Greetings From Betsy Porter!
After many years of making art and learning a variety of craft disciplines, I would like to show you some of my work.
During the past several years, sacred icons in the Byzantine style have become my primary art form. I work in the traditional egg tempera paint and gold leaf on a wooden board covered with natural gesso. This time-consuming, contemplative method can produce beautiful results, with subtle but glowing colors and delicate detail.
I used to coordinate a series of informal iconography sessions or classes, usually two Sunday afternoons each month, at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, 500 DeHaro at Mariposa, San Francisco, California 94107. During this COVID-19 time, I host a weekly Zoom session on art and iconography.
Meanwhile, I still enjoy practicing other art disciplines, and learning new ones, in whatever time I can find.
Except as otherwise specifically noted, the icons and art work on this site have been hand-painted by Betsy Porter, using egg tempera paint and gold leaf on a wood board or panel covered with natural gesso. Sacred symbolism infuses these images, materials, and methods.
The great majority of these icons are based on traditional sacred images, developed over the centuries as part of the worship of the Christian orthodox churches. The iconographer (icon painter) does not aim for originality or self-expression, but for a faithful and expressive rendering of the beloved icon.
With experience, however, every iconographer develops a distinctive and identifiable artistic style.
NEW ONLINE ZOOM CLASSES - EVERY SUNDAY, 2 to 3 PM, until the church building re-opens! Contact me for a link; 510-517-5360
We will look at each other's work and discuss iconography. Some weeks we may do a bit of practice painting. No charge, but donations to the church are always welcome.
UPDATED SCHEDULE OF CLASSES NONE SCHEDULED AT THIS TIME!
1:30-5:00 Sunday afternoons at St. Gregory of Nyssa Church, 500 DeHaro at Mariposa, San Francisco, CA
CLASSES WILL NOT RESUME UNTIL THE CHURCH BUILDING REOPENS
Technical Pages with Instructions for How to Paint a Byzantine Icon by the Prosopon Method - Although there is no substitute for a workshop or a series of classes, these pages may be helpful to students of egg tempera painting and to my fellow iconographers.
The Main Technical Page offers an overview of the method and a discussion of mediums for iconography, with a focus on egg tempera painting.
Supply list and sources, including pigments
Selecting a pattern drawing; with some of my favorites
Laying out the icon on its board; selecting a board, and colors
Gilding with gold leaf over red clay bole
Studio tips including use of the ruling pen; true natural gesso
Color recipes for egg tempera paint
Painting roskrish or base colors; brush strokes; line work
Adding highlights and floats
Finishing touches; lines and borders
Making and using shell gold; gold lines over paint
Inscriptions, books, and scrolls
Applying olifa; anointing the finished icon
Landscape, buildings, and furniture in icons
Step by step painting of some recent icons
ETHIOPIA, ITS ART AND ICONS:
My January 2009 pilgrimage to Ethiopia, with some historic icons, plus work by contemporary iconographers Gebre Merha and Smachew Mesfin
FASHIONS OF SAINT GREGORY'S:
Vesting and dressing up for church in San Francisco
In Appreciation To The Prosopon School Of Iconology
With extreme gratitude, I thank the Prosopon School of Iconology and Iconography and its founder, Vladislav Andrejev, for opening to me the philosophy and method of iconography discussed on these pages. I have attempted to transmit his teachings faithfully. Many of the icons on these pages were made with the help of his elegant and beautifully crafted line drawings.
However, there is much on this website that has come to me from other sources, and a good deal with which Vladislav and the teachers of the Prosopon School would probably not agree. Nothing on this site should be construed to imply its review, approval, or endorsement by the Prosopon School.
In Appreciation To The Community Of Artists And Iconographers
In my experience, an artist or iconographer does her best work when surrounded by others who are slightly more knowledgeable and skilled. There is no substitute for a supportive community! I have found such support from a host of teachers, workshop coordinators, and fellow iconographers and artists.
You will find snapshots of icon-painting friends and other artist friends, mostly from the San Francisco Bay Area, and their work on the Artist Friends page, as well as scattered throughout these pages. Some have their own websites. Patricia K. Kelly, Loretta Hoffmann and Mary Plaster have their own pages on this site. You will also find work by my late mother Elizabeth L. Hart, whose high standards continue to inspire me.
Through this site, I have had the pleasure of receiving correspondence and icon images from many others - so I've added a GUEST ICONOGRAPHERS' GALLERY. I look forward to encountering more of you, and to seeing your work develop!
The opinions, interpretations, recommendations, and instructions on this website are my own, and may not agree with those of other iconographers and commentators. They do not necessarily represent the position of any school, church, or other organization.
The techniques and materials described on this site are not intended for children.
Every effort has been made to ensure that all information on this site is accurate. However, due to differing conditions, tools, and individual skills, the publisher cannot be responsible for any injuries, losses, or other damages that may result from the use of the information on this site.
The work on this site is generally in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition. Many other spiritual traditions have developed their own iconography and sacred or symbolic art, often using methods and materials similar to those described here - but those art forms are beyond the scope of this site.
Resources – Iconography And Religious Art
The Prosopon School of Iconology - www.prosoponschool.org offers 6-day intensive workshops in iconography at various locations around North America, as well as weekly icon painting classes in New York City; in Whitney Point, NY; in Brookfield, VT; and in Palmira, VA.
The Prosopon website includes a gallery of beautiful icons (study those second and third highlights!) and an article explaining the role of icons in the Orthodox churches.
The Prosopon School has recently released a set of instructional DVD's on basic icon-writing. Based on the brief clips on the website, it appears excellent! You can learn a lot just from the clips. Two even newer DVD's describe more advanced techniques used for large icons of the angel Heseyschia (Silence of God), Theotokos (Madonna and Child), and Panocrator (Christ). In addition, Vladislav Andrejev is working on a book. These resources will be very helpful to those of us interested in the practice of iconography.
Irene Perez-Omer of Austin, Texas - www.iconarts.com offers supplies; weekly icon-painting classes in Austin, TX; and workshops in iconography and related subjects. Some workshops are taught by visiting instructors or in locations other than Austin. Her website features a large gallery with commentary.
For Prosopon affiliated icon-painting classes in Southern California including Santa Barbara and in Los Angeles area, contact Edward Beckett here.
Iconofile - www.iconofile.com is a large and informative site; currently undergoing revisions. They sell icon-related books and supplies; publish announcements of iconography-related events, classes, and services; and offer workshops and iconography tours.
Saint Gregory of Sinai Monastery - www.gsinai.com, under the artistic leadership of eminent iconographer Father Simon, produces icons in both egg tempera and fresco. This website has extensive material on the theory and practice of iconography.
www.episcopalcafe.com includes an excellent "Art Blog" which features art of spiritual and religious content, and which changes periodically.
Orthodox Sites: Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press www.svspress.com and Conciliar Press www.conciliarpress.com are Orthodox presses which publish iconography-related and religious books. They also offer greeting cards, icon reproductions, and gift items. Saint Isaac of Syria Skete www.Skete.com offers mounted icon prints and gifts, as well as custom hand-painted icons from Saint Isaac's Icon Studio.
Icon-Art - www.icon-art.info/about.php?ing=en is a large site offering essays in 3 languages (primarily Russian), a large catalog of historic icons, and patterns ("tracings and transfers") for icons. Click on the British flag. Not all pages are yet available in English.
Theophanis the Cretan - www.eikonografos.com - a large website offering thousands of images - albums of icons and other religious art, wall paintings, mosaics, patterns, details, and borders, as well as some articles.
The Museum of Russian Icons - www.museumofrussianicons.org in Clinton, MA is a new and growing museum with a fine permanent collection, traveling exhibits, and icon-related activities.
The Temple Gallery - www.templegallery.com of London, England is arguably the most eminent commercial gallery specializing in historic icons. Proprietor Richard Temple is a scholar and the author of excellent illustrated books and catalogs. This website is a treat!
Other Commercial Galleries - A web search for "Byzantine icons" or "Orthodox icons" plus your locality or nearest large city should turn up any local dealers in icons. This is also fun when you're on vacation. My favorite is the Liros Gallery www.lirosgallery.com of Blue Hill, Maine.
Orthodox Tours - www.orthodoxtours.com - Orthodox priests, including Father Ilya Gotlinski, lead intensive tours featuring historic icon sites (some not accessible to the public), as well as contemporary iconography and restoration studios. Different destinations are offered each year. Recent destinations include Russia, the Holy Land, and Italy.
Santos, Retablos, Bultos - To learn more about the traditional iconography of New Mexico, visit
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Byzantine Art - www.metmuseum.org/toah/ - The Timeline has extensive essays and photos of the visual arts of humankind, including many pages on Byzantine history, art, and icons. I also like their articles on Coptic and Ethiopian art.
Romanian Folk Icons are back-painted on glass - www.iconsbyrc.com/
Serbian Icon Frescoes - www.kosovo.net/main.html - These beautiful wall paintings are less well known than Greek and Russian icons. They have an unusual variety of subject matter, including the rarely-painted Miracles of Christ. Many could be developed into attractive patterns. More Serbian icons are at www.jwork.net/foto/decani/ikone/
Reference Books - There are many beautiful books about historic icons, and more coming out all the time. Almost any book with good reproductions is helpful to the iconographer. For reference, I especially like Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles www.getty.edu/museum/publications - a paperback with color reproductions and brief explanations of many of the best known icons. The Meaning of Icons by Leonid Ouspensky and Vladimir Lossky from Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press www.svspress.com is a large illustrated book, available in both hard cover and paperback, with detailed discussions of major icon types and their symbolism.
Facebook Group: "Iconography Students Association - Worldwide" enables conversations among a group of almost 200 iconographers. You can post a few icons here at small size.