I am working on the underpainting of the icon of St. Anthony–I call it the ugly stage. I await the surprises . . . more to follow . . .
Every icon provides me with 2 moments of surprised delight, on top of the steady sense of peace and comfort that comes through the combination of work and prayer.
The initial stages of painting involve putting a fairly dark, dull undercoat down on the board. For the face and hands, this is often a greenish brown color. It is called sankir. This layer provides the shadows and dark areas. The icon is built up from dark to light. No shadows are added later. When it is time to begin the modeling and highlighting of the face, layers of yellow ochre paint are layed down for the features and lit areas, one after the other . Each layer is transparent and thin. Each seems to be absorbed into the undercoat, sinking invisibly into the dark paint. It is a act of faith at this point, to work blindly, trusting that the thin layers are building up on each other, one…
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