Education and Arts

The Essence of an Icon

The Essence of an IconRussian Iconography was something Hannah Prior knew very little about before undertaking Philip Davydov and his wife Olga Shalamova’s icon painting workshop in January this year. However, as a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design student, it was a desire to learn more about the techniques of this traditional art which sparked her interest.

Hannah, along with fellow ACU students Sofia Anne Pefianco and Samantha Kerlin, were each awarded a scholarship to take part in the five-day course held at ACU’s Melbourne Art Gallery. Scholarships for the workshop are offered to high-performing first year students who have excelled in painting and drawing units offered in the Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design degree, or as electives in other degrees.

Coming into the workshop both Hannah and Sofia Anne had few expectations, but came away from the course with an understanding and appreciation of how icons are painted, the underlying construction to them, and how they are made to function in prayer. Icon painting uses a traditional method known as egg tempera, a process which Hannah likened to the way in which watercolours are used.

Hannah said about the course:

“My favourite part of the course was simply mixing paints. It was really exciting just being able to use a mortar and pestle to ground pigments with egg.”

Now in its seventh year, the workshop is a mix of theory, demonstrations and practical elements. Philip and Olga guide students through the meticulous process of iconography, ensuring they complete each step to perfection before moving on to the next. Philip describes the workshop as “visual literacy for artists” which uses “a traditional approach to skills, and basic values such composition, colour, and tone.” For Philip and Olga, the reward is seeing how the students develop over the course of the workshop, learn new things, and build their images step by step.

Reflecting on how the workshop will enhance their future art practices, Hannah and Sofia Anne agreed their learnings will help them to adopt a more considered approach; and will see them both give that little bit of extra love to their work.