Thoughts… and Exhibitions!


Icon the Mother of God Smolenskaja by Olga Shalamova

Getting ready to teach a series of iconography workshops I decided to check programs, offered by fellow iconographers. In a few minutes discovered an extensive number of icon retreats all over the world, and suddenly I had a rising desire to choose a course for me to sign for!

I was so amazed, how many opportunities open up when you google “icon painting workshop” or “course”. The ads said you can learn “technique of Byzantine art”, gilding technique, the “language of icons” and their “meaning”, and even to work as a team member with renowned master-iconographers for several days…

I searched really hard, but in the end, I did not find a single one to sign for. It was so disappointing, that it even became the saddest news of the day.

Flipping through photos of different workshops taught in Russia, Italy, the USA, Australia, Greece, and Canada I saw a great deal, and it was not even close to what I was dreaming about. Most of the photographs were showing iconography students copying photocopies of their teachers’ icons, where the most beautiful, deepest, most powerful, and breathtaking old icons were rudely reduced to plainest simplified patterns. I saw dozens of students bending over their tiny little tables, overloaded with dozens of prints, plastic palettes, and other staff, dying to perform most unexplainable actions with most unexplainable pre-mixed hues of colors, composed by their teachers.

What I was seeking for was a kind of structure, which could help to see iconography as a living theology in color, and I only found commercial schools of sacred craftsmanship with very little understanding of the very techniques they teach. It’s not to be mentioned here, that the students’ works which I saw often had better colors and composition, than the works of their instructors. They looked more alive and less betraying their medieval models.

The whole research and the pictures, in particular, brought me to depression, but it did not last long. My brain rejected to stay in obsession and generated a consolation: tough but a good one.

The conclusion was this: if I want to be a serious iconographer, yet there is no extensive program of studies to follow, and the only thing on can do is this, – we all have to continually teach ourselves, getting knowledge from all available serious sources, and shape our vision struggling with conformism.


Another question, – practical AND theoretical at the same time: – Have you ever thought, what should be the relationship between art VS design in a church? I keep thinking it over and over for several months, and my initial point remains as it was: if we make icons for our contemporaries, we should consider their actual needs. But does it mean that we have to always agree with what our clients want us to do, or, belonging to a certain professional guild, we are entitled to suggest an alternative? For us, it’s a challenging question.

Icon the Mother of God Sosnovskaja by Olga Shalamova

Since 18 years ago we had our first commissions, we met lots of priests, who tried to make us follow their very extraordinary ideas of what is an icon and how the church space should be organized. As now we know, these situations are always unpredictable, and maybe in Russia, the ideas are even weirder. Once we worked with a priest, who out of the blue requested us to paint saint Nicholas holding a steam locomotive in his hands. The reason was obvious for him: it was the railway station, which sponsored the church construction. Another priest, (hieromonk, which means he was a priest and a monk at the same time) insisted the Archangels on icons should not have any wings since no one we know had ever seen them or any photo of them with the wings.

Facing situations like this we discovered that the role of an iconographer has to be much more extensive and serious than just being a “church artist” or a “church designer”. In the current situation of almost total iconographic ignorance of the clergy and devastating loss of connection with the traditions of the past, it is the iconographer, who is forced to become the last professional, responsible for the church interior final appearance. It is him or her, who has to think about the beauty, as well as functionality, coherence with the rules, canons and the tradition. It’s the iconographer, who should have the ability and rights to coordinate all the elements of the interior together, preserving the harmony, unity, and integrity of the church as a holy whole.

Well, now the question is how to obtain an authority to speak on behalf of tradition if you are invited to discuss “little changes” to an existing structure, and you are not entitled to have any right to seriously change anything?

The easiest answer is: “do not agree”, but what is the right kind of argument for these people, if you don’t want to lose the commission, or at least to keep some friendly relations, and want to avoid looking like “I-know-it-all” kind of person? How do you defend your point if the client insists?

Icon of Christ by Olga Shalamova

I have a feeling, that it may also depend on a role, iconographer wants to play in his or her own eyes. Maybe, despite all the workshops, trying to educate us as craftsmen, called to please our priests’ eyes with our lovely icons with overwhelming amounts of gold we can take it much more seriously? We probably might start considering ourselves not only artists (or designers) but also professional educators, sharing the essential knowledge, shaping (and re-shaping) our priest’s views?

Well, at this point I expect your objections, like where one can get spare time to obtain the necessary knowledge to become an expert and how to get the authority to cross someone, who was ordained by a bishop, or a bishop himself or herself?

Again, – I only have my own answer to this, and even I do not like it myself, but now I think it’s the only one:

We must ask for help from professional theologians and art-critics to make our opinion valuable and to seriously root it in the tradition.

