Icons, a style of liturgical painting commonly associated with the Orthodox Church and monasteries, are as unique as the “image writers” who produce them.
Meet Iconographer Jennifer Richard-Morrow who this year brought her years of work as an artist and a student of icon paintings to deliver an icon for the local chapter of the Ignatian Volunteer Corp.
“Icons combine both prayer and painting,” explains Richard-Morrow. “it’s a deep prayerful experience for me.”
Icons are painted on wood rather than canvas and employ the use of egg tempera, a form of paint that is created by mixing egg yolk with powdered pigments and a little water which Richard-Morrow made at her home studio. Iconography also incorporates an understanding of “sacred geometry,” arrangements of geometric forms and lines. The effort also requires research, in this case, into the life of St. Ignatius in order to render an accurate depiction of appearance and attire.
“You can’t just sit down one day and say ‘I think I’ll paint an icon of a saint today,'” she says.
As part of her process, Richard-Morrow studied prototypes of icons depicting saints, researched images of St.
Ignatius and his life. She also leveraged her experience visiting the tomb and living quarters at the Church of Gesu in Rome, Italy.
“One of the things that stood out to me was his mysticism,” she says.
The 8 x 11.5-inch icon, one of dozens Richard-Morrow has painted over the years, took about a month to finish and remains with IVC which unveiled the work at one of it’s monthly volunteer gatherings earlier this year where it clearly evoked a prayerful ambience and connection between the icon and the observers.
“Jennifer’s work is inspiring and is a good example of how we can see God in all things,” says IVC Albany Director Kathleen Burgess.
Iconographer Richard-Morrow’s representation of St. Ignatius reflects her passion for art as well as history. A graduate of the College of St. Rose where she earned a BA in studio art, she has worked as a museum educator at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, a park ranger at the Saratoga National Historic Park, and as a docent at the replica ship Half Moon. She is a parishioner at St. Vincent’s parish in Albany. A gallery of her work can be seen on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FortOranjeArt/
Rules of Iconography
- Before starting work, make the sign of the Cross; pray in silence and pardon your enemies.
- Work with care on every detail of your icon, as if you were working in front of the Lord Himself.
- During work, pray in order to strengthen yourself physically and spiritually; avoid all useless words, and keep silence.
- Pray in particular to the Saint whose face you are painting. Keep your mind from distractions, and the Saint will be close to you.
- When you choose a colour, stretch out your hands interiorly to the Lord and ask His Counsel.
- Do not be jealous of your neighbour’s work; his/her success is your success too.
- When your icon is finished, thank God that His Mercy granted you the grace to paint the Holy Images.
- Have your icon blessed by putting it on the Holy Table of your parish church. Be the first to pray before it, before giving it to others.
- Never forget:
- joy of spreading icons throughout the world.
- the joy of the work of icon writing.
- the joy of giving the Saint the possibility to shine through his/her icon.
- the joy of being in union with the Saint whose face you are revealing.