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The Technique of Portable Icon

The icons are painted on a piece of wood.  The most suitable wood for this purpose is oak, lime-wood and cypress. We can also use industrial wood instead of natural wood.

 

Preparation

First we make the surface of the wood smooth by rubbing it with fine sand paper.  We then cut a piece of cotton or linen fabric a little bit larger than the wood.  With a thick paint-brush we spread on the surface of the wood a specific glue or glue rabbit skin in grains, thinned out with water (proportion  1 to 10).  We then moisten the fabric and squeeze it very well.  We then put the fabric, (which is larger than the wood) on the wood.  We stretch it very well to remove all wrinkles, and then we press it with a roller so that it sticks on the glue.  The excess of the fabric is then stuck on the sides of the wood.  With the  fabric and then we putty with acrylic stucco.  Or with a mixture of chalk and glue rabbit skin.  When the stucco is dried, we rub it with a very fine sand-paper.  We then draw the subject on a piece of paper and transfer it on the wood.

 

 

Gilding

The next stage is the gilding of the icon.  We spread on the surface we wish to gild two or three coats of shellac thinned out with alcohol.  When the shellac is dried , on the same surface we spread a coat of a special varnish called “mixion”  which  is used to glue the golden leafs on the icon.  When the mixion  is about to dry, we place our finger on the surface very gently and if it is slightly  sticky we then place  the golden leafs .  This process demands skill and caution.  As soon as we stick the golden leafs on , we spread a coat of shellac, thinned out with pure alcohol.  In 10ml of alcohol we dissolve approximately 5 drops  of shellac.

 

Colours

The colours we use for the wall painting as well as for the icons are natural powder pigments.  We must avoid the plastic or acrylic colours and we must follow the traditional way and mix the colours with egg yolk (egg tempera).  We must remove the membrane from the yolk.  If we wish the yolk to be preserved for some days we should mix it with vinegar (proportion 1 to 1).

 

Faithful to tradition

In my studio I paint the icons by using only traditional powder pigments.  The colours are fine dust which I mix with egg yolk.  I prefer this technique because it is tested in time.  Most of the icons which were painted many years ago, by the old iconographers ,are still preserved in a very good condition today.

Copyright Theodore Papadopoulos
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