Background Information about
and iconography

    According to tradition, the earliest icon was written/painted by St. Luke.  Icons are said to be "written" because they are seen as theology the way Scripture is.  That is, they accurately represent the faith of the Church.  For example, the source of light in an icon is God in and around the saint.  There isn't, as in much of Western art, a specific external source of light.  Therefore, an iconographer starts with the darkest colors in each area and then adds the Light, the lighter colors/highlights, to make the icon.  Thus, the face of the saint should be the focus, and especially the eyes of the saint.  Further, unlike Western art, the traditional icon is to present a saint without emotions (with the exception of those who surround Christ during the crucifixion, the taking down from the cross, and the preparation for burial).  This is because a saint is beyond the emotional ups and downs of this life since he/she is so firmly grounded in God.

    In the presentation of Jesus Christ, the iconographer must always show the dual nature of Jesus:  He is fully man and fully God.  He must never be presented solely as one or the other.  For example, an icon of the crucifixion presents Christ with open hands, yielding to God the Father in loving submission.  He dies freely by His own choice.  Further, there is a lightness to His Body, and, although there are nails,  He isn't hanging with weight on the nails:  His love binds Him to the cross.  At the base of the cross there is generally a small cave-like area between the rocks.  This speaks of the earthquake at the death of Jesus that Scripture relates.  If one looks carefully, there is a skull in that cave.  The Blood of Christ drips down the cross and over the skull because the skull represents Adam.  Again, the theology is the most important focus.  The Blood of Christ breaks the bondage of sin and death in the first Adam.  The New Adam washes away sin and brings that which was dead into life abundant..

    Likewise, one of the icons depicting the resurrection shows Jesus standing on the broken doors of Hell.  These doors frequently are crossed so that one sees that the breaking of Hell's power is only in the cross of Christ Jesus.  In addition, Jesus is reaching out and taking hold of a man and woman, Adam and Eve.  He pulls them from death into life.  They do not take hold of Him and pull themselves out.

    Early in Church history, a group, called "iconoclasts" since they wanted to do away with icons, claimed that icons were contrary to the Word of God since they were images and would fall under the prohibition against graven images in the Ten Commandments.  The response of the Church, however, was that, when God became incarnate, there was a physical representation/reality, and, therefore, one could paint that reality.  In effect, one could picture God Incarnate.  Traditional Orthodox iconography does NOT, however, picture God the Father.  There is an Old Testament Trinity icon, but it is a presentation of the theophany in the angelic visitation to Abraham.

    Still, while icons are windows to heaven and theologically orthodox, they are not, in themselves, the focus.  They are a window for us to know the living God in His saving work in His people.  The pictures are seen as holy in that they point to the prototype.  They are not holy in themselves.  For this reason, the icon is not a valid icon until the name of the saint is written on it.  Thus, once the identity is clearly stated, we can see the manifestation of God's grace, through the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary, in the specific saint.  This is not a namless figure:  this is a specific saint who reflected and revealed the holiness of God and, in representation, still does.

    Icons are never seen as "new" in the sense of separate and recent.  All icons of Elijah being fed in the wilderness by the raven, for example, are seen as the same icon.  They all partake of the one reality.  All are the same, the one, icon.  Because of this, a painter/writer of icons is free to copy another icon.  If someone wants to use any of my icons for a link on their page, I give permission for that but would like to be informed.  If someone wishes to use an icon of my work for any other purpose, including making cards or including it in any publication, please contact me for rights and permission.

    Another theological concept is that the perspective in an icon is generally reversed.  What is further away is larger.  Hence, a footstool gets larger in the back and smaller in the foreground.   The idea is that the vanishing point, the spot at which the lines "point" or converge, is the viewer.  WE are called to enter, to come into the fullness of God's gifts.  The largest part is there, inside, where God is in His people.  In the same way, the Light of God in the saint illumines the viewer.  Again, we are beckoned to by the icon.  Icons invite us, call us, beckon to us to enter a place of silence and stillness, a place where we can be still and know that God is God.