The best way to select the subject of your first ikon is to look though books. I suggest selecting a simple subject to begin with, perhaps a Virgin and Child. There is no problem with tracing an ikon from a photocopy for your drawing, since one of the most valued possessions of medieval ikon painters were pattern books of drawings they used over and over as they painted. These books were often passed down from generation to generation. Also, as adhering to the original ikon as closely as possible is essential tracing is an excellent way of achieving that end. I also suggest lightly coloring in the colors of various areas in advance to insure you have the right pigments at hand.

The drawing is transferred to the panel by rubbing charcoal over the back of the drawing and pressing a copy onto the surface with a dull pencil through the paper. Never draw your ikon directing on the panel using a graphite pencil. Once the charcoal image is imprinted onto the panel a sepia painting of the lines is created and the remaining charcoal gently brushed away. Some artists then scratch the outline of the figure into the gesso, as the painted lines will disappear under the layers of paint. This technique will enable the original drawing to be seen in a raking light beneath the surface of the paint, and guide the drawing of lines and contours in paint on the undercoat.

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Next chapter: Painting the Ikon


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