I received the Christmas card from Philippe Lefebvre, whom I met first when I was living in Oxford several years ago. He was interested in learning how to paint icons and went to train with the Russian teacher based in Belgium, Irina Gorbunova-Lomax. He has now completed his training and we can see in this simple card how well Irina (whom I do not know personally at all) has taught him, and how well Philippe has learnt from her. I suggest to you on the evidence of this that first, Philippe should be considered for commissions in your church or home; and second, Irina is very good teacher whom anyone seeking to learn iconography should consider as a possible teacher.
First of all, his style as it is now is similar to his teacher’s (you can see her work if you go through the link above). This is as it should be at this stage, just emerging from the school. We train by following the path of past master in our chosen style, copying with understanding under the direction of the teacher. In time, while this will always be at the heart of what he does, I have no doubt that Philippe will start to develop gradually and organically, his own voice in such a way that it magnifies, rather than undermines, the holiness of the images he produces.
Notice how much in this one image we see how the skill of representing of form in line is crucial to icon painting. There is a grace and flow that gives it beauty. The variation in thickness of each line is used adeptly so that each fold of cloth is clearly readable. Many poor icon painters try to hide a lack of drawing ability behind overly exaggerated stylistic flourishes (a bit like the way that many landscape painters might try to hide a lack of skill behind pseudo-impressionistic flourishes in an oil painting). In fact, every good icon painter is a good draughtsman as well. Eech image must read visually so that the cloth looks as though it is draping naturally around a human form. This means that we need to have an acute observation of nature, which is represented in the image and then transformed into the iconographic style without comprising on naturalistic accuracy.
This is a simple image for a Christmas greeting and so Philippe has painted it on card. It (Read More)