Work in Progress: Christ Pantocrator

I have reached the final phase of painting for the dome of St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church–and the most important. With some help on April 12, 2015, I placed and taped down the canvas on the floor of my studio. 225 square feet. I have based my design on this idea:

Idea for dome

This was my original conception. Sometime in March, however, I decided I was going to put the symbols of the four evangelists, bowing to popular opinion…the design would have been loosely based on the Pantocrator from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chapel, with some alterations:

SVS Pantocrator (altered)

However, I discovered that this was already done on an image of Christ Enthroned on the back wall of the altar–painted by another iconographer. So, it was back to seraphim in the corners–a more  “correct” choice for what would come under Christ in a dome.

Here are two contemporary domes, decorated according to the program handed down from the Byzantine era.

dome in Miami Lakes

You can see the angels right next to Jesus, who is inscribed in a circle. then, lower down, you can make out the figures of the prophets. The iconographer here is Dmitry Shkolnik, originally from Moscow, but now residing in California. The Church is the Cathedral  of Christ the Savior in Miami, Florida.


This photo is from a church in Yasenevo in Russia, dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul. Again, you see the typical order of things, Christ Pantocrator in the dome–here as the Face Made without Hands, then the choirs of angels, and you can see in the photo, if you look carefully, an assortment of prophets between the windows. From the book, Небо на земле (2006).


And an historical example: The iconographer here is Theophan the Cretan, and one of the many churches he decorated. This photograph is from the book,  Wall Paintings from the Catholicon of the Monastery of Dionysiou, (2003) and one can see very clearly the proper order of decoration for the dome: Pantocrator, then the ranks of angels–here including the Theotokos and John the Forerunner, then prophets, and on the pendentives, the four Evangelists. Most of the prophets from the drum of the dome were my models for my prophets.

Big Jesus40. CROP0025small

Here is the drawing that I did of the Pantocrator. I wanted a kind face, which I based on the icon of Christ from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.  He is on grid paper for a reason: so He can be scaled up. Each major square represents one foot.


One must look pretty closely to see, but I am using a piece of plastic bracketing that was holding up some old paneling to mark the circle that circumscribes Jesus. I punched holes in it so that I would be able to have some accuracy in my measurements, and by pulling it taut, holding the handle and walking stooped around in a circle, I made a very accurate line.


And you can see me doing just that! The canvas was also gridded up in foot squares. Again, hard to see.


The seraph I drew this morning.


The drawing on the floor to transfer. Yes, it is a big area to cover!


Me on the floor, on my new creeper–hoping it will last longer than the old!–doing my impersonation of a baby harp seal…or reinforcing the drawing of the seraph on  the canvas. One down, three more to go, but Bright Friday liturgy needs to be served. (April 16, 2015)


This is the “map” that I will be using to lay out the image of Christ.



I wanted to make every brush stroke count, so I decided to paint the lettering now, even though I will be painting over all of it with yellow ochre.  Now that it is all on the canvas, I am putting the drawing of Jesus.



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