Newsletter March 2023: Time.
Hello, dear Friend,
After a year away from home I will share some thoughts about time. Here is the first one: Iconography is timeless, but iconographers are not. Last year has taught us that what really matters is time. It’s indeed the most precious professional resource. The category of time is as important to our work, as other artistic categories, like color, tonal values, composition, texture, et cetera. Literally how QUICKLY or SLOWLY we apply paint influences our image as much, and sometimes even more, than where we apply it. Our eye not only captures the “picture”, but also the physics and energy of the brushstrokes. If the brushstrokes were slow, the image radiates peacefulness, and if they were fast, the energy will have no chance of being hidden, - it will radiate through the surface.
The order of our actions is important too. If you paint an icon following a plan, building your message steadily and securely, the beholder will feel in safe hands. If you accept the temptation to constantly go back and forth fixing this or that, the overall vision will be spoiled by uncertainty and insecurity.
One more thing, which may not be evident at the first glance: not only what we do matters, - we don’t do matters too. If we didn’t make a change, where we feel we needed to make one. If we don’t consult with a reference, where we thought we needed to. If we don’t try to overgrow ourselves, doing the job better than we ever could, - it’s often also a question of time.
Speaking generally, artists (iconographers included) convert minutes, hours and days of their lives into something that they hope will become a good image, counting on their own professionalism, experience and dedication.
We spend time choosing our model(s) and making preparatory drawings and sketches. We also spend time when we start working with a pencil or a brush on a gessoed board or wall, and also we spend it when we are resting. We need time not only to draw and paint, but to prepare our tools and materials, to fix what went wrong, to redo what needs to be redone. Time is spent mixing, diluting, varnishing, cleaning, photographing, labeling, wrapping, and shipping, - for so many little things, that artists don’t usually mention, as they seem to be too small steps on their road to Purpose.
All above may seem boring and evident, but it was a necessary preface, as I needed to show how we as artists are burdened and worried about the results we are having.
What if it’s a wrong anxiety and the focus of our job should be different?
Here in Georgia we see lots of medieval churches, and just looking at their icons, murals and even the architecture I more and more have a feeling that these artists were reasoning from a totally different position. I guess that they had an ability to look at their work from “it’s” point of view. In other words it is worth thinking: - how would the image want me to work with it? And maybe it is time for checking the options proposed by the image? Maybe we should slightly alter our original plan?
This tip is not mine, it is often given in artist’s recommendations (including those from Leonardo): try noticing what you already have in your board or wall and go forward developing it. Let the context work, so you will foster your image instead of struggling with it.
I hope this may inspire some of you to have some new vision. We all work hard painting images of God, Who Is Above time, yet we constantly hurry, worry and procrastinate. Yet, having a special “program” in mind we may work more thoughtfully, and remembering to consider a different option, we will give more significance to what we are doing.
That’s what the last year taught me, - having little time for iconography I wanted to use it well, and I learned to be more active in seeing, not doing.
Life in a new country has great advantages: you are extremely motivated to survive, and yet you can’t limit yourself to just doing “the job”. As human beings we all need at least a little bit of time for creativity, so we allowed ourselves to have some weekly painting time. At a certain point I realized that working with no personal feedback was totally new for me. I discovered that doing anything work in total freedom, not being limited by any context or circumstances, you have all chances to start treating your work like a hobby. When I realized that I began worrying, but soon I changed my mind and decided to show people what we do and make a new website instead.
I am very grateful to those who explained to me a simple truth, that a website has to be simple and clear. That was the problem I struggled most - to avoid any effects or animation, but just present the images. I am endlessly grateful to my friend Anton, who continuously helps me with all my crazy ideas, and at the end all came out well.
Our new shop pages are dedicated to different technologies. You will see Egg Tempera icons, Encaustic icons, Icons on Old Wood, Icons on Fabric and icons on Ceramic Roof Tiles. If you like anything, click the “inquire” button and you will see a simple contact form: tell us what you think or ask questions, we will answer you as soon as we can. I think I am most proud of my idea of connecting our website with Pinterest and also making all printable images really printable. Here is how it works: - opening a particular image page you will see the image description and a “PRINT” button next to it. It brings you to our print-on-demand page, - choose your location to find their nearest Execution Center, - then you will see the best delivery cost and price.
Most icons we painted here in Georgia are small, and after publishing them on Instagram or Facebook we continuously have inquiries if they are for sale and how much we charge. To give a clear picture of prices we published all the prices next to the images, now everyone can see the cost and inquire about the best shipping rate directly from the web page. By the way, we began using a special tariff for Ground delivery to some countries, which is much more affordable.
The Gallery also seems to be in a better order now, - it also has several pages for different types of images, including the ones for the church Interiors, Icons on Textiles and the Utensils. We will be adding some more features and details, but technically everything seems to be working now, however, if you notice anything wrong or malfunctioning, please, let us know!
MONTHLY MEETINGS PAGE
One more news (thanks to the new website!). Last Saturday we had our 10th Monthly Meeting of Iconographers and looks like this initiative has a good reception, - some videos have more than 200 views! So, we will continue and I decided to make a special page on our website, where I will share the information about the next meetings. It should always be the Last Saturday of the month, but to make sure and to see actual the time schedule, please visit a Special page.
Lately we had numerous inquiries about the Asymmetrical Faces course. Looks like this course has a special value, so we decided to add one more option to our calendar. There will be one more opportunity to join it, - you can start with a group on the 20th of April and study till the 29th of June. Check the description, if it works for you.
LIFE + PLANS
We continue loving our stage in Tbilisi and our son Lev likes his Art Academy in Yerevan (Armenia), where he studies with the Erasmus Students Exchange program. We pray and hope that he changes his mind and finds some educational institution abroad to finish his bachelor degree… But yet he wants to return back to St Petersburg as he does not see the danger. Well, by the end of May we hope he makes up his mind… We hope he does :)
And in the meantime it looks like we should begin some new adventure. Well, first I will resume my work translating Olga’s text about her creative working process, and then… And then we will either start planning a “3/4 Face View” course together, or I will resume working on my “Theology of Iconography” course. A 4K camera is on it’s way, - stay tuned.
And thank you again for your continuous support!
With warmest greetings,
Philip & Olga
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