We should honestly and fearlessly ask those, who is able to evaluate our bottlenecks, find common ground in our glorious past and help us to get better.

I am sure it will be a long and difficult process, but without the help of renowned professionals, we will always remain a narrow guild of basket makers, complaining about a lack of respect.

Now, as this thought was torturing me for a number of months, and as I have tried hard on my own and I can’t help it, I am turning to you, our dear subscriber and friend!

– If you know a professional theologian or/and an art critic, who would like to think together about contemporary iconography, constructively criticize and to see a better way for all of us to evolve, – would you ask him or her for help?

Any outcome is appreciated!

P.S. Step by step together we generate a General Bibliography for Iconographers, – everybody is welcome to propose valuable titles!.


The time flies and in a few days, the challenge continues – another series of workshops, – sharing/discovering new ideas and widening horizons. It’s such a great time!

Have you ever faced the “varnish fear”? I mean the fear to ruin the finished icon by sealing it badly?

Life was so easy with copal varnish by Lefranc (see our old video), but as many of you know, they stopped producing it! The last bottles we bought a year ago are almost over! Time to experiment with the new version advised by LeFranc (Lefranc Picture Varnish Extra Fine Gloss). I started and even made a new video, but yet the result is too glossy, even with the addition of linseed oil. It’s like a Galoshe! I can not recommend it the way it is.

Some people advised to use highly diluted shellac, but in my humble opinion egg tempera needs some sort of transparent semi-liquid substance to fill the gaps between pigment particles…
If you have any trustable recipe of what can substitute copal varnish from LeFranc, – we’d be happy to hear from you! In the meantime, our own experiments go on and I hope to come up with something good in February! It’s urgent for us as well!

4. 2 EXHIBITIONS in 2 days and NEW ICONS

Icon the Mother of God Feodorovskaja by Olga Shalamova

Just yesterday we had the first day of our annual Exhibition in Melbourne, (ACU ArtSpace), featuring images by Peter Blackwood, Margaret Broadbent, Olga Shalamova and Alexandra Irini, here comes another news: – Bernardine College in Paris (France) hosts an exhibition of Russian and Ukrainian icons, – it opened for public today and will remain open till the 20th of January. Here are some links to see at least something:
1. Colleges des Bernardines #1

2. Colleges des Bernardines #2

3. Artos Fellowship

5. Our Workshops – very short:

The June workshop in New Zealand is full, the icon painting workshop in Queenscliff has 2 available spots. Yet nothing concrete for the USA: – yet we are looking for affordable venues with good lighting.

Thank you for reading our Newsletter! We appreciate your feedback and shares.

Wishing you a prosperous year!,

With warmest regards,

Philip & Olga

Cappadocia + Call for Exhibition

Mosaic details for iconostasis

Cappadocia + Call for Exhibition

Newsletter 20 November 2019

Dear friend,

How would you call a state of mind, when you have just unloaded a large project from your brain?

What are the most appropriate words?

Mosaic detail for iconostasis
Mine are the emptiness and freedom, and when they are together, it’s a state of inspiration. Well, I did not finish the church interior 100%, and yet I can only share photographs of mosaic details but at least there is nothing I can do with it right now, – time to start painting icons again, – time to do a commission I promised to make more than half a year ago. It’s st Victoria of Ephesus and I hope it will be ready by the new year…

After finishing with the Epitaphios Olga has started several pieces of research, getting back to egg tempera, relief gesso and experiments in relative materials… Hope in the next issue we both will have some completed icons and will have some newest icons to share… Icons and other images inspired by…


When it comes to Cappadocia, we just can not help it. We both fell in love with this little piece of land, the motherland of St Basil the Great, St John Chrysostom, and St. Gregory the Theologian (known as the Great Cappadocian Fathers)… Every time we come there, it’s an overwhelming dose of adrenaline, excitement and continuous brainstorming, caused by the desire to understand these local artists, to get what made them so great and so free at the same time.

Sarnic church, Cappadocia

The most surprising thing, when you come to Cappadocia, is the fact, that you are surrounded by beauty. It’s everywhere: rocky landscapes and painted cave churches…

There are some painted cave churches, where you need to buy a ticket to enter, but there is also a number of churches with X – XII century murals with totally free access, you just have to know how to find them. In Cappadocia it’s not an easy thing, because the maps and tourist schemes in the valleys have faded (most of them), and maps from the Tourist Information offices are so approximate, that they only provide you with very rough coordinates. And even locals sometimes can not help you. This makes even more valuable an opportunity to find a painted X century church just by yourself. Sarnic kilise (“Cistern church” from Turkish) is a good example of it – we only found it on our second try.

