The first time I painted a crucifix it was back in 2010. I hadlaunched my website gallery and it was one of the first enquiries I received. I was thrilled. The client had just restored a house on Orkney and wanted a painted crucifix for it. (He asked why I wasn't advertising in The Church Times or The Tablet: but if you've ever inquired about the prices in those two publications you'll know one would have to be more of a Damien Hurst than a penniless iconographer to afford any space there.) That first crucifix of mine was of the type known as 'Christus patiens', showing a dead Christ, eyes closed, bloodied, hanging limp and twisted from his nails. This is the style of crucifix we in Western Europe see more often than the older Byzantine type - 'Christus gloriosus' - where Jesus is shown upright with arms outstretched, eyes open. The famous Franciscan Cross of St Damiano is of this kind.
More than seven years on, and mindful of the old adage about the cobbler's children going unshod, I decided it was time I made a crucifix for our own home. Most things I paint are commissions or are for sale elsewhere, so no sooner do we get used to something being on the wall than it disappears. I'm glad of that really, it gives me the chance to try again. Though I shan't be trying again with a crucifix unless I can buy a ready-made blank. I had forgotten how difficult a shape it is to cut without specialist equipment. Casting around the internet for my inspiration, I ran across some wonderful images from the Franciscan museum in Zadar, Croatia. Another one for the bucket list.... If you make it there before I do, please abandon the beach one day in favour of this place and report back. Croatia is a bit of a hybrid East-meets-West place, iconographically speaking. A largely Catholic country, but with many influences from the East. The 11th century cross which I took as my chief model shows Christ standing rather than hanging, calm and strong. He is not twisted and emaciated or smothered in gore. Instead of a loin cloth he sports a rather fetching sort of brocade kilt which I lifted wholesale. But what I really wanted - and failed - to recreate was the magnificent face of Christ in my second, black and white image below. Also from Zadar, from a nunnery destroyed by Allied bombing during the second world war, tragically this partial photo seems to be all that remains of this most haunting icon.
The view from my desk
Current work, places and events, art travel, and interesting snippets about Christian icons, medieval art, manuscript illumination, egg tempera , gilding, technique and materials.