An Iconographer’s Studio

All my life I have waited to be an artist.  That is, a practicing artist. Quietly, while I was busy with the stuff of life I studied, went to museums, read books.  Ripened…so to speak. Fortunately for me I did not rot on the vine (LOL!) and now have the opportunity to paint full-time. With my children gone, ample space opened for me to choose a room and to begin my work.  I had the perfect place in mind.  A small room with an enormous window facing my garden and a sunny woods was waiting just for me. CIMG6618 CIMG6606 This room had previously served as an errant smallish guest bedroom-sewing-storage room. In other words, it had not been of much use to anyone all these years.  I quickly found an old 4×8 tabletop and some saw horses to sit facing this sunny window, and my studio was born!  The light, the light. Most important.  For looking.  For thinking.  For praying.  For appreciating.  For listening to birds, for looking at snow, for happiness at being part of God’s beautiful world.  The clouds and the rain have a loving and soothing presence in this room.  Even at night, this room is always filled with light — 2 Ott lights and 3 regular lights trained on the icon itself, and one for general ambient light!  Odds and ends began to find their way into this room as storage and  display areas.  CIMG6598                  


Yard sale finds and thrift stores were especially helpful for my needs. Bookcases for icon books and articles. And more supplies. Space for  tracings of icons I have completed.  Even a spice rack to store extra pigment.CIMG6597And, I was off.  I knew that my progress would largely depend on developing an eye. This would be accomplished by  studying  those icons which were considered to be the best. I recognized that fresh eyes were needed to identify flaws and to make needed corrections; so I regularly left my work and returned an hour or so later to work again for several hours.  In this way I sometimes put in 16 hour days.   I collected and studied and tried to imitate.  I lovingly painted full-time.  I began to collect  expensive supplies by asking for them as birthday and Christmas presents. I learned to find iconographer’s tools in unexpected places.  Tiny brushes and brush rests that manicurists use for their tools could be purchased for one tenth the price of those in fine art catalogs. Bottle caps could be used as disposable palette cups. CIMG6621  CIMG6604          Old jars to clean brushes, of course.  Soap slivers for cleaning brushes (no need to buy artist brush soap!). The oddest tool I have found is a Chinese ear pick (that has a little cup at one end and is used to scrape out ear wax!) which I use as a micro palette knife, just right for the few grains of alizarin one sometimes needs. And then there is the hematite burnisher to be had, two for a dollar! in the dollar store.  These are sold in the toy department as magnetic “rattlesnake eggs!!!!” Hematitle burnishers cost $60 or more and you may need several!  The world is wonderful, isn’t it?  I have purchased pigments directly from Moscow and Finland where the prices are very much lower.

As time went on, and I began to collect the icons I had completed, my husband installed some shelving along 3 of my walls that surround me.  All these eyes watch me as I have watched them. They are my companions, and lend a great sense of peace here.   CIMG6594 CIMG6600         

I always play music softly as I paint.  Usually chant of some sort: russian orthodox, french chant…but there are other “celestial” songs as well…Tavener, Arvo Part, Einaldi and others.  I find these on Pinterest, and add them to my playlists on YouTube. From there I play them on my iPad with a speaker.  Incense from Mt. Athos drifts through the air.  And all is well.

So now you have visited my studio, and I hope you have a small impression of the love I have for my work and the way with which it is created.  I hope to spend the rest of my life this way.

About Olga Dytyniak

artist, librarian poet, byzantine icon painter, perennial student. Join me on
This entry was posted in byzantine iconography, sharing techniques, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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