Here we publish some photos of it, all in one album – Sarnic Kilise , – hope they give some idea of this tiny-tiny little church…

The Workshops:

The 30th of November we most likely will have to close the registration for the Icon Painting Workshops in Melbourne. If you are waiting for the last moment to sign for any of them, it’s time to act.

In the meantime, the boards for the workshops are ready, they are on their way to our Studio. The boards for “Our Lady Igorevskaya” workshop are 30 * 25 cm (12 * 10 in) with raised edges, the Crucifix boards are 50 * 37 cm ( 20 * 14 in). As always they are made from solid linden wood, but these particular boards have no raised edges, to give more freedom and possibilities for drawing.

Besides, we have a narrow and specific proposal for those, who may happen to be in Saint Petersburg in February: some weeks ago we have been inquired if we could teach relief gesso technique, which made Olga’s works so special on New Valamo icon exhibition “Saints of Undivided church”. We agreed to make a series of 4 half-day sessions 17-20 of February 2020, and if you are interested to read about this “Relief Gesso Workshop in Saint Petrsburg (Russia)”, please see a special page: .

The Exhibition:

Another note for those, who can bring or ship one or more artworks to Melbourne: – exactly like in previous years, we invite our students and friends to participate in the Exhibition “Visions of Beauty-2020”!

Exhibition of Icons in Melbourne
Here we have to mention, – even though this exhibition this time will be organized for the fifth time,
last year we had a very unfortunate incident, when a wonderful tiny copy of Hans Memling, made by a Melbourne-based iconographer was stolen.

This year for the time of the exhibition and workshops we are going to remove the temporary wall between the gallery space and the class, hoping that nobody will dare to steal in front of a class, but yet we have to give a little piece of advice: please, bring large pieces if you can!

The topic is wide – Christian Religious Art. We invite icons as well as other religion-related images. We can not guarantee we accept all the images, but especially if you bring a large size artwork, we will most likely include it in the show.

Exhibition address is the same, – ACU Visual Arts Space, 26 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Victoria. Upon your arrival, please wave in front of the window or knock the glass door of the Gallery to be noticed.

The installation is scheduled for about midday on the 11th of January 2020. Together with our students and friends, who come for the installation, we will select the best ones and mount them. If you think you may have some spare time, any help will be appreciated.

For those, who want to participate, here is a little hint: the flyer was not made yet… Well, here is the point: this time we are counting on you.

Please email us the photographs of the works you wish to show, in high resolution and we will choose the best ones to be put on the flyer. Mosaic from Saint Sophia


P.S. Occasionally found in our Newsletter of 2016 a link to the photographs of some of the churches of Istanbul,- Aya Sophia and Kahrie Jami .
Thought you may like them, if you missed:…


Thank you very much for being our valued subscribers!
If you have amoment, we would greatly appreciate if you let us know, which for you is the best and preferred type of news, and which you think can be lift unpublished.

With warmest regards,
Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova

Nearly Finished!

Dear Friends, did you ever wonder, why exactly 24? Why we only have 24 hours in one day/night session?

Icons for iconostasis of church of saint Panthaleone in Saint Petersburg
Icons for iconostasis of church of saint Panthaleone in Saint Petersburg

There are so many things to do and so little time! We often discuss, that the more we live, the more we see ways for applying the creativity, but where to get enough time for everything!

Well, the experience says: serious things take time. And now we both are stack in big projects, eagerly awaiting to finish and share the results with you… And yet there are some more efforts to make, – some more days and hours in the studio

In addition to being stack in the art, we also have some “digital stress”: – Google keeps saying we need to remodel our website and make it more accessible.

Printing on Fabric. Epitaphios for Orthodox church of Mary Magdalene in NYC
Printing on Fabric. Epitaphios for Orthodox church of Mary Magdalene in NYC

Yes, we agree that it’s very high time, to make it mobile-friendly, and we also want to change the gallery so it allows seeing images in larger sizes. It’s a long process as well, but within some months we do hope to launch the new design,  – we will keep you posted!


Well, complaining about the time we absolutely must mention, how deeply we both are grateful for all the help we receive from you! We just constantly feel kindness and friendship, radiating from you and other people around us. With your help we continue making our efforts and researches in our own work and teaching others.

As some of you may have noticed from our Instagram photos, it’s almost a year now that Olga is in the process of creating a liturgical Epitaphios. It’s a traditional liturgical object, usually made of embroidered and often richly adorned cloth.

Epitaphios. Work in progress.
Epitaphios. Work in progress.

For a number of years now Olga from time to time helps to design and craft liturgical vestments in our parish embroidery studio. At a certain point, she got inspired to do something on her own, introducing contemporary technologies into this very special world.  Instead of golden threads and embroidery, used for centuries, Olga uses pochoir and other techniques to achieve the necessary level of complexity and richness of the image with artistic means. This photograph shows one of the moments of the working process, there is also a slow-motion video, but if you like to see the action, have a look at a time-lapse video, – it squeezes some working hours into one minute.

