This was the first icon I made of St Francis: to my inner eye he was a wistful young man, newly come from the lifestyle of the wealthy young buck-about-town to the physical hardships of his calling. Thinking of his famous sermon to the birds, and also having in mind Christ's teaching on the sparrows, I perched a small bird on his left hand. Even before the new Pope took the name, I think St Francis was our favourite saint. Since then I have been asked to paint him with so many different birds, meaningful in different ways: robins and sparrows, owls, a Cape white-eye, owls, even a crow. His radical teaching of love for all creation has an urgent meaning in our age, when the results of humankind's exploitative greed are becoming evident.
Sometimes I am asked if there is a recognised 'prototype' for a St Francis icon, which there is not as he is post-schism and therefore not venerated in the Eastern church. There are a few icon panels and frescoes of Francis left to us (a couple of them below) which are more contemporaneous: these emphasise a quite different aspect of St Francis' ministry and uncompromising character.