After a summer break for August, this month's blog comes a little early as I prepare to take four of my icons for an exhibition in Liverpool next weekend (click here for details).
Of course, this time of year is for many of us about the start of the academic year and new opportunities for learning. Certainly, over the past six weeks, I have had the pleasure of being taught new techniques by skilled artisans, working variously in gilding and in calligraphy. You may well see these new influences in some of my work going forward, as I continue to practise the skill of decorative gilding for icons, and new calligraphic scripts based on Saxon lettering and runes.
20 cm x 20 cm
Watercolour and pen on watercolour paper
Design with runes based on the quotation of St Catherine of Siena: "Be who you were meant to be and you will set the world on fire"
As well as continuing to work in my studio each day - challenging myself to try new techniques, and reinforcing previous learning through daily practice - I am also thinking about what I am to learn from this season of life and where my next steps might lead me. Certainly, it is not only our young people who should embrace the opportunities to learn that present themselves. Whatever our age or position, there is always more for us to learn. That could be learning a new skill - there are plenty of classes both in person or online (including YouTube videos galore!) if you feel up for trying something different this autumn. It could be about taking a skill or hobby that you already have and pushing yourself in a slightly different direction or challenging yourself to attempt something more complex than your usual practice. I continue to explore opportunities for further study and developing my art techniques.
Yet, the true learning from any of these endeavours, and for me as I continue on this path of artistic ministry, is the learning that we undergo within our deepest self. How do we respond to challenge? What does our heart tell us when we don't grasp something as well as we had hoped? What is God trying to communicate to us through times of struggle, times in barren land or wilderness when, perhaps, nothing seems to be going right and the voice of the Divine seems silent? How are we encouraged to see God's blessing in every circumstance? We can collect all the skills and techniques we like but beyond them is a calling to go deeper, the Divine voice that invites us each and every day to reflect on who we are becoming. This kind of learning is no short course. There are no quick or easy answers - patience, humility and surrender are the tools required and daily practice essential. Wherever life takes us, each day we can seek the presence of the Divine and ask for guidance in understanding who we are and who we are called to be. Father Zenon, a renowned contemporary iconographer, has said (reputedly) that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an iconographer. By contrast, the learning of which I write, this Divine invitation to learn our true identity, will take a lifetime.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen."
Having written about her links with Iona last time, my icon of St Brigid is now finished and with her new owner.
As well exhibiting some of my icons in Liverpool next weekend, I am working to finish a new icon of St John the Baptist. Once that is ready, I shall be sending another order to the printers so a range of different icon card designs (including St Brigid) will be on their way soon.
If you are interested in purchasing a print of any of my icons, or in commissioning a new icon, please do get in touch. 6"x 4" icons start at £170 and can be available in time for Christmas.