Manuscript from Library of Vatican
Manuscript from Library of Vatican

We hope that in August the whole thing will finally come together and will finally reveal everything.


In the meantime, I wanted to share some other news and resources from our friends. First, – Todor Mitrovic gave us a couple of wonderful manuscripts. One was  published by the Vatican Library and the other one by  the British Library.


And at the bottom of the page here is some space to get little more grounded. As always we are gladly sharing our friend’s and our own practical information.

First: Our dear friend Margaret Broadbent and her Russian connection Natalia Pecherskaja invite everybody to join their “Pilgrimage of Peace” for August 3-15 August, 2020.

Visions of Beauty
Visions of Beauty

The 13-day program in MOSCOW – TVER – GREAT NOVGOROD – St. PETERSBURG and all the events are organized by the Centre for Science, Religion & Philosophy Programs (SRPh) St. Petersburg, Russia together with the Gippsland Travel, Warragul, Victoria, Australia, The Program will be in English.

in this Russian Summer Program – please contact Russian program co-ordinator: Dr. Natalia Pecherskaya: or Australian co-ordinator Sr. Margaret Broadbent margaret.broadbent@ , if you are interested.

And at the very end, I wanted to mention, that our workshops in Italy, the USA and Australia for 2019-2020 are filling up. From our side we continue discussing and preparing several new lectures on theology and practical moments, and if you ever thought of signing up for something it might be the time (maybe not?).

We used to make flyers with some brief information and ask our friends to share the printed versions, but we do not know, whether they work or they do not. Maybe yet they do, even though the whole world is digitized, we still trust more to a paper page, instead of a screen? Maybe we should think of both since there are more and more people now relying on internet?

Here it is: to show what our workshops process looks like we put together a little video footage on youtube, hope it gives an idea:

Thank you again for supporting us and for letters with questions, – they always inspire us to study and discover something new.

As one of our Russian iconographers-friends (Andrei Bodko) said, –

Nowadays, with all the light-fast means of spreading the information, we all teach each other, do we want it or not. All together we are a “soup” for each other… We all are a broth or a “bouillon” of knowledge, ideas, thoughts, and other things, enriching each other.

And if we already stay connected, I suggest we pray for a “Worldwide Community of Iconographers”, asking God’s help to be good enough to inspire our neighbors!


To be continued…

Philip (and Olga)




Australia Rules!

Dear Friend,
We have some workshop announcements but … I can’t help it!

First I shall praise our colleagues and friends Australian iconographers! It’s an unbelievable coincidence, to have so many events in a row, but they are all the fruit of much long and hard work. CONGRATULATIONS!  And here are the reasons for such praise (in the chronological order the news reached us):

A Celebration of Living Light. Exhebition and a Reception
A Celebration of Living Light. Exhebition and a Reception

First: an Exhibition and Reception “A Celebration of Living Light” at the Mercy Mission, Spirituality and Action Hub in North Carlton, Victoria. The exhibition was attended by a large number of Sisters and guests. The work of four Australian iconographers: Margaret Broadbent RSM Margaret McHugh RSM, Pauline Pervan RSM and Mrs Alice Vaughan.

We know that it took a very long time to get everything ready, but we are happy to hear that all went well. The photographs and a video are available here.

Icon exhibition Images of the Divine in Canberra. Sue Orchison (in red) who organised things, Richard Charlwood and Apostolic Nuncio, Most Reverend Adolfo Tito Yllana.
Icon exhibition in Canberra. Sue Orchison Richard Charlwood and Apostolic Nuncio, Most Reverend Adolfo Tito Yllana.

Second: About 80 people attended the opening, and several hundred guests in total saw The Images of the Divine, an exhibition organized by Sue Orchison displaying the work of 17 iconographers. 70 icons were produced and shown at the administration centre of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia. Some photographs from the opening are available on Sue’s  Facebook Page, and her speech can be seen and read  on her website:

We are very happy and proud of our friends and students’ progress. Olga and I both appreciate and know how hard it is to progress and move forward so successfully!

Eastern Iconography in the contemporary Protestant West
Eastern Iconography in the contemporary Protestant West

Third: this news is less visual and rather verbal. However, we consider it may have great importance for all of us, especially in the long run.

This morning I received a letter arrived from Peter Blackwood, Australia. He was invited to a conference where he gave a lecture: Eastern Iconography in the Contemporary West.  Peter kindly agreed for us to share the text of his speech on our website. It has been added to our text collection and we hope you will gain some important insights and knowledge from it.

