Learn to paint icons the tradition way, the Catholic way

by David Clayton on March 20, 2012

Many people think that icons are the preserve of the Eastern Church, or even the Orthodox Church. So it may surprise you to discover that this is not true. The iconographic tradition is as firmly rooted in the West as it is in the East. To give just one example, did you know that traditional Celtic art is iconographic? Did you know also that what we see taught in most icon classes today is not part of an unbroken tradition that goes back to the early church, but a modern construct created by Russian ex-pats living in France in the mid-20th century? If you want to understand what an icon really is and to learn how to paint icons in the traditional, Catholic way then come along to the icon painting week that I am teaching at the Way of Beauty Atelier is hosting at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts this summer in Merrimack, NH. For more details go to the page on the Thomas More College website, here. Hope to see you in the summer!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine Janke July 31, 2014 at 7:43 am

Am I reading between the lines here that the Prosopone school is not the traditional way? What about Philip Davydov “way”, what exactly makes a “Catholic” icon, what exact difference does it make what “way”, we create an icon? If it is done in prayer, contemplation, and to honor or get closer in spirit to whomever we are “painting”, does it matter if it is not “catholic” whatever that might mean.
I am in a guild in Williamsburg, we have Greek Orthodox, Ukranian Catholics, Catholics, Presbyterians, and who knows what else, and who cares?! Our members have taken lessons from Prosopone, and others in Italy, France, Moscow, St Petersburg, Richmond, and on and on. We share ideas and work on techniques, pray, and contemplate what we are doing.
To say the least, I am a little upset at the thought of a “Catholic way” of writing an icon.if an icon is blessed and put on the altar of a Ukranian Catholic Church, does that make it less significant than if it is put on a Catholic altar, and written in a Catholic tradition?
I truly admire the icon work you do, and enjoy receiving your emails, but what is it about Catholics that they seem to think they are special and just plain better than everyone else? I can say this true on authority, as I was born and raised Catholic, attended 14 years of private Catholic schools, and survived thru this general thinking that we are better than others.
I run out of time — aren’t you the lucky one– as I have to go to work, but I am truly vexed as to what makes a Catholic icon verses ?
Thank you for any help you may be on this qualification.
Christine Janke


David Clayton August 2, 2014 at 8:26 am

Dear Christine, thank you for you points, but I am puzzled by your letter and I am sorry you are vexed. In regard to the points you make, Ukrainian Catholic is Catholic so other things being equal, that would be fully in accord with what I am saying. Catholics are not special people, but Catholics are especially blest I believe because the Catholic Church exclusively teaches the full Truth. In regard to images, what we now call icons are fully in accord with the Catholic world view, whoever paints them, but so are the traditions of the gothic and the baroque. The point is that the view that only the iconographic tradition is valid, which some hold, is a limited one. The Catholic view is much more open and tolerant to other forms including the iconographic. So as usual, the fullest expression of the truth emerges from the Church. David


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