Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Labor of Love Part 3: Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen!
Indeed He is Risen!

It's been a few days since an update. I have been hard at work painting even with Holy Week wrapping up and all of the festivities for Pascha. This is usually a difficult time of year for me. I am very busy with all of the services, especially since I have to chant at all of them. My duties with Parish Council have also added to the amount of work I have to do. And of course this is a busy time for commissions as well. Then this year I had an added bit of fun. On Friday about half an hour before I had to leave for Vespers, I lost my footing and almost sprained my ankle, but instead fell forward and slammed my sternum against the corner of a chair, slammed my arm against the wall, and my knee against the floor. Needless to say I was plenty sore by the time I was done with Church on Sunday afternoon. Now I am finally somewhat rested.

But despite all of that, I was very glad to have spent so much time at the Church celebrating the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. On Saturday I was so moved by the thought that by Pascha of next year I will be married and able to celebrate the Resurrection with my wife. It has been a long time since I have been able to celebrate with someone that I love. My family has all moved away and none of them really go to Church much anymore, and I have felt this loss a lot over the years. There is something very sad about feeling alone when we are created to live in community and love. So I am very thankful that God has given this to me again, even if I have to wait a little bit longer.

Most of the time I was not in Church was spent with paint brush in hand. By Friday afternoon I had the faces finished, and the icon was looking almost done. Today I finished the lettering, all the rest of the trims, borders, and pinstriping, as well as the gold. It is all but finished now.

I still have to come up with something decotative to go at the bottom, and I am contemplating a painted pattern within the halos, but otherwise that icon is done. Tonight I started a drawing for the matching icon of Christ so that I can get started on that. But I had to try to finish the icon of the Theotokos because it is the same icon that we will be painting in the class in June, and we are going to use it for advertisements and brochures.

Now that I see it done, though, I am really starting to get excited about what this will look like when I am all finished with the other icons. I will be installing at least the first two when I go for the class in June. It should be such a big change from the prints that they have now. And everyone that Lisa has shown the pictures to has been thrilled. It makes me so happy to be able to do something nice for this group of people who has welcomed me with open arms and who will be my Church community soon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Labor of Love Part 2: Working for the Man

I love my job. I am so thankful that I am able to spend my days painting icons to proclaim the gospel, to teach the faith, and to beautify churches and homes. But sometimes I don't like my job. There is something about doing anything for a living that has a way of taking the joy out of the work. Lately I have been in a bit of a slump when it comes to painting. It is hard to motivate myself to start painting. It is hard to pinpoint why this is the case except that everything I have been painting lately has been a commission. It has been a while since I have painted something just for the joy of painting. It has been a while since I painted a subject of my own choosing based on a prototype I love, just because I feel drawn to it.
I can't express how wonderful it is to be working on this project. And that joy then carries over to my other work. Since I started working on this icon, I haven't gotten less done on my commissions, I have gotten more done. Work goes so much more quickly, so much more effortlessly when it is done joyfully. I wish I could say that each and every icon is a joy because it is the image and likeness of God in His servants that I am depicting. But sadly, I lose sight of that far to often. The daily becomes mundane, and we quickly forget. And this is the state of my spiritual life as a whole. Just when I learn a lesson, just at the point that I think I have my life on track, I depart from God with my mind, and with my heart. And it takes me some time to realize that I have strayed. And once I do realize this, it is hard to even remember which direction to move to get back. But all it really takes is to find a little time to focus on God, to rekindle that joy. As St. James says, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
This project is my way of drawing near to God in some small way. And with every little step, I know that God is running to greet me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Labor of Love, Part 1

I have come to the realization that I am not the most prolific blogger. For someone with as much time as I have to sit around and think, it should be much easier for me to spend a few moments of the day writing down something that I spent hours thinking about. But the truth is that most of the time I prefer to think my thoughts and then let them go rather than saving them for posterity. After all, some of my thoughts are best left forgotten. But it seems to me a shame to have this blog and not really use it.

So this will hopefully be the beginning of a series of posts which should go on over the next few weeks and months. Lisa attends Holy Transfiguration Antiochian Orthodox Church, a small mission parish in Boise, Idaho, and while she would very much like to be married in that Church because of her close friendships with everyone there, when she visited me in Pennsylvania she remarked that she would rather get married in my church because it is so much more beautiful with all of the icons that we have. I told her that I had a solution to her dilemma which was that I could make her Church more beautiful.

In all the years that I have been working as an iconographer, I have done a lot of work in Churches, but it seems like every commission has to match the other icons in the church. I have yet to paint an entire iconostasis because I keep getting work at established parishes. I am certainly not complaining about the work that I have been given, but part of me wants to do something from start to finish. So I have an opportunity to fulfill a little bit of a dream for myself, give a wedding gift to my future bride, and give a small Mission something that they could never afford (and I get a tax deduction out of it to boot...)

So a few nights ago I began the first icon for the iconostasis. It is an icon of the Pimen Mother of God, and in the next few days I hope to draw up the icon of Christ to match it. I have decided to document the work, and use it as fuel for my blog. The added benefit of that is that the people of the Church can check in and see what is happening. In addition, there are plans underway for me to teach a class on iconography (more details in the next couple weeks hopefully) from June 9-13 in Boise, and we will be painting the same icon in the class, so this will give me images to use in advertising for the class, and hopefully I can use this blog to get better coverage and fill up that class since part of the profits from the class will be used to support this parish that will be my spiritual home in a few months time.