I dove right in to my new icon books (Christmas presents from the hubster). They were filled with very cool information. For instance, I did not know that before most people became literate, icons played a large part in helping to catechize them. Similar to how memes work today, I suppose.
I read that Saint Luke is credited with ‘writing’ the first icon and that it was, of course, of the Blessed Mother (a popular iconographer muse).
The icon writing process is quite extensive, enough to dishearten a busy mother, with no talent in math and with small children.
Just drawing the darn things out involved a mathematical process used to position everything from facial features to hand placement to head placement to the placement of background scenery to the folds in the clothing. This was a terrifying turn of events for someone who barely has the ability to balance a checkbook.
The paints have to be au natural, which is wonderful, except many of them are poisonous. This is a cause for concern with a bunch of small kids over-running my house.
The actual painting process is beyond extensive. Adding layer upon layer upon layer of gradually lighter paints. The end result is beautiful but it’s an extremely time consuming process. Another cause for concern with a bunch of small kids over-running my time.
I had to make a decision: Do I compromise my art to better fit into my life as it is right now or do I wait a couple of decades until I can devote the time necessary to do my art correctly and without accidentally poisoning any of my kids?
I decided to do as any tortured artist does and spend the night tossing and turning until, sobbing, I made a decision in the early hours of the morning. A decision that would kill part of my soul.
But in in real life, I’m a pretty cheerful person. So I had a good night’s sleep and woke up feeling refreshed. I really wanted to paint, so I made the decision to compromise, because I’m a sell out. I was going to freehand sketch my paintings and then paint them with acrylics (the sell out medium until Jackson Pollock made them trendy). But I was going to use many of the Icon writing techniques and blend them with my folkish style.
If it makes any purists feel better, I do hope to one day formally educate myself in this beautiful and traditional art form. I’m just not at a point in my life where that’s possible, but I have a lot of paintings written on my heart that are nearly bursting to spill forth. And spill forth they have.
I started with Our Lady of Tenderness, easily my most icon-like painting, to learn and play around with the technique. One thing the book discussed was that icon writers, essentially, re-paint other icons, which was what I did with my first one.
It came out just lovely and since then I have fallen in love with painting the saints and God’s living Icon, Jesus and even some historical figures, it’s like a dam of creativity broke.
Now the walls of my house are covered in icons.
And thus brings the origin story of DL Sayles to a close. It all began with an aversion to cheap, plastic statues and ended with, for good or for bad, the unleashing of a new Catholic artist on the world.
Turns out, a Catholic home looks like a home wallpapered in amateur icon art!