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The Icon Guild of Coeur d'Alene


The Icon Guild of Coeur d'Alene

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The history and technique surrounding the creation of authentic Byzantine icons is alive and well in Northern Idaho.




Dianne Nolan began painting icons three years ago. She is, by her own words, a very traditional person, and she found something profound and personal in this new creative activity. She learned the basic techniques from a woman who created icons near her home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Later, she attended workshops given by a Master Russian Iconographer, and he pronounced her ready for “advanced study”. Now she paints with other women at her home studio in Coeur d’Alene. Together, they form the Icon Guild.
Every step in the creation of an icon carries symbolic importance. The process, called icon writing, is an ancient painting technique in which the process and the finished work inspire prayerful meditation. Sister Petra Clare, of the Sancti Angeli Benedictine Order near Inverness, observes that, “The iconographer is a 'contemplative theologian' working within a specific tradition which transmits the teaching of the church in visual form. Iconography has a number of rules or `canons' which are used in expressing the spiritual character of the sacred event or saint depicted.” She also notes that, “The iconographer prays for his/her clients and prayerfully reflects, so that s/he may be open to the Holy Spirit to `see' what will be right in any given situation.”
Dianne creates icons using time honored techniques that traditionally blend the earth’s basic elements: animal, vegetable, and mineral. Many complex procedures go into the creation of an icon, and most icons begin with the iconographer performing the following steps.
1.   A wooden base is created, usually constructed in three or more pieces to counteract the movement of the wood as it reacts to changes in temperature.
2.   A base coat of glue is applied.
3.   A layer of cloth soaked in warm glue is then applied, and this acts as a liner for the gesso and helps prevent the gesso from splitting
4.   Approx.12 coats of gesso are applied ( an artist’s plaster made with powdered calcium carbonate mixed with melted glue and whiting )
5.   The design is chosen and sketched out ( icons must be historically and theologically correct, and stylized to render a spiritual character with significance for the church )
6.   Design transfer to the prepared board with an engraving stylus.
The paint used on the icon is a traditional egg tempera, which consists of egg yolk, white vinegar or alcohol, water, and quality artist’s pigments. This is a detailed and delicate process. Noted iconographer Fr John Walsted reveals that, "A good egg tempera painting should have a porcelain look and feel. The face [of an unfinished Madonna on the easel] has approximately 75 layers of color, which produced that feel."

Dianne's efforts and talents have not gone unnoticed. Collectors have purchased her work, and she recently received a commission to write an icon for a local church.

More icon images of Dianne's work appear below.

Tracing of the Virgin of Vladimir

Tracing of the Virgin of Vladamir


Virgin of Vladimir (2)

Virgin of Vladamir




Virgin of Vladimir (3)

Virgin of Vladamir



Virgin of Vladimir (4)

virgin of Vladamir




Virgin of Vladimir (5)

virgin of Vladamir



Virgin of Vladimir (6)

virgin of Vladamir



Virgin of Vladimir (completed)

virgin of vladamir



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