God is in the Details: A Closer Look at the Bethlehem Icon School

Bethlehem Icon School brushes

“If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?”
(Luke 12:26)

Rodolfo always says how much he hates the phrase “The Devil is in the details.” I think he has a point. Much of the beauty of Creation can be found in the tiniest of details. And even the most frustrating of details are there for a reason.

This week I am at the Bethlehem Icon School, working on an icon of St. Luke, learning by doing. This is only my second icon (this was the first) and this concept of God being the one in the details has been a recurring theme for me this week. As an iconographer, you must learn to take a backseat to the real artist, who is God himself. You, as the painter, are more like the instrument than the musician. The quality of the instrument matters, of course. The same master violinist will sound wildly different on a student’s violin as opposed to a Stradivarius. But God is always the one holding the bow. It is actually quite freeing, because if there is a scratch in the gold, or a weird color on one part, it is not a mistake per se. It is still the icon that God meant for it to be.

It is really easy to get bogged down in the details. Is there too much egg in my paint? Why is that color going on so thick? Where the heck did that piece of gold leaf go in the three seconds since I turned my head? But I am learning to let go, to bless and accept my failures rather than cursing them, and to try and allow God to work through me.

My work is still very much in progress, but I’ll share God’s finished masterpiece with you soon. In the meantime, I will show you a closer look (a very close look) at some of the amazing details I have found at the Bethlehem Icon School. I hope they will help you find God.

Sacred geometry and pages and pages of notes.

Sacred geometry and pages and pages of notes.

Striving to get that hand just right...

Striving to get that hand just right…

My mini Pilgrim Mother MTA keeps my natural pigments company.

Mini Pilgrim Mother keeps the gorgeous natural pigments company. Green dirt is probably one of the real miracles of Creation.

A piece of gold leaf that flew away.

A rogue piece of gold leaf that got away.

Embossed details on gold leaf.

Carefully embossed details.

The way my teacher's perfectly burnished gold leaf background reflects his face lke a mirror as he works.

The way my teacher’s perfectly burnished gold leaf background reflects his face like a mirror as he works.

My teacher's St. Luke is either shooting a Hook 'Em sign or an "I love you" sign. Either way it's awesome.

My teacher’s St. Luke is either shooting a “Hook ‘Em” sign or an “I love you” sign.
Either way it’s awesome.

A fellow student's workstation.

A fellow student’s workstation.

The way covering the bottom of the icon to protect it while working on the face is a little like tucking St. Luke in for the night.

The way covering the bottom of the icon to protect it while working on the face is a little like tucking St. Luke in for the night.

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4 Comments

Filed under Catholic Life, Creativity, O Little Town of Bethlehem

4 responses to “God is in the Details: A Closer Look at the Bethlehem Icon School

  1. Where does one find “green dirt”?

  2. Amy

    If you get a chance, will you ask your teacher what books he recommends for learning iconography? I haven’t found any classes in my area. I’m so excited for you, that you get this hands on experience. Can’t wait to see the finished piece :D

  3. Thanks for the peek at your experience—can’t wait for the full unveiling of the icon you’re writing! God bless you and your work as an instrument!

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