Education and Arts

The Art of Creating an Icon

The four students were each awarded a scholarship to undertake a five-day hands-on work shop with world renowned Russian iconographers Phillip Davydov and his wife Olga Shalamova held at the ACU Melbourne Gallery in January this year. 

"Philip has generously offered scholarships over the past five years to Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design, Bachelor of Teaching/ Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) , Creative Arts and Bachelor of Arts students majoring in visual art.  Philip is a second-generation iconographer with more than 15 years' experience - he and Olga are also the founders of Sacred Murals Studio based in Saint Petersburg Russia," commented Dr Catherine Bell, National Course Director of the Bachelor of Visual Art and Design with ACU's Faculty of Education and Arts 

Johanna van der Linden, Julie Moloney, Sarah Horvath and Laura Kirkham- were elated to be awarded the scholarship. The students had never been taught how to do this style of painting before, so to be chosen was very special. "The students benefit greatly from learning the traditional techniques and working for an intense period in the studio to create an icon with classmates from all over Australia. The skills they learn often influence the artwork they produce during their degree," explained Dr Bell.

This year the class produced an icon of the 'Mother of God Orant' in egg tempera. At the beginning of the class students were presented with a white-gessoed board, brushes and other instruments and materials. The workshop began with exercises on paper that taught students to plan the image, its composition and the structure. 

"Philip taught us how to structure a face, body and drapery without having any visual aids such as a model or a still set up," said Julie Moloney who is studying the Bachelor of Visual Art and Design. 

During the course every participant was taught how to start and complete an icon according to the traditional egg tempera method. Daily lectures with slide presentations and discussions on different topics, such as theology and the history of medieval Christian art and practical and theoretical questions of contemporary iconography, added value to the students' learning.

Every session began with a prayer. 

Laura Kirkham, who is studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History and Visual Art, commented "It was almost meditative; I enjoyed it, it was very relaxing in a way, I thought it would be more gung-ho but I was pleasantly surprised." 

Painting an icon is done in a totally focused and concentrated way with no chatting or music. 

Johanna van der Linden who is studying a Bachelor of Teaching/ Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) explained her surprise at how quickly the artwork started to take shape. "We did a lot of detailed work in the start - the drawing process included measuring and at times using a compass. I was really surprised that we were making a whole icon in five days, but you could see it start to take shape after only three days. "

The experience was well enjoyed by all students and they are all happy with their new skills and techniques. 

Sarah Horvath, who is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts, especially mentioned that she was happy with all that she learnt, from new techniques to the history of iconography. "I've learnt new painting techniques and have also explored a traditional way of painting. Philip's lectures are very interesting he goes into a lot of detail and you learn a lot."

When asked what advice he would give to visual arts students, Philip said,

Every art work not only needs execution but also planning. You must firstly have an idea in your mind that can be explained not only verbally but most importantly visually. I believe all visual art must work without words.

Each year, Philip Davydov holds icon painting classes at the ACU Melbourne Gallery in January and offers ACU students scholarships to take part in the workshops - The scholarships are awarded to high performing first year students who are studying the Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design/Creative Arts/Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching/ Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) who have excelled in the painting and drawing units Arts 109 2D Studies 1 and Arts 241 2D Studies 2.

(Pictured below is Philip Davydov)
Philip Painting

(Pictured below is Olga Shalamova)
Olga painting

(Pictured below is Johanna van der Linden)

(Pictured below is Julie Moloney)

(Pictured below is Laura Kirham)

(Pictured below is Sarah Hovarth)