Corsi fi iconografia a Milano Italia
Corsi fi iconografia a Milano Italia

Fourth: future workshops

The first ones will be in Italy. Continuing on from last year’s “Corso di Perfezionamento” there will be two courses at the beginning of September. The first one is for those who have professionally worked in iconography for a number of years, and the second one is for other students who have just started on their journey in iconography.

It’s been almost 20 years since I last went to Italy as my father’s workshop interpreter and assistant, and it came around again! Last year I was contacted by some of his students who want to continue their education. I attempted it last year as a special challenge – to figure out the most crucial problems, and share the solutions with the “veterans”, who know almost everything. But what inspires me is that, even though they are so experienced, they are still open and still want to learn!

The US workshops are steadily filling up, and it looks like we are going to have both groups in September. At the New Skete (with the icon of “Angel with Golden Hair” as the chosen image) and at the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, where we will continue a series of lectures on icon drawing.

At last, but not least, finally … so late, what a shame!! we can announce our January workshops in Melbourne!

Icon of Our Lady Igorevskaya for Icon Painting Workshop
Icon of Our Lady Igorevskaya for Icon Painting Workshop

We are really sorry for the delay. However, it took us a while to figure out what should be taught to people, who organize their exhibitions and lead their own icon schools all over Australia!

After discussing possible topics, and trying to find the answer for months, here it is:

The first one (as always) will be open to everyone. The chosen image is the icon of the Mother of God “Igorevskaya”. This means that students will have to study and paint two large faces, but we feel this is doable.

Model for Icon Painting Workshop Image of Crucifix
Model for Icon Painting Workshop Image of Crucifix

The second will actually be a double one.  It is has been chosen for those students who have previously painted icons.

We have to confess, it’s for the first time ever that we have decided to make a workshop as a two-session series with one model, and we are very excited about this.

We will use an image of the Crucifix for painting an icon of the Crucified Christ without other figures. However, both sessions are planned to include many studies and research results,  so we are sure it will be a fruitful time.

The plan is to work seriously, i.e. with lots of investigations and routine discoveries, so that the whole workshop could be experienced as a real immersion in a professional iconographer’s work. Please share this opportunity with others you may know who would like to join us.

The gessoed boards for the workshop icons will be made in the form of a cross. We have planned this so that these icons, when they are finished and varnished, can be used for church or personal veneration. We believe it will be a valuable practice and inspiration for everybody.


Mosaic detail for iconostasis
Mosaic detail for iconostasis

To finish all the practical news, we will only share one tumbled stone and glass mosaic image as our fresh “production”. It’s a small section of a future iconostasis decoration by Philip Davydov. Other images are still in the planning stages.

Olga and I are both immersed in extensive projects which should be finished within several weeks or a couple of months.

Thank you very much for being our valued subscribers!

With warmest regards,
Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova

A short one

Dear Friend

It is Good Friday for some of you and for others it’s still the profound time of Lent. We will not say anything special except that we feel deeply compassionate about the tragedy with Notre Dame cathedral. May God help the restorers and guide their hands in a good way!

I am sending out this Newsletter because I promised to announce two workshops in the USA I was unpredictably asked to make some days ago.

THE FIRST one this time will be at the New Skete Monastery, where we will paint the Angel with Golden Hair. (Here is the description on our website:…workshops_new.html Last year we had good responses about the location – it’s a remote Orthodox monastery with beautiful hills and a very special church. Last year we all enjoyed the meals with the brothers and the contemporary chants at the services. We all thought it was a rare opportunity to live in an enthusiastic monastic community. The climate and atmosphere of the place were very peaceful and prayerful at all levels. The only problem is it can’t be easily reached by public transport. However, if you need a hand getting there, hopefully we can find a solution together.

Icon writing course model. Drawing the Full Figure.
Icon writing course model. Drawing the Full Figure.

THE SECOND one continues the series of Drawing workshops in
the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park.

Compared to last year, it’s at the next level. We will draw a full figure. It’s a four day course but, as always, the time will be fully packed. We will do all kinds of exercises in drawing and form building (see the description: so that one can feel really confident in drawing the standing figures after this workshop.  It’s made for those who would like to step up from tracing, as well as those who have already done lots of freehand drawing. This time we will study the coherence between the forms of human anatomy and the rendering of the human shapes required for an icon.

It’s our third workshop at the Holy Cross Monastery and I am happy to go there again and again. The solemnity of the services, and the very architecture of the church building,  provide an inspiring sense of the monastic tradition, which has been kept from the time of the first church fathers to the monks of our time.


Mosaic for iconostasis
Mosaic for iconostasis

And … I cannot share any photos of our new icons because we are still in the process of creating them. For now I will only share my latest mosaic experiment, which I plan to use in an iconostasis soon. As you will see in the photos, I decided not to finish it because it was just a prototype – to assess the unique qualities of the technique.  Hope in a month or two to show more finished pieces and hear your responses.

