This was the spontaneous response of a tipsy friend on seeing photos of the portrait that I painted last year of His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster (and what an amazing privilege that was).
Being generous with said friend, I assume by ‘real artist’ she meant an artist capable of producing realistic art. And this – a century after Modernism – is still clearly the standard by which people judge art by. No doubt there are many reasons why there is such satisfaction and enjoyment in see things in this form.
However after three decades of mainly painting icons and ‘sacred portraits in the deliberately and definitely unrealistic style of the eastern Orthodox tradition (I refuse to use the oh-so-pretentious and erroneous term ‘writing’) it is a distinct pleasure to return to the challenges of naturalistic portraiture – but using the same traditional egg tempera medium and the same panels as for my icons.
And, in between continuing to paint icons and teaching the techniques thereof – I will be focusing on Clerical Portraiture. This will be a different type of icon painting, as I continue to explore my fascination with depicting light upon – and within – the human face ans in particular, the faces of those individuals who have given themselves to the spiritual life.
Judging from the feedback, the first three Heritage Lottery Funded icon painting ‘taster’ workshops have all been extremely well received, and were certainly enthusiastically attended. Whilst most of the participants were from the North Norfolk area, several individuals came from further afield – even as far as Yorkshire.
Whilst hardly anyone had had any previous experience of painting (or ‘writing’ as some prefer to say) icons, everyone completed a small icon to take away with them and gained an insight into painting with egg tempera and how it is used within the Russian icon painting tradition. Given the remit of the workshops, the gilding of halos etc was done with imitation leaf – and to great effect!
The new gallery (formerly the renown icon painting studio of the St Seraphim brothers, Fr David and Leon Liddament) has been beautifully refurbished and provided the perfect icon painting environment as the walls and new display cabinets are now filled with icons and exhibits from the collection. (And thus becoming the only icon museum within an Orthodox church in the UK.)
A different archetypal Russian icon was chosen for each workshop; an Archangel Michael (after Rublev), A 19th century Mother of God of Kazan and a 16th century Novgordian icon of St Parsakeva Piatnitsa. Each image was looked at in terms of its iconography and history, as well as being contextualised within the tradition of prayer and veneration.
The beautiful Quiet Garden of St Seraphim’s gave us yet another inspirational space to enjoy during our breaks, amidst the tastefully planted perennial borders of flowers, herbs, shrubs and trees – all at their seasonal best along the considerable length of the former railway platform . The delightful geese, Max and Wanda, added their own quirky charm to the events.
St Seraphim’s Trust have invited Helen to deliver several icon painting ‘taster’ workshops in 2019 and 2020 as part of their Heritage Lottery Funded programme of activities.
There will be three weekend workshops in the summer of 2019 and two weekend sessions, plus a longer five day workshop in 2020.
Summer 2019 workshops
(10.00 am – 4.15 pm daily)
Cost: £25.00 per person
18th & 19th May : FULL
8th & 9th June: FULL
20th & 21st July: FULL
Waiting list available
(Times and cost tbc)
4th & 5th April
16th & 17th May
15th – 18th June (5 days)
The workshops will take place in the new gallery space and provide a basic introduction to icons and the technique of icon painting. Participants will be able to ‘make and take’ a small icon and gain a deeper appreciation of Russian icons through the tradition established at St Seraphim’s in the mid 1960s.
Places are limited to 6-8 pax per workshop and priority will be given to local participants. Materials will be supplied.
To book a place, or for more information, please contact St Seraphim’s Trust directly:
Tel: 01328 820610
St Seraphim’s Trust
On the occasion of the patronal festival of All Hallows, 4th November 2018, this pair of new icons were blessed and installed by Bishop Peter Wheatley (retired). The Dean of Hereford, Michael Tavinor, gave the homily.
The icons were commissioned by Fr David Houlding as part of a major project to create a new main entrance area for this large church. The icons were designed to face the huge new glass doors at the west end as a sign of welcome. The Mother of God icon was further designed to be a memorial icon for Diane Clover, who had worshipped at All Hallows for many years.
Both icons are original designs (in the Russian tradition) with the blue colour of the robes creating a visual link to the dominant blues of the stained glass of the east end windows.
This icon, after the famous deisis mosaic at the Haghia Sophia, Istanbul, was especially commissioned for a new prayer corner at Holy Trinity Church, Cuckfield, West Sussex. The icon has been gifted by a local family who have worshipped at the church for many years.
The free-standing candle ‘Tree of Light’ upon which the icon is mounted, is a bespoke commission by the Oxfordshire-based artist and metal worker, Christopher Townsend.
This new and unique installation has been sited in the south aisle to form a new and beautiful prayer space in this beautiful church which dates from the 12th century. The Tree and Icon were blessed by Archdeacon Fiona Windsor of Chichester Diocese, during a special service for the dedicatory feast of Holy Trinity.