The Art of Hand-Painted Icons

The Art of Hand-Painted Icons

Painting a religious icon takes a lot of time and effort. It is a sacred process aimed at creating an insight into a spiritual world. This process is quite long and meticulous; it requires high concentration from the iconographer and usually takes at least three months. The phenomenon of icon painting is attractive due to its primordial nature. It has not changed over the years, unlike many other art forms. For centuries, the technique of icon painting has remained invariable, and hence it has its special meaning. In other words, the creation of hand-painted icons is true art.

How is an icon made?

The creation of hand-painted icons starts with the preparation of the icon board. After sawing, drying, and giving the board the desired shape, it is bonded and primed in a special way. The iconographer puts about fifteen layers of gesso on the linen cloth called canvas. The dried gesso is carefully grinded until the surface of the board is perfectly smooth. Before the icon painter starts working, they put the contours of the drawing on the board with a blunted needle and cover the background with gold leaf. Only after that, the iconographer starts working on the image.

Traditionally, icon painters use egg tempera. These paints are made manually using mineral pigments and egg emulsion. This technique makes it possible to apply both dense colors and the thinnest melts that are used to cover all elements of the composition. At the very end, the icons are covered with olive and varnish.

Hand-painted icons: meaning over form

The main task of any iconographer is not to create an artwork impressing with its refinement and artistic style but to open the door to the sacred world. The images in the hand-painted icons are not meant to look realistic. One can observe the symbolism in gestures, colors, clothes, and every detail put in the religious icon.

It defines the value of these sacred objects. The iconographer focuses on the revelation of the divine nature of the image rather than on the form. The viewer is not distracted by the human features; their gaze is turned to the holy depth of the icon.

Religious icons tell the story and strengthen people’s faith due to the great work of the iconographers who give them meaning and spiritual value.