Thank you very much for your time and your interest in our work and workshops!
Yours sincerely,
Philip and Olga

March 2019

Dear Friends,

We wish you a peaceful and fruitful Lent! May God help you get rid of something you want to get rid of. And, also, may it be a fortunate occasion to do something creative that you have wanted to do for so long!

In this Newsletter:

  1. Exhibition and workshops in Melbourne
  2. TRUE FRESCO workshop in Wesley Seminary (Washington DC)
  3. Exhibition in Moscow
  4. Inquiries for iconostasis projects
  5. Interviews
  6. Advertisement from our class-mate

Icon Exhibition in Melbourne. Visions of Beauty 2019
Icon Exhibition in Melbourne. Visions of Beauty 20191

We have had several events on our itinerary since Christmas, and we are very happy to share them in the hope they may inspire you!

  1. First – we have had an exhibition: Visions of Beauty and 3 icon workshops in Melbourne, – a General one, a Drawing one, and an Advanced one on Assist Gilding. As always there were multiple challenges, for us and for the students, but we hope that the knowledge gained will help all students give more structure to their art in general, and to their iconography in particular. Mainly what we always try to do is this – not only to give our students certain practical skills, but also to provide them with instruments. Instruments for a multifaceted understanding of their global role as artists and iconographers; considerations and contingent guidelines for a professional approach to their work.

Iconography Workshop in Melbourne
Iconography Workshop in Melbourne

This is the reason why every year we more and more transform our workshops. Most of them are structured to teach different spheres of iconography, providing a multi-resourced approach to one specific subject at a time.

We are glad to share the photographs from these three workshops and, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share!

True Fresco Workshop USA
True Fresco Workshop USA

2. Our next workshop was scheduled for June (Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC), and it was going to be very cool one, but we had to close the registration due to a little number of reigstrants. We regret to say it, and we are sorry for the inconveniences it  caused to anyone.


Exhibition of Christian Graphic images by Olga Shalamova
Exhibition of Christian Graphic images by Olga Shalamova

3. One more important event we should mention was a little exhibition of Olga’s graphic works at the Art Library of Bogolubov in Moscow. There were more than 30 works in different mediums. Some were the images, made for the Calendar (we mentioned these in our previous newsletter), and some were made earlier. We think that works on paper are great because they offer great freedom to learn and use our visual language most effectively.

Iconostasis project rendering
Iconostasis project rendering

4. These last month’s assignments were very different from our previous ones, because we were asked to design unique iconostases for 5 different churches here in Russia. Not all of these eventuated as final projects, but Philip has invented an interesting mosaic technique for an iconostasis surface decoration and, in hindsight, considers it a great experience. Composing projects is a specific task, but the process of interaction with clients is a very special one. It was cool overall – we learned how to negotiate, and how to research the best iconostasis for each individual church, choosing from hundreds. Boards have been commissioned, and we hope to share the photographs of those icons in the coming months.

5. Of course, it would only be fair to say,  that some of these inquiries only happened because of an interview, published in the popular Russian Orthodox online media “Pravmir”. Philip was interviewed in Russian, then Peter Blackwood inspired us to make it available to an English-speaking audience and, with the help of Alexandra Irini, it was possible to translate it. Click the photograph or the link: to read the interview as a PDF file.

Very soon we expect to have another interview. This time with Olga. It has taken several years to finish but we hope it got just got better because of that duration – it’s coming soon!

Now, as we have got the most urgent questions answered, work gets back to normal, and we slowly start thinking about possible programs for the next workshops.

If you have any special ideas, we are happy to hear from you!! Please let us know what you think are the most important problems iconographers face, and we will try to find the best ways to resolve them together.

6. We were again asked to share some information from our friends, and hope it may be of interest to you. This time it’s our former classmate Natalia. We studied with her at the Fine Art Academy. She now owns a travel agency in Saint Petersburg. Here is her info:


Hi!  I am Natalya German-Tsarkova, the owner of Tzar Travel –

I am an art history major and that’s why it’s always been a pleasure to share my passion for St. Petersburg with our clients.  Our guides share my vision of what a tour should be.  They are super qualified, enthusiastic, charming people. We offer visa-free shore excursions for cruise visitors as well as various land tours.
You are welcome to contact us by
email: or WhatsApp +7(921)391-18-94.

25 November 2018

Dear Friend,
This time we have very few news, and the first one is about…

Exhibition of icons and other spiritual images1. EXHIBITION in Melbourne – Visions of Beauty 2019!
Such a shame I have forgotten to announce it in our previous issue, – hope it’s not too late, here I am doing it:
!!! Welcome to participate in Visions -2019 in Melbourne !!!
As always we feel deeply grateful to ACU for another possibility to use the Visual Arts area for our workshops, therefore we invite all our students, colleagues and friends, who have a possibility to bring own works to show.

