An icon isn’t just a religious, holy or sacred picture. An icon is an encounter, a meeting-place between God and humankind. It is the embodiment of God’s presence amongst us, a place where He manifests Himself to us. The iconic work of the artist is inspired by spiritual energy and becomes a medium through which grace is channelled to us.
Because the icon embodies such divine presence and sacred content, it is very important that the well-established traditional rubrics and canons are observed in its creation. Traditionally older icons were copied and special templates were used to ensure strict compliance with the rules of iconography.
The face you see on an icon isn’t a naturalised depiction, but rather a stylised spiritual portrait, which must be that of a recognisable individual from the sacred canon. Representations of this earthly world speak their own specific language, based on traditional symbols and allusion, which transform them by their spiritual significance.
All the materials used in the creation of the icon come directly from God’s natural world, in the form of minerals, plants and other organic materials. Those materials have been created by God, and mankind is called upon by God to participate in the transformation of the world by using those materials. And that’s what iconographers do, to His greater glory.
The artist accepts that the role of the iconographer is one of privileged participation in God’s great Masterplan. A pixel in the divine panorama, as we might say today!