St. Michael the Archangel subject of this year’s iconography workshop at the SLC
Iconographer Veronica Royal says when she first began painting icons about 25 years ago, few others did so.
“Now you see them not only in Catholic churches but in Protestant churches,” she said last week from her Arlington, Virginia-area, studio.
Iconography is not simply painting a pretty picture, Royal said. “There’s such depth to the work itself. People gravitate toward Byzantine iconography because it has its own raison d’être (justification for existence) which is to focus the prayer life of the individual and, so even while painting, prayers are being said.”
She encourages those who question their artistic ability to take part in the workshop.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful experience. It’s a religious retreat,” she said. “It is more than just sitting and listening to someone. You are involved in the actual work itself and you’re learning new skills. You are meeting people of like mind. I encourage people to try at least one time – even if they’re a little concerned about their skill level.”
All levels of ability welcome
No one leaves the workshop without a beautiful icon, Royal said. “If they’re struggling a little bit, of course I will come in and I will help out so that the icon is beautiful when they leave.”
Prayer is an important aspect of the workshop. The workshop begins with prayer but there is also communal and private prayer. “The participant usually comes with private prayers that they lift up while they’re painting.”
Royal, who has taught at the university level, will give several lectures, a history of iconography, the theology of the art.
“I am very involved with every individual on an individual basis to teach them the skills needed to finish the icon,” she said. “It is a step-by-step procedure, but it is harder than it looks. Some people say, ‘It’ll be so easy. You can just do it’s like paint by numbers.’ I don’t think so. And the longer you paint, the more you understand that there is much nuance to the actual painting process itself.”
Friends made at workshop
Royal added that those attending often develop long-term friendships. “We come as strangers but we leave as friends,” she said. “People leave the workshops with a feeling of accomplishment and of being stretched, learning the new skill.”
Royal will lead the workshop featuring individualized instruction on how to draw and paint a Byzantine style icon of St. Michael the Archangel using gouache and acrylics.
Participants will also have the opportunity for daily Mass, confession, and three lectures about the theology, history, and spirituality of iconography, featuring in-depth information about St. Michael the Archangel. The Center features spacious, peaceful grounds and a unique 24/7 adoration chapel, where guests may enjoy quiet, prayerful time on retreat when not actively participating in the workshop.
For more about Royal, visit RoyalIconStudio.com.