We should begin installation on Saturday, 12th of January 2019 in the morning, usually it’s something around 10 or 11 AM at Brunswick street 26, Fitzroy Melbourne, Australia. If you plan to bring your image (and/or object), make sure it has a hook or anything else to hang it on the wall and please, email us the title in advance, so we may print out all labels together so they look uniform.
Choosing works for the exhibition we give our preference to larger scale pieces. Those, who have already participated, remember, – we do our best to include all the images/sculptures/objects in the show, but we can not guarantee that everything you bring will be exhibited.

Besides, if you have a chance to spread the word and share information about the exhibition, we kindly ask you to share and invite those who can come on Monday 14th of January, towards the end of the Workshop day, around 5 PM.
The flyer is uploaded to our website and it is available here:
PDF: (12.5 Mb)

2. THE GILDING WORKSHOP in Melbourne still has some spots. Welcome to join us, – we will investigate possibilities gold provides to an iconographer and try to get as good as we can in Assist Gilding.Mosaic image of archangel Michael by Philip Davydov

We have had some positive responses after publishing the Bibliography for iconographers, so we continue. This particular list of books was shared by our friend, student and fellow iconographer Alexandra Irini from Melbourne.
Plus to this, I have asked Todor Mitrovic to share his list… he did… well, maybe not actually “his”… but it was a cool answer to my question – a link to a Book-Search-Engine! Look what he shared:

I shall ask him to shorten the list!

As previously, we invite you and all our subscribers and friends to share with us the titles of your most favorite books – most decent and serious studies, as well as uncomplicated and well reasoned original books, worth to be shared with everybody. They should help people to enter the world of Christian iconography and to see right benchmarks and values right from their very first steps, as well as those, fitting professionals’ needs, helping to understand own work in a deeper way.

4. ONE MORE MOSAIC is finished!
This image of Archangel Michael is made with marble, granite, golden mirror and tumbled glass. I love making this kind of mosaic because I am thrilled to see how different materials interact. The surface can be so material and so immaterial at the same time, rich in textures and colors. The most intriguing for me is the moment of planning, – simply dropping some pieces of glass and stones on paper side by side and looking at them, checking, if they coop well. And by cooping I mean all their qualities, – what they add to the future image, how they render it’s essential idea, whether they help or not

5. Our parish (Feodorovsky Cathedral, St Petersburg) published a Calendar with Olga’s graphic images.  It consists of 14 full color pages (12 Feasts), page size 44 X 31 cm (18 X 12.5 inches). The introduction is written by Fr. Alexander Sorokin and translated by Paul Williams.

We have shipped the Calendar orders made by Sunday the 9th of December 2018. Cost of one calendar with worldwide shipping was US $20.

The shipping is performed with regular registered Airmail. The Post Office kindly informed us that the regular shipping time to the US, Canada & any European country is about 2 weeks, although in Christmas/New Year period it takes longer.


Wishing everybody lots of creative energy and time for the realization!,

With warmest regards,
Philip (and Olga)


08 November 2018

Dear Friends,

Life is a great gift and every single day has a bunch of new opportunities, – tempting and waiting for us to explore them. Olga and I – each of us was carried away in a new direction. Olga continues her researches with fabrics (photos below) and I am inspired to combine classic ancient technique of mosaic with tumbled glass.

Mosaic image
Mosaic image by Philip Davydov

The image on the right is about 24 inches high and it was the first anthropomorphous mosaic piece. This was a totally new experience of combining traditional technique of little tesserae with larger irregular pieces of tumbled glass, but I feel that it helps to enhance the power of the image. This work itself brought me a bunch of discoveries about art principles in general. and it did not come out exactly what I expected, but it taught me a lot of new skills and drills.

The process itself – dealing with pure colors, textures, and rhythm is incredibly inspiring and we hope to continue sharing it at our website and a designated Mosaic Instagram account. The research is continued and there I am sure that the next one will be better.

A pair of khorugvi by Olga Shalamova
A pair of khorugvi by Olga Shalamova

Now it is 10 years since Olga started volunteering at our parish embroidery studio. She was invited to make drawings and to set up the integrity of the vestments, choosing appropriate fabrics, threads, stitches, and other details. After drawing, projecting and planning several vestments Olga decided to make some herself, applying a wide range of printing techniques on traditional hand-made fabric. The image on the right is a pair of orthodox banners (Khorugvi) with the central part made by Olga and frame with hanging parts produced by Yaroslav Starodubtsev’s team.

Inspired by immense possibilities Olga continues to work on other projects, similar and larger. If you wish to keep an eye on the process, it may be a reason to subscribe – the photos are posted as the work goes on.

