Sacred Doorways -Icon painting  September 13 – 19, 2015


Day 1: (arrival pm/evening) Evening meal. Tour of Shenandoah Art Destination and studios.  Overview of the history and religious aspects of Icons.

Day 2: Pick out the Icon you want to copy/paint. Choose and prepare art board. Learn how to use egg tempera. Paint outline of model on board (if necessary instructor will help).

Day 3: Finish painting outline. Gilding demonstration and apply gold leaf or gold paint to the board.  Paint base layer of paint of the icon on board.

Day 4: Begin painting the probelov or modeling the structure of the face, hands and garments.

Day 5: Complete the probelov and paint the volkhrenie of the face and hands. Start to paint the opis  or highlighting brushstrokeson hands, face and garments.

Day 6: Finish painting the opis or highlighting brushstrokeson hands face and garments. Apply gold assists on garments where needed. Outline halo. Paint inscription.

Day 7: Finishing touches. Finish outside frame.  Reflection on the week.  End of session discussion and celebration of weeks work.  2:00 pm check out.

The course will start at 9:30 each morning. We will break for lunch and finish at 5:00 pm each day.  Each day the instructor will discuss the design of the icons, icon painting technique and the religious aspects of particular icons.


Cost of Materials – $65.  This includes prepared Icon Panel, gold leaf, tools and natural pigments needed for the course.


This is a seven-day course on the living tradition of icon painting employed by medieval iconographers and refined by the classical principles developed by the old masters.

The course will be taught by Johannes Boer. This workshop focuses on the technique of gold assist and the technique of egg tempera painting. During the workshop we will discuss with you following subjects: History  and  the styles of  Iconography; Traditional and modern techniques in Iconography; and the Meaning of Icons and symbolism in Byzantine Iconography.

The instructor will use a prototype of an icon as the model for teaching the techniques in this course. The icon of the Archangel Gabriel is well suited for this course, because it contains excellent examples of gilding and egg tempera painting technique. This icon is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved images of the Archangel Gabriel.

Each student will be able to clearly see and understand all elements of the model. This workshop is beneficial for beginning students as well as more advanced painters and anyone drawn to Byzantine and early Russian iconography. Students will be assisted by the instructor to define the basic forms of the model by freehand drawing. They will be taught methods of applying egg tempera and basic colors by creating shadows and highlights, then shown glazing, water-gilding and varnishing of the completed icon. All students are encouraged to take notes during teacher-demonstrations and ask questions for clarification. The needs of each student will be taken into account, copies of the icon-writing steps will be distributed each day. Concurrent to the daily hands-on sessions will be short lectures on iconography, history, theology and artistic technical concerns.

Students are encouraged to come each day to the class with a refreshed, open mind and heart. Silence, reference and dedication practiced by students will help them meet the creative challenges of the course.

Icon-Painting Technique: You will learn techniques for preparing the base for gilding, water-based gilding, and egg tempera painting techniques for clothing, hands and faces.

Hands-on, Practical Instruction: You will draw the figure by painting directly onto the gessoed board; paint the base colors of the background, clothing and face; develop the modeling in the folds of the robes, the features of the faces; apply gold to the background; and complete the icon painting with highlights.


Portable icons have a long history in the Church. They are a window to heaven, and an affirmation of the role  of the material world in the spiritual life.

The oldest surviving portable icons are from the early sixth century, and are found in St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai. These are painted in encaustic, or wax mixed with pigment. From about the ninth century the egg tempera technique replaced this encaustic method. It is this ancient egg tempera method that Aidan uses. A simplified description of the process that he follows is as follows. 

First the subject matter is researched –the life of the saint, or the appropriate hymns if the icon is of a feast. On the basis of this and a study of existing icons a design is made on paper. The design is then transferred on the already prepared gessoed wooden board. If the icon is to be water gilded, then about six layers of bole are applied to the area to be gilded (bole is size mixed with a clay, usually red). This bole is sanded with the four finest grades of sandpaper and polished with a cloth. Gilding is done by wetting an area at a time with water and alcohol and then applying loose gold leaf (23 1/2 carats). After a short time the gold is burnished with an agate stone. 

The painting then begins. The paint consists of egg yolk and water and a little vinegar mixed with natural pigments. These are generally taken from the earth (e.g. ochre, sienna, umber) and from finely ground semi precious stones (like azurite, cinnabar, malachite and lapis lazuli). 

After the name of the saint or feast has been written, the icon is completed and is delivered. It is traditional for the owner to take it to church to be blessed. As egg tempera continues to harden over time it is best not to varnish it immediately after painting, and so I ask that the icon be returned for varnishing after a year.


Any questions? Call 612.221.1140


Shenandoah Art Destination, 325 Union Run, Lexington VA, USA. 24450

Established in 2010, The Shenandoah Art Destination is one of the only, art vacation retreat schools in the United States.  Home to students from all continents, the Shenandoah Art Destination offers rigorous art classes that include painting (oil and acrylic, watercolor, pastel), plein air painting, drawing, airbrush, drypoint, lino, mono printing and mixed media.
The Manors’s beautiful, 10-acre property is located in Lexington, Virginia, 50 miles north of Roanoke, VA.