Work in Progress: The Wedding at Cana
This icon was a commission for a wedding: the father of the bride commissioned it, asking that I document each step as I painted. I did my best: here are the results.
Wedding at Cana(half and half)
1. The drawing on the panel. I have painted this icon was painted many times; I transferred the already proofed drawing to the panel
2. The panel ready to be gilded. In ancient icons, the ground used to gild an icon was a beautiful red clay. Today, there are other means of gilding, such as what is known as oil or mixtion gilding, putting a red painted ground on the panel first gives life to the gold, which is slightly translucent. There is a transparent masking film on the parts of the icon to be painted, to keep the lines clean and to protect the image in the gilding process.
3. The icon gilded, without the mask removed.
4. The mask removed.
5. A new mask, to protect the gold while painting. The image is covered with a loosely painted first layer of yellow ochre, sometimes called “opening the icon”.. It adds colour harmony to all the subsequent layers of colour. Here, I started painting the reds: the maphorion of the Theotokos and the undergarment of Christ is the same rich colour.
6. Next: the blues. I grind my colours in advance to make sure they are consistent throughout the icon, and many icons. There is two types of blue, one green, and one black in the blue I mix.
7. Greens, some raw sienna, and the building colour. White is rarely pure for garments or other white things: there is typically an under painting of green to give life to the colour.
8. The first layers of grey for the building; the places that need a thicker yellow ochre; and a darkening of the green “carpet”.
9. Raw sienna added to the fowl on the table and the throne. I always put some type of fowl on the table in the Wedding at Cana icons as a visual pun: in Finnish, Kana is Chicken.
10. Purple robe for the groom
11. The first layers of red; a deep red under painting, as well as orange for the host’s outer garment, which is the same colour as the water jars.
12. Greens for the wine steward and guest
13. White for the table cloth
14. Flesh tone, known as sankir, applied to flesh areas. As well, the plates and glasses are painted in in grey, with a lightening tone put on the building, giving the illusion of depth. Red is added to the water jugs to suggest wine.
15. Highlights for the blues, as well as the red of Jesus’ undergarment. The painting imitates shot silk, in this case red shot with blue.
16. The blue highlights completed. The same colour was used to accent the green on the grey beard’s robes
17. The green of the wine steward’s robes painted, as well as folds of clothing of the host.
18. Highlights on the host’s clothing, plus on the wine jugs and groom
19. Food painted in, the water turning into wine, details on the epaulets of the bride and groom; decoration on the table cloth.
20. Decorations on the crowns; highlighting on Jesus’ seat, and Mary’s maphorion, as well as the reds on the curtains and the table cloth.
21. First flesh: ochre over top the sankir.
22. Next layers of flesh: yellow ochre over the regular, with a touch of white. I decided to work from left to right, finishing off each figure.
23. Jesus finished, working on the bride and groom. First layers of hair on the bald host and the grey beard.
24. The bride and groom finished, working further on the last three figures.
25. Finished the bald host, the grey beard, and the serving boy.
26. The fringe on the maphorion, Mary’s stars, and the highlighting on the Jesus’ clavus—all the same yellow ochre and white mixture, plus the name painted, the names of Mary and Jesus painted in white, the halos outlined, and the border.
27. The icon with olifa put on it. The final varnish is boiled linseed oil.
28. Moving the olifa around; it is traditionally done by hand.
Wedding at Cana, completed.