egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 1997
This was my very first icon, painted in 1997 in a 6-day intensive workshop under
Vladislav and Olga Andrejev of the Prosopon School of Iconology.
Art and Iconography
ICONS OF ANGELS
Angels and archangels, powerful and mysterious spiritual forces in attendance on God, are
known in many cultures and religions. Their youthful faces nevertheless betray experience
and wisdom, for they are as old as the universe. Light streams from their wings.
Archangels are depicted as handsome beardless young men, gorgeously arrayed as
Byzantine princes. Their light blue hair bands, ending in floating ribbons or even white
lightning, function as “antennae” to instantly pick up instructions from God. The transparent
globe and slender staff are emblems of their angelic powers and their affiliation with the Divine.
Most familiar are four archangels; Michael, Gabriel, Raphael,
and Uriel. Each is associated with one of the traditional elements.
Orthodox Christians recognize 7 or even 8 archangels, each
associated with a color in a chakra-like system of ascending
spirituality. Michael and Gabriel are especially revered, and
are shown in adoration on the iconostasis (icon screen) in
God, or aspects of God, may also be personified as angels
– see Creation.
In some icons, you will see angels of other orders, particularly the 6-winged seraphim.
Head of Archangel Gabriel
egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 5 x 6 inches, 2006
Gabriel is God’s messenger, making several appearances in the Bible.
Most memorably, he is the angel of the Annunciation – a startling moment
frequently depicted in art and iconography. It is Gabriel who appears
suddenly to tell the young Mary that she will have a very special baby.
For an icon of The Annunciation, go to the Icons of Mary page, with further
remarks on the Step by Step and Landscape, Buildings, and Furniture pages.
Gabriel’s element is water, and his outer garment is "watery" blue.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2005
Inscription: "Winged Angels - the Bright Shadows Cast in Heaven by the Light of Lights"
(paraphrased) from "The Shadows" by George Macdonald
Photograph by Richard Anderson
Uriel is not mentioned in the Bible, and far less known than Michael, Gabriel,
Uriel is here depicted as recording archangel or the memory of God, holding the
Book of Life which contains all the memories of the universe. His element is air.
He wears a flame-orange robe over a green-gold tunic, and his wings are green.
Being little known, Uriel has become an object of speculation and imagination.
A web search for Uriel will bring up much amazing and contradictory material.
Angels often appear as
details of other icons.
By tradition, there are
many types of angelic
beings and they take
many forms, including
seraphim and cherubim
who surround Christ in
Glory, and the wheel
shaped "thrones" at his
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2003
inscription from the Book of Tobit (paraphrased)
Raphael appears as a in the apocryphal Book of Tobit, as the friend and
companion to the young man Tobias who must seek his fortune and a wife.
Only at the end of the book does Raphael reveal his angelic identity.
Raphael is particularly concerned with the welfare of children and families. He
is known as "the angel of happy meeting."
His element is fire, so his hair band may be shown with a center jewel of small
flames. His spear is tipped with flame. His robe is a flaming red-orange, and
his wings are usually shown red-violet.
acrylic on Claybord®, 11 x 14 inches, 2002
On occasion I have been away from home without my egg tempera
supplies, and have worked in other mediums. Each has its pros and cons.
Some iconographers prefer acrylic - it dries quickly and requires no olifa or
other coating - but I like egg tempera for its authentic "look" and because it
is more suitable for fine detail.
Head of Archangel Gabriel
cold encaustic on Claybord®, 9 x 12 inches, 2006
Here is the same icon drawing interpreted in a very different medium, cold
encaustic, on a board almost twice the size of the one above. It was painted in
a spring 2006 workshop taught by Rebecca Alex at the Mendocino Art Center.
Many early icons were painted in encaustic (hot colored wax) - a touchy and
rather hazardous medium which produces glowing lifelike skin tones and
appealing texture, but little detail.
In the cold encaustic technique, an acrylic under-painting is first applied,
followed by wax medium colored with oil paint. The surface is then melted
slightly with a heat gun or incandescent lamp. Unfortunately, the fumes
disagreed with me - but I enjoyed trying this new way of painting.
In contemporary icon workshops, the first icon painted is usually
an icon of an angel.
You will find several icons of angels on the Artist Friends page.
egg tempera and gold leaf on shaped panel, 2007
photograph by Richard Anderson
Michael is the commander of the heavenly hosts and the great defender
against evil, especially in time of war. He is often shown in armor, and
sometimes on horseback or slaying a dragon. (His wings distinguish him
from similar depictions of Saint George.) Michael frequently appears on war
In France and Britain, Michael is particularly associated with the fortress-like
towers at the west end of churches and cathedrals, and with high, west-
facing coastal outposts such as Mont Saint Michel in France.
Among the archangels, Michael is most directly concerned with the troubles
of us earthlings. His element is earth, and he wears an “earthy” red outer
egg tempera and gold leaf on sculpted board,
9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2004
This full-length figure of Archangel Michael was based on a drawing from the Orthodox Church in Finland.
He is shown as though just coming in for a landing, with his large feet outstretched to touch Planet Earth.
The rugged and mountainous landscape is very typical for icon subjects set outdoors. The cave at Michael's
feet represents the mysterious unknown, the depths into which we cannot see or penetrate.
Christ is Risen!
He is not here. See the place where they laid him.
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 11 x 14 inches, 2010
Photograph by Richard Anderson
Early on the first Easter morning, a group of women who are among Jesus'
devoted friends arrive at his tomb, carrying ointments for his body.
When they arrive, an angel greets them with the unexpected news of the