in mind for this triptych: Arhcangel Raphael (the Shining One who Heals) and Archangel Michael, the Warrior, either side of the Blessed Virgin and Child. Aidan introduced me to the magnificent angels of Chora to adapt to fit the side panels – the original wall paintings fit in tapered panels set within a domed ceiling.

angel of chora

Detail of one of the Angels of Chora

Next stage was to prepare the gessoed panels by sanding in sequence through the grades of sandpaper from 80 grit to 1200 grit to prepare for water gilding. it took the best part of three full days to sand and bole the boards ready for gilding.

sanding the gesso

Sanding off the scratches and bumps in the gesso

sanding gesso

Sanding back too far

With all the irregular surfaces and curves covered in gesso, it was difficult to sand back enough to articulate the shapes without also revealing some of the linen scrim. As soon as I saw the scrim, I avoided the area and only smoothed it with the finer grades of sandpaper. It eventually covered (almost) under 13 layers of bole.

bole on triptych

Bole applied to triptych

It is very fiddly to apply layers of bole around narrow spaces so this time I masked the whole area out with masking fluid with a little added pigment.

masking gesso

Masking out the gesso before applying the bole

Before removing the masking fluid, I scored the edges to avoid lifting the bole.

Removing masking fluid

Removing masking fluid by scoring a clean edge with a sharp blade.

More on gilding in the next post – with a few tips on what not to do!

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie