Improving Icon Carving Through Drawing

By Jonathan Pageau on October 24, 2016


One of the complex questions that faces modern icon carving is the pervasive presence of the painted icon within the tradition of iconography.   For many reasons which I hope to write about in the future, icon carving became a somewhat marginalized art form as the centuries advanced.  And so for myself and the small group of artists attempting to renew the art of icon carving, many formal questions appear: its relation to painted icons, the type and level of abstractions one can engage with, what types of stylizations are appropriate for faces, clothing, hair or inscriptions.  These are real questions.  I once received a short and curt message from a very proficient Georgian icon carver informing me that my carvings were too influenced by painting, and I needed to be more attentive to the inherent reality of stone.  Hmmm…

In view of all of this, for the last few years I have been considering the project of exploring the visual history of carved icons through drawings, and do this in order to consolidate some of its elements into a richer and more coherent visual language which could be useful not only to me, but to other icon carvers as well.  Among some of the sources I would like to engage are from pre-Christian Roman and Middle-Eastern carving, Byzantine, Western European, Georgian, Coptic, Russian carving and iconography among others.

unfinished charcoal drawing of St-Mamas by the author, 22.5 x 28.25" based on a famous Georgian repoussé.

unfinished charcoal drawing of St-Mamas by the author, 22.5 x 28.25″ based on a famous Georgian repoussé.

As time went by and the idea took a clearer shape in my mind, I realized that there should be a fun way to do this project in a more grassroots manner, all while offering lovers of liturgical art opportunity to participate and benefit in such an endeavor. So last week I finally decided to move ahead with this project using Patreon, a great website designed to help artists find patronage.  Patrons who participate financially in the project will get prints of the best drawings, and for donors of 25$ or more per month, I will send an actual finished drawing in the series I will produce during the upcoming year.  But I will also be looking to patrons for feedback, ideas for future drawings and finally to vote on the best drawings. I will also be posting videos of my process and my ideas. In the end, I hope this will be a great interactive experience for all involved.

Please consider collaborating with me on this great project to make icon carving a richer and more refined art for the Love of Christ and the sake of His Church.

You can see my Patreon page here:


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