Delighted yesterday to receive a complimentary copy of a new devotional book from the USA which features my icons! The main author, Dr Carla Sunberg is the president of the Church of the Nazarene's seminary in Kansas, and this little volume has grown out of her PhD researches into the doctrine of theosis, the Cappadocian Mothers, seven extraordinary women from one extraordinary Christian family who lived in Cappadocia (modern Turkey) in the fourth century. The males of the family, who include Basil the Great, are more known these days, so Dr Sunberg is redressing an imbalance in producing this volume of vitae and reflective exercises on these wives, sisters and mothers: all of them saints and spiritual warriors in their own right, some of them powerful land-owning matrons and society ladies, and some who renounced the world for Christ and took up the hermit's life. The author's husband commissioned a whole set of icons honouring the family while the research was in progress, which was a few years ago now. A nice surprise to have them revisited.
This painting was finished and sent for reproduction way back in May or June, but I have had to be very patient about putting it on my boasting page, not wanting to blow the client's cover before they sent out their Christmas cards. Carpenters' Company is one of the ancient trade Guilds of the City of London, though nowadays I think their activity is confined more to charitable sponsorship and promotion rather than actual woodworking. Their guild Hall is a little too grand for woodshavings. Their brief was to include the Company arms and motto, the oak and pine leaves of their crest, something to do with carpentry and some seasonal motifs. I didn't have much notion what the medieval man at work in his woodshed might look like, but I took my inspiration from an amazing Spanish cathedral ceiling painting which immortalises the carpenters who built it. There they are in their stripey aprons and hose, hard at it with axes, chisels, saws and hammers. Working to the theme of 'Make Ready the Stable', a stray line I recollected from a Christmas carol, I wove them in with the heraldic elements, adding in a star and robin in my usual cod-medieval style (more than a nod to the Luttrell Psalter in this case). Delighted with the colour reproduction job the printers have done - colour conversion is never straightforward. The original painting, only about eight inches square, is framed and hanging somewhere in Carpenters' Hall for the rest of time.
This is the first painting to have left my desk for a long time, thanks to a big relocation (foreign country, foreign language, dilapidated house to renovate) which was accompanied by a surprise cancer diagnosis, with all the ensuing strains of seeking and undergoing treatment. It is so time-consuming to be ill! What better way to celebrate my ongoing recovery than with the completion of this unusual commission: the third Miracle at Cana icon I have painted for the same client, but this one a gift for his very special godson's forthcoming marriage. My client had very particular wishes for the overall design and colours, and has personalised the icon with the names of the bride and groom, and a blessing from John's gospel, all in Greek script. I had all the pleasure of wheeling out my best lapis lazuli and ordering a beautifully routed and cradled solid wood board from an artisan in Serbia.
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.