Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Posts tagged ‘Prayer’

Calling on the Apostle of Hope

icon of St Jude Thaddeus

Saint Jude Thaddeus

St Jude, or Thaddeus, has for centuries been known as the Patron Saint of The Impossible or ‘Hopeless Cases’. St Jude was a familiar name to us during childhood as Mum would often call on his help when things got difficult for friends or family at home or abroad.

It’s Pentecost as I write here tonight and it seems appropriate to share my work on St Jude as he was one of Jesus’s twelve apostles who received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

2 St Jude Drawing 1.jpg

Pencil drawing of St Jude

The name Thaddeus means ‘aimiable’ or ‘loving’. St Jude strikes me as a gentle saint who is also known as ‘the Apostle of Hope’. There is a great deal of unrest from recent tragic events in London and Manchester and with election week ahead I’m calling on this saint of hope in the midst of anxiety and will trust him to guide each of us to make wise and loving choices in the days ahead.

I will sign off with a few photos of St Jude taking shape as an icon and say thanks again for reading.


dog tooth burnisher on water gilding

Burnishing the gold on the halo

St Jude's face underpainting

Underpainting the face

st jude underpainting icon

St Jude underpainting hair and beard

Membrane technique

Applying the membrane in flesh tones over the face

egg tempera painting st Jude

Applying a coat of egg stock – dilute wash as a final nourishing layer

apostle of Hope icon of st Jude

Icon complete – St Jude, the Apostle of Hope

P.S. This icon is being professionally photo-scanned and prints and cards will shortly be available to buy from Smith York Printers here

Core, Clarity and Confidence

Hello icon friends and a very happy New Year to you all!

It seems a long time since I posted my ‘Holy Noses’ but Christmas was particularly joyful this year with much to celebrate and be thankful for. I like to start the New Year with a big early spring clean whilst thinking about what I would like to make room for in the coming year before settling back into painting.

When Aidan reviewed my sketches of the Holy Noses, one thing was quite apparent – my brush strokes lacked confidence. Looking back at them now, they are quite spikey, and they go off in different directions. Not to worry, I heard someone on the radio say “I learned so much from my mistakes in life, I wish I had made more!”

After some reflection, I will keep one word to the forefront this year: ‘CORE’. I hope by building upon my spiritual practice which I believe lies at the core of any external improvement, it may in turn lead to clarity, then eventually to confidence.

So after some time spent going within, I picked up the brushes and began with a monochrome study of the Blessed Virgin. I have photographed the stages of work and this time applied lots of fine layers with much softer edges. I haven’t quite finished her face, but I want to work on the next image and get into more of a flow and then come back to add more shading around the features. Please click on the link below to see the stages of work.

Monochrome washes stages 1-8

I hope to post the summary of Icon Diploma days 4, 5 and 6 in the next few days. Thanks for reading!

Holy Noses!

Hello new icon friends!

Thank you for signing up to the blog – you have no idea how much that has strengthened my resolve to pay attention to my lessons and report back to you, hopefully fairly regularly. I will try not to let the posts get too long winded and aim to title all my documents/notes so you can find things later.

This course is far too exciting for me not to share, so it is great that you want to sit alongside – my invisible friends in Aidan’s classroom! Do let me know if you have any questions that I can ask him on your behalf.

I should have mentioned in my last post that our day begins with a lit candle and a prayer of dedication. I will attach the prayer as a pdf.

Prayer before an icon

Prayer 2

It’s Monday 18th November and I am going to get into the rhythm with some brush strokes. Then, I am going to try the ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain‘ tip and turn St John upside down and begin a study of his nose.

nose study one

One of my fellow students, who paints exquisitely, explained that she builds up in very light layers using the finest of lines and very little paint on the brush. She leaves the pure white of the paper as highlights. Once she has established the form, only then does she begin to apply the darker strokes.

There should always be plenty of scrap paper below your palette to test your brush lines after each dip in the paint.

Second attempt at the nose

Second attempt at the nose

Well, looking at the nose upside down certainly helped. It is an improvement on nose 1 a few days ago. However, I have not caught the true shape of the highlights of where the nose bowl widens.  I have also missed the movement of the nose which very gradually curves from his brow on the saint’s right side. All these things become much more evident when you take a step back and look from a bit of a distance.

I am going to try a pencil study next to try and get a grip of the structure. Some days I just don’t have a full hour to set aside for icon practice so what I will do is more ten minute pencil studies of various parts of the face.

Work out the highlights by tracing over the shapes to identify the key pools of light and dark

Work out the highlights by tracing over the shapes to identify the key pools of light and dark

Pencil study of the nose

Pencil study of the nose

That’s enough of my holy noses, it’s time for morning coffee!

Thanks for reading and thank you God that I can share this with you today. All the best with your own icon practice.

Love Ronnie


Aidan recommended a book for us.  It is an American book and if you haven’t already got it, it is a treat for your Christmas wish list. It is a chunky book, paperback and has lots of good quality colour plates. Here are the links:



Book cover image.