|Icon of St. Peter Damian 2016|
Written by the hand of jojo sabalvaro tan
Acrylic gouache on 9"x12" Aquabord
I was inspired to write (paint) another icon after revisiting the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida this year. It is truly a wonderful place to visit and a surprising find in the middle of the old part of St. Augustine.
For the feast day (February 21) of St. Peter Damian, I wanted to offer our parish church, St. Peter Damian Catholic Church, an icon of its patron saint St. Peter Damian was born in 1007 in Italy and one of his brothers took care of him when he was very young after his parents died. Another brother, the Archpriest of Ravenna, later took him under his wings and sent him off to many good schools. He became a professor. He later decided to give up teaching and devote his life to prayer and fasting with the Benedictines. He became an abbot, the cardinal-bishop of Ostia and a papal legate and was often called upon by the Pope to work on peacemaking within the church. He loved the poor and zealously worked to save them. Dante Alighieri, recognizing him a predecessor of St. Francis of Assissi, placed him in one of the highest circles in his allegorical piece Paradiso. He died on February 22, 1072. In1828, St. Peter was declared a Doctor of the Church.
This icon was painted on an Ampersand Aquabord panel with LeFrance and Bourgeois Goauche Tempera paints. I used egg yolks mixed with some water as the thinner and it lent a somewhat glossy finish to the dried paint. This is the first time I ever used egg yolks as a medium. I used watercolors to paint my icons and illuminated manuscripts before and this also the first time I used gouache tempera. I liked using the goauche tempera as a medium for writing icons better because the colors turn out brighter and more solid as opposed to watercolors which are more transparent. I also think it might be the closest medium to what is used by real iconographers without having to grind my pigment or use already available ground natural pigments. Although I did not use the traditional icon writing techniques and materials, I tried my best to stick to the divine rules of icon painting.
DIVINE RULES FOR THE ICON PAINTER (Traditional)
- Before starting work, make the sign of the Cross, pray in silence, and pardon your enemies.
- Work with care on every detail of your icon, as if you were working in front of the Lord Himself.
- During work, pray in order to strengthen yourself physically and spiritually; avoid all useless words, and keep silence.
- Pray in particular to the Saint whose face you are painting. Keep your mind from distractions, and the Saint will be close to you.
- When you choose a color, stretch out your hands interiorly to the Lord and ask His counsel.
- Do not be jealous of your neighbor's work; their success is your success too.
- When your icon is finished, thank God that His Mercy granted you the grace to paint the Holy Images.
- Have your icon blessed by putting it on the Holy Table (of your parish church). Be the first to pray before it, before giving it to others.
- The joy of spreading icons throughout the world.
- The joy of the work of icon writing.
- The joy of giving the saint the possibility to shine through his/her icon.
- The joy of being in union with the Saint whose face you are revealing.
Saint Peter Damian is represented in art as a cardinal bearing a discipline in his hand; also sometimes he is depicted as a pilgrim holding a Papal Bull, to signify his many legations. I chose to depict St. Peter as a cardinal holding a Papal Bull. I wrote St. Peter Damian's name in Greek, the typical script used in icons. This icon has a bit more contemporary look than the traditional icons. I was inspired by the works of Serbian iconographer Todor Mitrovic whose work I saw in an article from the Orthodox Arts Journal (http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/interview-with-todor-mitrovic/).
On the margins of the St. Peter Damian icon, I have included the words of St. Peter Damian:
For me, writing an icon is saying a prayer. Icons are meant to be the work of God rather than the work of man. I believe that all that the materials used to write an icon is provided by God and so are any artistic talent, skill, time and energy. It is our task to return God's gifts back to Him manifold and share them with others.
“O Divine Lord of all that exists”
Stages of Writing the St. Peter Damian Icon
|Sketching and basecoating|
I showed an iconographer I met at St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine in St. Augustine some photos on my phone of icons I painted and he said that I show real talent especially with no formal iconography training and using watercolors. He suggested that I visit the Orthodox Churches in our area to see if they have someone that can provide me with formal training on traditional icon writing. He also suggested that I light a candle and play some sacred music to get into a meditative and prayerful spirit while painting. I pray that someday I would be given the opportunity to receive formal training in iconography especially with Aidan Hart in England who I consider one of the masters of the genre today. But first, I will start calling the Orthodox Churches in the area to find if there is someone in their community that teaches icon writing.