Modern Icons

I’m working on a project for school creating contemporary versions of Byzantine and Russian Orthodox Icons. I’ve been researching extensively the historical methods that these icons were created using tempera paint on wood with gold gilding. While I will not be using the exact methods that these works of art were made with I am using the methods to translate them into a contemporary work. I have started by building wood panels from reclaimed wood fence posts. On the wood which I have now started cleaning I will use a gelatin and chalk mixture to create a gesso for the egg tempera to stick to. I will be making my own egg tempera paint using kool-aid, egg yolk, and chalk. I also will be applying gold leaf to the surface as well.

I came to the subject matter I am using during the creative process. I’ve spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my accomplishments and failings and comparing myself to others. I had this moment recently where I realized that several musicians that I have venerated over the years, I have surpassed in age. Members of the so called 27 club, Jim Morrison of the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse (a more recent addition) these are all people who had a great deal of success and fame and succumbed to the pressures of that lifestyle (all died at 27 with different substance abuse history). In this realization I had time to think about my own battles mostly against myself and my work, what makes me different than those that have come before me? Will I leave behind any semblance of a legacy? I certainly don’t have the fame or accomplishments that these artists did at a younger age. We remember these artists though, generations after that have died. What is it that makes us idolize the achievements of other people? All of that discussion going on in my head led me to want to paint these artists in the style of Byzantine and Orthodox iconography the way that Saints and Martyrs have been depicted for a thousand years.

I built these panels using a kreg tool and reclaimed wood fence posts. I was drawn to the painted surface and weathering that has happened over a long period of time. It would have been challenging for me to replicate weathering on new lumber, I think these panels aid in the character of the pieces.
I was really nervous about washing the surface of these panels. I really liked how grimey they were but in order for the gesso and eventually the tempera to adhere I wanted them to be as clean as possible. I was surprised at the depth the wood has after removing the layer of dirt. I’m glad I decided to clean them.

At this point of the project I have been doing extensive research on icons and studying the poses, and the way that they were constructed. I have built my boards and now have started preparing the surface for painting.

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