Icon of St.Tabitha: beginning

Once I have the drawing made, and transferred to the board, it is time to mix up some paint and brush on the lines.  Iconographers do the “lining” in various colors:  reds, blacks, or the local color for each area.  I never use black in my icons, except on rare occasions.  I’ve always felt that straight black deadens the color.  I mix up several reds/greens/blues/etc  together to make a dark neutral color to use instead.  In this case it is a dark greenish color, as the image will have lots of green and tan in the garments.

I used graphite pencil for the lettering (because I can erase it if I mess up.)  Calligraphy is not my strong point.  In the final painting, the letters will be in red.  I have been told that the lettering is in red on icons because it is representative of the Blood of Christ.  What is for sure is that every icon has the name of the person depicted inscribed on it.  It is important for the viewer to know the name and identity, for prayer is a relationship, whether praying to our Lord or with a holy saint.

When I designed this icon, I made the halo overlap into the border.  The image area of an icon has been called “a window into heaven”, and the border represents the world.  The life of a saint allows heaven to break into the world for all to see.  St.Tabitha gazes at the viewer, witnessing to the reality of Christ.  She holds a cross in her right hand.  She also has a basket of clothing, for her particular ministry was to sew and distribute clothing and alms to widows, orphans, and the poor.  She is a shining example of carrying forth her faith into good works and love of neighbor.

I don’t need to worry much about what she might have really looked like.  Sometimes there is specific knowledge of a person’s appearance and physical characteristics, but that is not the case with St.Tabitha.  That really doesn’t matter:  even if the appearance is somewhat generic, the letters naming the saint make it definite who it is, and the important truth is that we are looking at a person glorified by the love and grace of God.  It is a spiritual portrait of a glorified individual living in the Presence of God in heaven, and not a physical likeness.  All of us are an icon in the making, and with God’s grace will live in His Presence for all eternity.


About reinkat

I am an iconographer, and have been studying Russian/Greek icons since 1995. I'm married with 3 children. I love hiking, camping, animals, my family and church--and icons.
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