The dreadful looking mess in the top right photo is the 'proplasmos' layer of sample painted according to the Prosopon School of Iconology technique. Prosopon was founded by a Russian emigre in New York, and I recently attended a little workshop given to members of the British Association of Iconographers by Irina Bradley, Buckinghamshire-based Grand Master: you can visit her website at http://www.irinabradley.com/index.html. Proplasmos is the primal soup (or in the English translation 'chaos') from which God began the work of creation. We were copying a detail of Irina's own icon of the heavenly Jerusalem, pictured left. The technique relies on a textural sub-layer, created with gritty pigments in a very dilute suspension applied wet in small pools - as the pools dry they leave mottles and swirls on the surface of the gesso, exploiting the natural tendency of different weight crystals to separate out. When the proplasmos layer is dry, the large crystals are scraped off with a palette knife. This underlayer is then modified by many successive scumbles and glazes, ending with the characteristic abstract white highlights. Picture 2 shows the colours intensified and some rough delineation of the forms, picture 3 some quick highlights in white to demonstrate the next stage. A finished icon painted by this technique can have twenty or thirty transparent layers which produce a lively, even busy, visual effect. On the whole not a technique for the the control freak.
The view from my desk
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