With a short deadline to meet, I worked quickly with the team, exchanging ideas and layouts for the figures, legends and symbols they elicited.My sketches had all been completed and approved, and I was on the starting blocks, (so to speak) with paintbrush in hand, motivated and eager to make a start.
However, when there was a sudden change of plan… I was informed that the icons were now to resemble something closer to photographic portraits.
I felt for the team, as a setback like this can dent motivation when work is going well. They understood that the sketches had to be re- adjusted to suit, and the deadline would have to be set further forward than desired. The new September term was looming...
I recalled that it was Abraham Lincoln who warned on the dangers of "changing horses’ midstream..." And although sudden change can be unsettling, I have come to accept that it is usually part of God’s plan.
I’d been troubled by the unusual depiction of St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) in particular, as the original sketch showed her in Carmelite habit. However, one morning before mass, I imagined her holding up the brown scapular. (In this way, she would still be wearing the carmelite habit). This is something the school children may never have encountered had she been portrayed in her full Carmelite habit.
After this I found myself able to jump the hurdles set before me like a Grand National equine; obstacles were overcome and the icons completed with a few days to spare!
I hope the children will learn not only about the life of St. Teresa Benedicta, as a victim of the holocaust, but also of that important event in their English Catholic heritage; when the Blessed Virgin favoured St. Simon Stock with the brown scapular of Carmel.
"St. Simon was an Englishman, a man of great holiness and devotion, who always in his prayers asked the Virgin to favour his Order with some singular privilege. The Virgin appeared to him holding the Scapular in her hand. In its original context, the meaning of this promise was that Carmelite religious who persevered in their vocation would be saved. Beginning in the 16th century, the Carmelites began giving the brown scapular to lay people who wanted to be affiliated with the Order, and it became increasingly popular as a religious article.
As promised, photos of the finished Gothic statues, which had been awaiting restoration in our previous post, "Lenten Challenge".
The surfaces were restored to their original colours and decoration, which had been altered by a previous restorer; likewise the face and flesh areas were repainted to present a natural look...(rather than heavily applied make - up!)
As promised, the results of our most recent restoration; a Madonna statue which was missing a hand, and the cross for the Christ child's orb.
She now holds Rosary beads rather than a sceptre, as the statue will be installed in a prayer room dedicated to the Rosary.
Research showed that hangman's noose at the neck, and a dagger in the chest was the usual motif.With twenty characters to depict, the dagger and rope may have got a bit "samey". Variety was needed to pay tribute to each individual Saint.
Putting Faces to Names
I though it best to follow convention where "portraits" of the Martyrs were concerned, working from historic images of them.
Unable to find any portraits of Blessed Thomas Maxfield, I had to decide on his appearance, and what symbols I could use to identify him;
and so here is what I chose:
The flowers he holds signify more than just the fact that both the Gallows and his path to them were strewn with wild flowers; I chose species which represent the blood of the martyrs and their association with the passion of Christ.
The butterfly is a nod to his having suffered biting insects when imprisoned; though I have used here the symbol of "Eternal Life".
Balancing act with colours
The composition of the mural was to echo the paintings of Giotto and Fra Angelico.
As both had distinct styles, I chose elements from both to achieve the desired marriage between the two!
These artists did not use perspective as a contemporary artist would, and they favoured large discs of halos, and layering of their figures.
A priest I know had been looking for a statue of the Blessed Virgin and couldn't find anything suitable; either size wise or budget wise.
The uniformity of contemporary catalogue statues left him cold.
With costs of buying from abroad proving a little "too high" the answer lay in commissioning something that would
9) Taking charge of her confraternities, decorating her altars, crowning and adorning her statues.
10) Carrying her statues or having others carry them in procession, or keeping a small one on one's person as a effective protection against the evil one.
11) Having statues made of her, or her name engraved and placed on the walls of churches or houses and on the gates and entrances of towns, churches and houses.
Recently, we have been planning the restoration of a Marian themed retable at an Accrington church.
It was installed in the mid 1930's and was designed by the renowned Architect "Giles Gilbert Scott" - Most commonly known for his design of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, and the once familiar red telephone box.
A new Retable on the opposite transept of the church had been installed in the 1970's; and with all the re-ordering in process; (which advocated " In with the new, and out with the old.")
It was decided that the old Marian Retable should be adjusted to match the new one....(rather than vice versa! )
I've been asked by Father C to re-design the decorative scheme for this altar, to evoke Christ, rather than his Mother Mary, the Blessed Virgin.
As a "nod to its age, it will be in a medieval gothic style. (I believe its from the days of the architect Pugin, or slightly earlier.)
I'll post again when its done with some before and after images,
until then, to the left is William Blakes marvellous work " Ancient of Days" depicting God measuring out the universe with a Compass.
Art and Maths need each other, like faith and reason; Seems Blake and Pugin understood that Divine order- liness, extends even unto the realm of liturgical arts!
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One of my first Icons was commissioned by Revd. "B"
a native of the U.S.A. yet serving us spiritually here in the U.K. for a number of Years.
He looked after three parishes, two of which were built in the eleventh century.
He had once felt a call to come to England, and he and his wife responded generously; having arrived in the U.K. they awaited the Spirit's lead.
As so often happens, it was when they were on the cusp of leaving; that his ministry to the Anglican communion suddenly opened up, and he was assigned his first parish.
Preparing traditional gesso for the icon ground with whiting and animal glue.
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