According to the dictionary, icon painting is a type of art. However, this is a very special kind of art, and its definition is not limited to “religious subject” and “worship purposes”. The icon is painted so that the person who looks at it might receive support in his conversation with the Almighty. The icon is like the reflection of the world on high, a tangible object that becomes a kind of mediator between the praying person and the One to whom he offers his prayer.
Undoubtedly, what happens deep in the icon painter’s soul is solely his and God’s secret. The icon, however, is certainly the fruit of this dialogue with the Lord, the fruit of prayer. Its creation is impossible without the interaction with God.
Anyone who is artistically gifted – both a monk and a layman – can become an icon painter, after completing relevant training. An individual who started out as an artist can become an icon painter, too. That person could have been painting pictures, looking for his identity, trying out different techniques, but then realized that he wished not just to express his inner world and his perception of the outside world, but to serve God.
Being an icon painter is, of course, a job for which the artist receives a paycheck to feed himself and his family. It’s also a ministry. You cannot paint icons from 10:00 to 18:00, and then forget about your ministry until the next morning. Getting ready to paint any icon is not just about honing your artistic skills; it is a long, sometimes frustrating journey of self-improvement and following Christ. It is when the artist prays to become worthy of his craft; when he hopes that the fruit of his labors might one day help someone else to meet the Savior.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds