Art and Iconography
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 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.
Meanwhile, I still enjoy practicing other art disciplines, and learning new ones,
in whatever time I can find. Each year, I enroll in at least one art or
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.
Vladislav Andrejev teaching at a workshop of the Prosopon School
photograph by Mary Plaster
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.
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
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.
UPDATED SCHEDULE OF CLASSES,
1:30-4:30 Sunday afternoons at St. Gregory of Nyssa
Church, 500 DeHaro at Mariposa, San Francisco, CA
- May 4 and 19
- June 2, 16, and 30
- July 7 and 21
- August 11 and 25
- September 8 and 22
- October 6 and 20
- November 3 and 17
- December 1, 15, and 29
Left: Tree of Life
egg tempera and gold leaf, 13 x 15.5 inches, 2006
photograph by Richard Anderson
Below Right: The Holy Silence
egg tempera and gold leaf, 11 x 14 inches, 2006
photograph by Richard Anderson
ON THIS SITE YOU WILL FIND:
An article on the theory and practice of iconography
Suggestions for display and care of portable icons -
display at church, at home, in exhibition; and photography,
storage, transportation, cleaning, minor repairs
A Gallery of Icons by the hand of Betsy Porter, including:
Icons of Creation and the Divine Order
Icons of Jesus and Scenes from his Life
Icons of Mary
Icons of Hebrew Prophets and Heroes
Icons of Saints
Icons of Angels
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
EXHIBITIONS and PUBLICATIONS
JEWELRY - see also my sales site BetsyPorter.etsy.com
and MORE ART by BETSY PORTER Icons by Gebre Merha of Ethiopia
and art by my mother, Elizabeth L. Hart (1911-1993)
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
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
Episcopal Church Visual Arts - www.ecva.org and Christians in the Visual Arts - www.civa.org feature contemporary
religious and spiritual art in a large variety of styles and mediums.
www.episcopalcafe.com includes an excellent "Art Blog" which features art of spiritual and religious content, and which
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. 2018 destinations include Russia, the Holy Land, Georgia, and
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.
The Fall 2009 Divine Dimensions exhibition in a historic UK
church, coordinated by iconographer Ann Welch.