Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Posts tagged ‘Mandilion’

Last few days of 50% off all icons

February is about to give way to March and I will be closing my private sale of 50% off all my icon stock at the end of this month. I’m delighted that quite a few of my icons have found homes but I still have plenty left to choose from.

Here are a few examples of what I still have available with some detailed photos below. The remaining available icons are all listed here.

Archangel Gabriel, egg tempera, gold leaf on watercolour paper, framed.
Detail of Archangel Gabriel icon painted in egg tempera and with gold leaf on watercolour paper
Icon of the Feast of the Annunciation
Detail of icon ‘Feast of Annunciation’ with Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin
Our Lady of Mount Carmel with Christ Child
Detail of the icon of Our Lady of Mount Carmel with Christ Child

Please dont hesitate to get in touch if you would like to see more photos or need further information.

Blessed Virgin and Mandilion icons, latter also known as ‘The Face Not Made with Hands’
Icons side by side in Diploma show exhibition

Thanks for reading 🙂


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.


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




Gilders’ Tips

scratched gilding

Thumbs down for the gilding. Mixing water and oil gilding too difficult to troubleshoot!

Hello Icon Friends, I have been quiet on the blog, sparing you the details of my gilding efforts until I had something useful to share.  I deliberately chose to work on bigger boards as I thought it would quickly show up all the places where I could go adrift. It did just that. Lesson one. Start with a small board, or even better, start with a practice board as Lee Harvey suggests. Water gilding is a difficult skill to master! Some of the students have made notes on their tips which you can read about here: Gilders Tips. Anyway, I wasn’t too pleased with the water gilding that I did in class for my mandilion so I sanded the lot off and applied 18 fresh layers of bole and started again – I think my bole consistency was a bit too thin. Once it had dried, I sanded and polished the bole and was really encouraged when I managed to get a deep shine. Good so far!

Bole layers

Fresh layers of bole applied to support water gilding – allow it to dry at least 24hrs before sanding and polishing.

However, the water gilding process got the better of me and even after quadruple gilding, four books of gold and five days solid of faulting and polishing, the results are still average! The final appearance looks much the same as one layer of oil gilding and only slightly better than what I had sanded off in the first place.

water gilding icon

Water gilding the mandilion

Third attempt at the monochrome of Christ for the Mandilion

Third attempt at the monochrome of Christ for the Mandilion

I also painted my third attempt at the monochromes of Christ (for the Mandilion) and the Virgin, which I was reasonably happy with, so all set to begin the transfer on to the gessoed icon boards next session. My next post will include links to another set of You Tube clips of Aidan Hart demonstrating the different stages of the membrane technique. My final note is to say a couple of farewells. We all wish our fellow student, Susan O all the very best. We will miss you on the course Susan and hope that you keep in touch. A fond farewell to my beloved pet Norman. He was a larger than life character who once trampled over my keyboard typing in the letters Vatopedi as he went and inadvertently googling images of a Greek Orthodox Monastery. He recently got sick with secondary poisoning and much as I tried to keep him indoors (shown here) this weekend he got killed on the road.

Norman the cat

Norman 1.8.13 to 27.9.14 – pictured after he sniffed up a leaf of gold which of course ended up down the hatch!

We are only ever their custodians and I am grateful for the delight he brought in his short life with us. Thanks for reading.