The process of writing icons has been handed down for centuries. I will not go into the detail of it, but simply give highlights of how I write my icons. I have learned both under a professional iconographer and I have studied on my own for many years now.
The first step is possibly the hardest and that is getting a good drawing. I can work for weeks on my drawings. Once I have a good drawing I transfer the image to tracing paper.
Since it is easier for me to get a good drawing on a small scale I then use my overhead projector to enlarge my drawing. Once the drawing has been transferred with pencil to my canvas I then use a mixture of Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre (I use oil based paints) to outline my drawing. Otherwise the pencil markings would disappear at the first touch of turpentine. I wait a day or so giving my drawing plenty of time to dry. Once dry I apply what is called Propolasmo. Propolasmo is a Greek word which means base coat. For all my icons the propolasmo is the same mixture of Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre and Sap Green. Of course the mixture of these three colors can be in various ratios depending upon whether you want a warm or cool under painting. . The propolasmo acts as a unifier to the entire work and it also represents chaos. The manner in which this layer is applied is that of small X’s. Making the base coat have this natural dark-light quality to it.
Here is a picture of my painting palette. In the center is my mixed propolasmo. I have to be sure to mix enough of this color because it will be added to everything else in varying degrees, from skin tone to to the colors of clothes. To keep this color alive for the number of days it takes me to finish, I carefully cover it with plastic wrap.
When the propolasmo is dry, the first things to be written on the icon are the faces. Here, I have mixed the Propolasmo with various degrees of cadmium red, burnt sienna, raw umber, yellow ochre, and white to achieve the various tones.
In the above picture you can see the original propolasmo in the clothing areas. Once the faces are at a desired point I next block in some yellow ochre warmed with a little cadmium yellow medium in the halo areas. I’ll come back to the halos later so I move on to some of the clothing areas. I choose to go with an earthy green for the clothing of the Christ child.
Notice a hint of my original propolasmo on the side. I added it to my greens.
Now I simply highlight with my green mixture and white. The darker folds of the fabric are created with raw umber and the green mixture. After all the necessary areas are lighted and darkened I very carefully blend with a one inch brush.
This is where I will pick up tomorrow. I will be posting more pictures in the upcoming days as I finish different sections of this icon.