Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Easter Offering - Jesus Christ Pantocrator

Jesus Christ Pantocrator Icon  (9" x 12")
by jojo sabalvaro tan, 2013
Mixed Media Collage (Watercolor, Paper Mosaic)

This Easter, since I am so inspired to make icons nowadays, I decided to make an icon of Jesus Christ. I started a tradition for Easter of painting scenes from Jesus' life surrounding His death and resurrection a few years back.  As I worked on this project, I used the opportunity for  praying, contemplating  and meditating about the significance of Jesus Christ's  passion during Holy Week.

This project is sparked by the mosaic of Jesus Christ the Pantocrator (Almighty) found at the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, Turkey, The Hagia Sofia was dedicated in 360 AD as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral, converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral in 1204 and then a mosque in 1453. During its lifetime many of the original art were defaced and covered up. They were later restored but not necessarily to their original state. The Dome of the church is considered the finest surviving example of Byzantine art and architecture. Today, Hagia Sofia is a museum holding precious mosaics and works of art. I have been to Turkey but not to Istanbul. I would like to visit Istanbul someday just to see Hagia Sofia.
Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey
There are a number of mosaics of Jesus Christ at Hagia Sofia, The one I am working on is from the grouping called Deesis (Entreaty) Mosaic depicting the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and John the Baptist found in the imperial enclosure of the upper galleries. Although the bottom part of the mosaic is badly deteriorated, it is considered the finest in Hagia Sofia.
The Deësis mosaic (Δέησις, "Entreaty") probably dates from 1261.at Hagia Sofia

How I Made This Icon

Materials  used:
Magazine pages
Metallic Gold paint
Luminescent Watercolor or Gouache
Paint brushes for painting
Paint brushes for applying glue
Glue (all purpose craft such as Aleene's , stick such as UHU and E6000)
Pins for placement of paper mosaic tiles
Poster board, black
140# Watercolor Paper
Red Sparkles for accent
Tracing paper
Transfer paper
Books for weight

Again, freed from the boundaries of the traditional icon painting process with my first icon painting, I ventured to produce an icon in a non-traditional way. I started with sketching a cartoon of the icon painting I wanted to do, based on the particular mosaic of Jesus Christ at Hagia Sofia..

Cartoon of Icon

After some adjustments to the sketch on tracing paper, I transferred the sketch onto a black poster board using white transfer paper.

Traced outline of Icon on black poster board

My intention was to make this Icon entirely of paper mosaic but as I proceeded I changed my mind. I decided that I would paint Jesus' face, neck and shoulders.  I transferred the face, neck and shoulders onto a 140# watercolor paper using red transfer paper. I then painted them using artist's grade transparent watercolors.
Jesus' face, neck and shoulder painted on watercolor paper

After I was sufficiently satisfied with the painting and the paint dried, I cut the outline of the face, neck and shoulders and glued the cutout to the poster board using E6000 glue. I let this dry overnight with some heavy books placed on top to weigh the cutout down and ensure complete adhesion.
Cut-out of face, neck and shoulders adhered to the poster board
The next day, after checking that the cutout is securely adhered to the board, I started doing the hair using tiny shades of brown paper tiles I cut out of magazines. For the paper, my paper of choice are from the glossy and colorful pages of fashion magazines such as Vogue.  I applied the paper mosaic tiles with all purpose craft glue making sure to apply the correct shades of brown for a more natural contour of the hair. Next, for the cross part of the halo, using a pattern based on the sketch, I cut out some decorative white paper, attached them on the board and added some red jewel sparkles for accent. I outlined the cross and the halo with tiny red paper mosaic tiles. The halo itself was painted with metallic gold paint. Here again, my intention was to paper mosaic the halo but I could not find gold paper that would work to my liking so I decided to paint the halo instead.  I used Lumiere Sunset Gold by Jacquard. An even coating is applied several times after each coat is dry until I was satisfied with the coverage. I used three coats on the halo.
The halo and hair completed
I worked on the robe and coat  next with tiny black, blue and yellow paper mosaic tiles. The black paper mosaic tiles were used to shape and delineate the folds on the robe and coat.
The blue coat done
After all the paper mosaic was completed, I made some final adjustments to the face of Jesus Christ.I had to darken the eyebrows, mustache and beard to harmonize with the brown of the hair.  It is now ready for varnish but I will wait a day or so in case I may want to make more adjustments or changes. The finished product is a collage since I mixed and combined  media in executing this icon. Nonetheless, I am satisfied and quite happy with my finished art work. Even with using some short cuts such as  painting Jesus' face and the halo. it was a slow and tedious process since I was working with tiny pieces of paper and applying each one individually,  When I think about and imagine the ancient Christians who had done the wonderful mosaics at Hagia Sofia suspended way up the dome and walls of the cathedral, I have no cause to complain.
The completed mixed-media Icon of Jesus Christ Pantocrator

 I hope you all enjoy my offering for this Easter. 
May you all  bask in the blessings of Easter.

