In the middle of March 2020, life was unexpectedly turned upside down by the spread of the coronavirus in Louisiana. In accord with directives from our governor, we closed the studio and suspended all scheduled icon painting classes. We will remain closed for the rest of 2020, at least — except for students coming by appointment to buy supplies.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to say, “God never closes a door but that he opens a window.” I have thought of her often during these times. For some, this time of quarantine has been a trial, but for me it has been a time of great opportunity and growth — a time of revisioning and reimagining, of attending to ideas and projects that before had only been distant visions.
All of our icon painting classes have transitioned to a Zoom format. Zoom was a great learning experience for me! I had never heard of it before we quarantined. We started in May with weekly classes on Tuesdays. That first began as a way for me to continue instructions on projects that my students were trying to finish—the Noli Me Tangere from Dmitri Andreyev’s February Prosopon workshop in Grand Coteau; icons of the Crucifixion that I had taught here at the studio; and various other icons that students had been working on under my direction in our monthly studio classes. Then an interesting thing happened. Students from out of town began to join out classes — some old students who had moved away, others who lived too far away to come to the studio regularly, and some new students. Together we learned how to make the classes work, with screen sharing of high-quality photographs that students send in every week for me to critique. We all learn from each other’s work.
In mid-July I started teaching a project class on Fridays — in response to a student’s “great need” to paint an icon of St. Thomas Aquinas for her son. This was another stretch of learning for me, as I entered the world of web cams and recordings. The results have been amazingly positive. I soon learned that in order for these classes to be successful, I had to do a lot of advance preparation so that the students would have the information and visual aids they needed in order for us to paint together remotely.
There are of course some disadvantages: I cannot be hands-on with my students to say, “your paint is too thick” or “look, let me show you how to do that.” On the other hand, it has forced them to be more independent with their painting. And they really are getting much better instruction from me, both written text instructions and step photographs and diagrams, as well as a bird’s eye view of live painting demonstrations during the class and a recording they can refer to afterward to see it again if need be. In addition to that, we can now include students from anywhere in the world. I really do believe the pros outweigh the cons with this style of teaching!
The Thomas Aquinas class has been so successful that in mid-September we’re going to start an icon of St. Ann and the Virgin, which is a perfect mother-daughter icon. We’ll finish that before Thanksgiving. In January we’ll begin an icon of St. Joseph and Christ, which we will finish on his feast day, March 19. Then we will paint the Salus Populi Romani, the powerful ancient icon of Our Lady and Christ, which is so greatly loved by the people of Rome and the people of the entire world. Information about all of these projects can be found on the CLASSES page. Just click the link here or above. If you are a student of the Prosopon School, you are welcome to join us for any of these classes.
I am also developing a line of Tutorial Packets, for students to work on individually at home. These packets are all based on classes that I have taught in the studio between 2007 and the present time. These are basically “workshops in a box.” Well, in an envelope. Each packet contains line drawings of the icon (or icons); about 12 pages of written text instructions; step-by-step photographs of the different stages of the painting development; diagrams of the placement of the highlights; photos of the finished icons; a list of supplies needed and more. There are two levels of packets: BASIC packets for those students just beginning to try to paint on their own, and INTERMEDIATE packets for those with a little more experience. The designs in the BASIC packets are very simple, and the text instructions about the process are very detailed. The designs in the INTERMEDIATE packets are more complex, and the instructions assume a basic knowledge about the process. At the time of this writing, we have two packets posted: a basic THEOTOKOS and an intermediate GUADALUPE. More packets will be coming in the near future, as soon as I can organize all the material for each. See the TUTORIAL PACKETS page for more information.
Regretfully, I am not able to take brand new beginning students at this time. (Editor’s note, April 2021: Beginner’s classes are now available! See the “Classes page of the site for more details.) All students must have taken at least one workshop with the Prosopon School or with one of its affiliated teachers. For more information about the Prosopon School, visit their website at www.prosoponschool.org. If you have taken one or more workshops with Prosopon or its teachers, but have never learned to mix the paint and paint on your own, contact me. I will be offering a class on Pigments and Paint Mixing as soon as I have enough interested students. I would love to hear from you!