P.S. If you feel your church or home might need a liturgical image on fabric or a mosaic, commissions are accepted with a great pleasure 😉

Advanced Icon WorkshopIcon
Advanced Icon Workshop

In August – September we have had 4 workshops: 1 in Italy and 3 the US. It’s been a challenge to set up so many different programs and to make so many trips, – but (glory to Our Lord!), all went well.

Now it’s time to choose new models for the new workshops for the next year. It’s very likely that we are going to have some iconography workshops in different locations and a new thing -a true fresco workshop in Wesley Seminary in June 2019. Planning is a hard and a long work, but we promise, – as soon as we have any news we will share them.

In the meantime, 2 of the 3 of our announced workshops in Melbourne (Australia) are full, and there are only a few spots left for the last one, which is dedicated to assist gilding.

Kremer Pigments NY
Kremer Pigments NY

As promised, I visited the Kremer store in NYC and finally publish a color chart, – scanned from my own album of charts. I hope to publish more next time and make a kind of a palette eventually, but now I only share our favorite colors, – the most complex and rich. Yes, these are the colors we used and mentioned at all of our workshops earlier this year.   These pigments for us are the most interesting now because they contain shades of different colors and therefore wonderfully “complete” other possible colors used in the image.


In CAPITAL letters I wrote the number (if any) and the name of the brand, and below – “commercial names” of the pigments.
I checked the names with online catalogs of KREMER ,    KREIDEZEIT and ZECCHI, and I was really happy to discover both Verdaccios – it’s on the list again!

It’s been a while we promised to publish a Bibliography for iconographers. It was still January when we received two lists from two very dedicated iconographers, who’s names I should probably not list for the reason of privacy. Since that time I always wanted to take my time to review and make a long list myself, but – yet did not make it. Well, let’s make it a “collective mind” project, – like the “Manual“, which is made together as well.

Therefore I hope, that this current version of Bibliography (available at ) can be taken as a little base for an extensive development.
We invite you and all our subscribers to share with us the titles of your most favorite books so we add them and share with everybody. Please consider, that these should be most decent and serious studies, as well as uncomplicated and well reasoned original books. They should help people to enter the world of Christian iconography and to see right benchmarks and values right from their very first steps.
We also plan this to be a hub for professionals to share and obtain information about the best texts, helping to understand their work in a deeper way.

Harley Golden Gospels
Harley Golden Gospels

As you probably know, I love sharing resources. This time it’s a IX century English manuscript, known as “Harley Golden Gospels”, digitized in British Library. Click the link: , click the “empty page” and use little arrows on the top right to navigate. Hope you find something for inspiration!

Wishing everybody lots of creative energy and time for it!,

With warmest regards,
Philip (and Olga)


July 2018

Pontifex University
Pontifex University

Dear Friends,
Life is running fast and we feel honored to share a great news:

  • We are glad to announce an official Partnership with Pontifex University. From now on each of our workshops can count as a credit toward Master of Sacred Arts degree. You can see a short description at our website: . The proposal came from one of our students, who had already had an experience with them, so we decided to try.  If you want to know more, please check directly the website of Pontifex University, we hope that a possibility to have knowledge and skills officially confirmed might be a good one

    Icon drawing workshop
    Icon drawing workshop

    Our Icon Drawing workshop Holy in Cross Monastery is not filled up yet, – there are still some available spots (unlike the one in The New Skete with a couple of people on waiting list). We have had this program in Melbourne and it worked wonderfully, – by the end of the 5th day, everybody gained much better drawing ability, including the instructors. And one more time everybody approved, that even if drawing is a difficult part, one can enjoy painting much more, having set up a good construction.

  • Olga’s had extremely intense months doing her graphic work, so, that in several weeks we expect images to be published. It is going to be a wall calendar, approximately 40 * 30 cm (16 * 12 inches) and we hope to have some copies to share.

Sacred Murals Studio Instagram Incorporated

  • Social Media: On!
    – As Olga continues running our main Instagram and it has become a good entertainment. Lately, we decided to incorporate it into our website so that everybody might see the latest updates at the left-bottom coner.

Besides, in October we plan to create a special page for mosaics on our website. To start spreading the word about it we decided to begin publishing little images in a separate instagram page run by Philip.

  • Five new icons and a mosaic piece by Philip Davydov:

Annunciation icon
Annunciation icon

Multiplication of bread and fish
Multiplication of bread and fish

Contemporary Image of Crucifix
Contemporary Image of Crucifix

Icon of Mandylion
Icon of Mandylion

Tumbled Glass and Marble Mosaic
Tumbled Glass and Marble Mosaic

Icon of Holy Mandylion
Icon of Holy Mandylion

More  – later!


With warmest regards,

Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova