Our Studio Techniques Wall Icons Techniques

Wall Icons Techniques

PROCESS OF ICONOGRAPHY ON THE WALL

i1.gifconography on the wall or mural Iconography is performed in a variety of way. Most of the Byzantine mural iconography surviving today is in perfect condition due to the fresco technique used at the time. In Byzantine times, churches were built with stone, slaked lime and sand. The plastering of the wall was made with a roughcast containing lime, sand, hay and flax. The iconography and the plastering were done simultaneously as follows: the craftsman prepared a roughcast of lime, coarse sand from a river, wheat hay and flax. The last two materials contain cellulose which helps the materials mix together and act as reinforcement so that the plaster won't crack. The mixture would be left to ferment for 15 days and then the craftsman would plaster a part of the wall with it twice, as thick as 5 or 6 mm. The part of the wall plastered was a rough estimate of the area the iconographer would paint in one day. The next day the craftsman would apply the final plaster with a mixture of lime and fine sand and spread it in such a way that it would conceal the hay and the surface would remain smooth. Next the iconographer would begin the painting using earthly colors dissolved in lime water. There is no room for error on fresh plaster because the paint is immediately absorbed by the roughcast. The iconographer had to be very experienced and finish the iconography while the plaster was still fresh. Working this way allowed the paint to penetrate in depth, and dry along with the plaster. As long as the plaster is wet a chemical fusion takes place: calcium hydroxide with the carbon dioxide of the air produces calcium carbonate which once dry becomes a crystal material which remains unaffected throughout the centuries. Entire churches were completed in this way. Iconography according to this technique has a special satiny quality which withstands humidity and the passage of time.

Another technique of mural iconography is done on a dry wall. We scrub the wall with embedded thick sandpaper to make it smooth and wash it with water and soap so that the dust and smoke of the candles come off. Then we transfer the preliminary sketch prepared on paper of the Saint or the depiction we are going to paint, taking care that it is proportionate to the area we have circumscribed with axles and margins.

This technique of iconography should he avoided in churches iconographed many years after their construction, because the walls have already adsorbed smoke and oil, which are difficult to remove. Thus the paints can not be fully absorbed and remain on the surface. As time passes, the oil which was impossible to remove rises to the surface and fades the colors.


In most recent years, Iconography is first painted on canvas, and then pasted up on the wall of the church where the final touches are applied. This technique is preferable over painting directly on the dry wall because it doesn't have to cope with the above mentioned difficulties.

The canvas we prepare and use in our studio is made of cotton. The painting here is also done with earthly colors diluted with glue instead of egg. Once the iconography is completed the canvas is pasted up on the wall with great care so that the joining of the canvas to the wall is indistinguishable.

Seventy percent of the work is done in the studio and the remainder in the church where pasting up of the canvases is completed and the "'photismata", "psimythies" and "chrysokondylies" are added as a final touch. Obviously the conditions in the studio such as height and lighting are quite different from those in the church. Thus we need to have immediate contact with the particular architecture and lighting of each church before completing the work.