St. Elizabeth Icon Studio in Lafayette, Louisiana, is a place for the study and painting of icons under the instruction of Faye Drobnic. The studio is affiliated with the Prosopon School of Iconology founded by Russian iconographer Vladislav Andreyev.
Theology of the Work: The Second Council of Nicaea in the year 787 AD defined the icon as “the visual Word of God, the Gospel in line and color.” The Byzantine icon was the sacred art of the undivided Christian Church of the first millennium. Its purpose was to faithfully transmit the truths of the Christian Tradition to the faithful. Iconography, the art of painting the icons, was passed on from one iconographer to another through ages, following the canons (guidelines) set by the bishops of the Church. The tradition of the Byzantine icon was preserved and perpetuated in the eastern Orthodox Churches from the early centuries until the present day. The sacred art of the Roman Catholic Church in the west evolved through various artistic styles over the centuries: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, etc. Today the churches of the West are rediscovering the beauty of the early Byzantine icons. Western sacred artists over the past decades have begun to study with Orthodox iconographers to reclaim the lost tradition of the oriental icon and to introduce it again into the western churches and the lives of western Christians.
About the instructor: Faye Drobnic began studying iconography in 1993 with master iconographer Philip Zimmerman at the St. John of Damascus Icon Studio at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA. She continued her studies with other masters, including Charles Rohrbacher at the Mt. Angel Iconography Institute in Oregon, Canadian Heather MacKean at the North Florida Iconography Institute in Florida, Russian Ksenia Pokrovsky of Izograph Studio & Hexameron, and others. Her primary teachers over the years have been the teachers of the Prosopon School of Iconology, founded by Russian iconographer Vladislav Andrejev. She teaches the techniques of the Prosopon School at her home studio, an old World War II prisoner-of-war barracks building located in Lafayette, La. Currently, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all classes are taught online through Zoom.
About the process: The work of painting an icon is rooted in prayer — the prayer of the iconographer and, if it is a commission, the prayer of the person commissioning the work. The prayer of the iconographer is more than saying words; it is a way of life–striving to follow the teaching of Christ, striving to live with a greater awareness of God. It is a journey. Prayer accompanies each step of the process of painting an icon, beginning with drawing the lines of the design on paper, then transferring them to a gessoed wood panel. After the lines are transferred and etched (or painted), the halo is gilded, using red clay bole and 24Kt gold. The colors are then applied to each element of the design — multiple layers of dry pigments mixed with fresh egg yolk. The pigments come from nature — ochres and oxides from the earth, minerals from rocks, organic pigments from vegetables or animal sources. The last step of the painting is the naming of the icon — painting the name of the saint or the event. The process ends with the application of a finishing coat of oil or varnish called olipha.