I am beginning to work on a new icon, for a faith sharing group. I am using acrylic paints, on a small piece of Claybord. Acrylic paints dry very quickly, and require little care once they are dry. This particular little icon needs to be light, portable and very durable, and I think this material will meet those criteria. I begin with prayer for the group, and ask St.Tabitha to be with me and pray for me as I work on her image.
The next step is researching her story, beginning with Scripture: The story of Tabitha, also called Dorcas, is found in only one place– Acts 9:36-42. The name Tabitha is Aramaic, and means “gazelle”. Dorcas is the Greek word for “gazelle”. Episcopalians, Lutherans, and other Protestant traditions use the name Dorcas. Catholics and Orthodox refer to her as Tabitha. She is the only woman in Scripture specifically called “disciple”. Her feastday is October 25.
“Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated means Dorcas). She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving. Now during those days she fell sick and died, so after washing her, they laid her out in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, send two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs where all the widows came to him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter send them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said “Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his handand raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many came to believe in the Lord.”
After reflecting on these words, I did additional research in books and online, reading as much about her as I can find. I also looked for existing icons and paintings of the saint. These I use for planning colors, position, and other details.
I carefully determine the geometry for the image. The geometry is figured out by relationships between areas rather than simply measuring. One important part of the geometry is to figure out the measurement of 1/12th of the image area. This is important because the 1/12 size will be the length of the figure’s nose, and the nose module is the radius of the circle that forms the face (eyes/nose/forehead) as well as roughly the size of the hands. A double “nose radius” is the size of the head. Thus all the size relationships of the image begin with the length of the nose. The size of the halo is most often 3 to 4 times the radius of the nose nodule . . . Careful attention to the geometry results in a harmonious, balanced design.
Finally, I begin to make sketches to size, and refine the drawing in preparation to putting it on the board.
More to follow as the icon progresses.