I Learn by Going Where I Need To Go

An icon writer is born, not made.  Like all great artists, she or he can not not paint.  It is the reason for one’s very existence.  This feeling consumes you and infiltrates most areas of your daily life.   You study icons, read about icons, go to museums showing icons, speak to other iconographers.  You take lessons.  But the lessons are only the first step on the journey.  And it is here where the journey for many begins and ends, for reasons within or without the student.  For most, and the vast majority, the journey ends because they hobble themselves with the inability to paint a stroke without some instructor or other giving them approval  — they need external validation.  And thus, they begin more and more to rely on another’s eye and touch and never develop their own.  These people need as much guidance painting their tenth icon as they do their first.  It is often the simplest and silliest of things, the mixing of a shade or tone perhaps, and they are permanently fixed in the universe of the kindergarten class, preferring to wait for the instructor to give assent and instructions yet again. They have handicapped themselves with their phantom insecurities built into phantasms within their own imaginations. Yet, like God, iconography can be most forgiving, lines and colors easily removed with egg wash or razor blade and tried again, nothing lost.  Ah, well.

I wish I could teach everyone to just take the plunge-hold their nose and jump in.  But I think it has been best said in the following:

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go
.

                                                                      –Theodore Roethke

You should not fear to try anything when you are learning.  Application is everything, and any first year teacher will tell you that.  Be bold!  It is only when you begin to work on your own, without the teacher that you really know what it is you don’t know, and still need to learn.  It is only in the work repeated and repeated and repeated that your hand and brain begin to acquire the refinement and grace you have been working toward. Malcolm Gladwell,  author of “Tipping Point” has stated that through research it is found that 10,000 hours of application are required in order for a person to master any skill. In my personal professional experiences as a librarian and teacher, I have found this to be so.

So for the past two years, even though I had only had 10 prior days of iconography lessons, even though my work would be considered base beginner level, I held my nose and jumped in. I had to. My destiny demanded it of me. I began making my own boards and buying supplies all over the world.  I began painting full-time.  I began to see where I was.  I began to see where I had to go.  And little by little my work improved.  Now I paint in my studio surrounded by shelves full of beautiful icons whose eyes  watch me as I work.  I find them the best of company.  They show me all the places I’ve been, and all the beauty I have seen and felt. They urge me on.  My fate has always been to be an icon painter.  I have taken a long and sometimes painful road to get here.   The icons know.  They have been waiting for me all these years.

                      see my icons at http://www.frangelicoblueicons.com

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About njacacia

artist, poet, perrennial student. Otherwise eccentric live and let live type. Follow the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh philosophically. Loving the acceptance of all people by the Pope. Raised in a traditional Christian environment, but always wondered about the absence of the Divine Feminine and have found Her in the lost gospels from Nag Hammadi.
This entry was posted in byzantine iconography, failure as the path, learning and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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