St.Tabitha icon progresses

There is not much about St.Tabitha in the Bible.  Just some basic facts, most important of which is that she is the only woman specifically named as a disciple of Christ.  The word “disciple” refers to learning, to being a student of, and, having learned, to follow.  This she did, following the Lord with loving charity to those less fortunate.  St.Tabitha’s ministry was to the widows of Joppa, a city located in what is now the modern state of Israel.  She made clothes and tunics for them, sewing them herself and distributing them to those who had nothing.  Evidently she was much loved, and her ministry effective and broad enough that the Christian community was aware of her.  There was much grief at her passing.

Peter himself was called to her deathbed, and he raised her from the dead in the name of Jesus.  An amazing story.  And the Scripture account ends there, with no information on how she might have responded to this incredible experience, or how her life progressed from there.

I have been reading reflections on this saint, imagining what sort of person she was, what her total life story might have been.  They are just speculation, these reflections, but they help to gain a clearer picture of a remarkable woman of the first century A.D.  In a way, this slow, hesitant depicting of this saint is like the slow emerging of a visual image of her in the icon.  Bit by bit, layer by layer, an individual  face begins to come clear, to guide people of this century closer to St.Tabitha’s Lord and ours, Jesus Christ.


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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2 Responses to St.Tabitha icon progresses

  1. I am interested in the process you are using to develop the facial layers.
    Do you find using acrylics to be a little unsettling because the pigments don’t react in the same way as the egg tempera?
    For the image that is on this page:
    Do you have one, three, or more layers of color on the face and what were your color mixtures? Please feel free to email me at if you like. Thanks very much.

    • reinkat says:

      Hi, thanks for the comment and questions. I’ll try to answer as best as I can: Yes, acrylics are unsettling, and so is egg tempera. With acrylics the pigments don’t react the same way as they do in egg, in fact, each color seems to have its own mixing/diluting requirements. I have had problems with them being too opaque, too transparent, and sometimes getting a milky cast to them. In addition, they often dry darker than they looked when wet, which makes mixing colors a bit of a gamble and adds an element of adventure to the process.

      As for this image, which is about midway in the painting process, there are many layers on there. This is approximately the process: I mixed the sankir, using yellow ochre&green, with a dab of red. It looked pretty pale, so I added just a smidge of burnt sienna and a bit more green. When it dried, it was very dark brown. Hmmmm. I did several washes of pure yellow ochre over it all to get it more the color I wanted the underlying skin tones to be. The first highlight color was a mix of red & yellow ochre & a smidge of burnt sienna again to tone it down. (You can see on the other photos exactly which pigment colors that I used, that is my total palette and inventory of acrylic color).
      After that red layer dried, I began to put wash after wash of pure yellow ochre paint, very transparent, over the red areas. Each layer is minutely smaller than the one before. If the edges were too hard and defined, I touched the wet paint with a brushful of water, and it diffused it immediately. At one point I did use a thin transparent wash of red on the cheeks and lips, and then continued with the yellow ochre on top of it. Sooner or later, I will add a bit of white to the ochre, and continue to highlight from there, just yellow ochre and white. Tiny increments at a time, very soft with soft edges, and the face will emerge slowly.
      And those are the technicalities of my process. I hope that that is helpful to you.

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