 The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name. Luke 24:46-47 

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

Friday, March 15, 2013

Icon Painting

Madonna and Child Icon
Watercolor, Acrylic, Gouache and Gold Leaf on watercolor canvas board
9" x 12"
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2013
From the collection of Atty. Danilo and Ambassador Lourdes Morales

On one of our recent trips to Florida, we visited the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine,  which was established in 1565. As we walked on cobbled stone streets in the historic section of the city and visited the Cathedral and the stone fortress, Castillo San Marco, we came across the magnificent St. Photios Greek Orthodox Church.on St. George Street. The entry to the church is nondescript, just an opening with the American and Greek flag over it.  Curious, we entered the gate into a courtyard and visited the chapel which was filled with wonderful icons and frescoes of Jesus, Mary and saints executed in the traditional Byzantine manner replete with 22Karat gold leaf as accent.  As I entered the chapel,  I was transported to Greece. It was an unexpected pleasure to find such a place here. I was  utterly  inspired.to paint an icon, something I had wanted to do for years.

Frescoes and Icons at St. Photios Greek Orthodox Church
St. Augustine, Florida

Iconography has interested me for a long time since it relates so much to my favorite type of art - religious art. This art  form is found in monasteries and churches from very ancient times and is the oldest tradition of Eastern Christian and Catholic art.

Here are a few of the icons that I have collected over the years.
From Greece
Hand painted from Russia

From Russia (print)

Hand painted with embossed metal frame

According to Wikipedia, "In Eastern Orthodoxy and other icon-painting Christian traditions, the icon is generally a flat panel (generally of wood) painting depicting a holy being or object such as JesusMarysaintsangels, or the cross. Icons may also be cast in metal, carved in stone, embroidered on cloth, done in mosaic work, printed on paper or metal, etc." Icons are very symbolic and used for veneration.

In the Philippines,  the most popular icon is that of Our Mother of Perpetual Help where at the Baclaran Church devotees flock every Wednesday for the novena prayers. According to tradition,  this icon of the Virgin Mary is attributed to the first icon painter, St. Luke the Evangelist.
In the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (above) Mary is shown wearing a blue robe, symbolizing heaven, over a red dress symbolizing her queenship and also penance. She holds Jesus, wearing a red robe, symbolizing his Passion, who clings to her as he looks over his shoulder at the Archangel Gabriel, who holds the Cross and nails. The Archangel Michael holds the lance, the spear and a jar of vinegar and gall. Abbreviations for "Mother of God," "Jesus," Archangel Michael" and "Archangel Gabriel" are seen around the figures

I did not know how to start painting an icon since I was intimidated and overwhelmed by all the information I saw online. I even checked into classes but unfortunately there are none in my immediate vicinity. For some reason, as I was waiting for the cardinals in the conclave to elect a new pope, I was inspired (could it be divine intervention, who knows?),  and embarked on my first icon painting project. Although I have painted many depictions of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus as well as other religious subject matters, I still found  the prospect daunting. There are a lot of traditions attached to making one and the steps are very rigid and involved, at least to me. The approach is a lot different too, a little more restrained and restricted as far as creativity and imagination. In my mind's eye, I see ancient Christians painting or writing (the more appropriate terminology for icon painting) icons in dim candlelight, buoyed by religious fervor. 

The first step I did was to study how other iconographic art have been traditionally depicted by researching other icons. It is actually acceptable to copy an icon that you like and incorporate the traditional elements in the icon in the execution of the painting. I went ahead and did my research on the Internet which had abundant information on and images of icons. There were many to choose from and I chose (no surprise here) an icon of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus. 

I knew that my icon won't be as traditional as I'd like it to be due to the limitations of materials available to me. Somehow, I am unable to adhere strictly to the "rules" of Eastern Christian iconography, but I knew one thing for sure - as a Catholic, I would be working on my icon within the context of our traditions and in a spiritual and meditative/prayerful manner. I made a preliminary sketch on tracing paper and transferred the sketch using water soluble transfer paper to a watercolor canvas board. Here I diverted from using the  traditional board laboriously prepared with several coats of smoothed-out gesso.

Since the canvas has texture, my finished painting won't have the smooth finish as traditional icons, I also used watercolor (for the face, hands and neck), acrylic (for the clothes), metallic gouache (for the borders) and gold leaf  (for the halo). This is again a departure from traditionally painting with egg tempera. After tracing the image to the board, I base coated the drawing of the icon, always a nervous first step, since to me it signals the direction of where the painting is going.

Icon painting is not meant to be a faithful reproduction of the subject matter. As a matter of fact, great effort is made to impart spirituality by making the important figure in the composition dominant. A distinguishing feature of icon paintings are that the eyes of the figures are quite large to emphasize the source of the light is not external but the inner light of the saint himself. The icon I wrote has brilliant vivid colors which I believe was how the ancient icons were also done. Today, we see them as dark images because of the oils that were added to add sheen to the painting originally.

I completed the painting, in record time (less than 24 hours), on the day Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina took the name Pope Francis as the 266th successor to St. Peter. Somehow, I felt that the writing of this icon has been made more spiritual with the election of the new pope.

My first icon writing project, although in many ways nontraditional, I hope that like traditional icons it serves to assist us in our prayers and meditation and bring us closer to God. 

Viva il Papa Francis. Let us join him in prayer.

We hasten to your patronage, O Virgin Mother of God.
Do not turn away from us in our necessities,
but, O pure and most blessed Lady
deliver us from every danger.
O Most glorious and Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ our God,
receive our prayers and carry them to your Son and our God,
that He, because of your intercession
may enlighten and save our souls.

For more information on Icons, please visit the following sites: http://myweb.rollins.edu/aboguslawski/Ruspaint/frame1.html