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For this icon of the Extreme Humility I wanted the create a sense of peace and serenity. I had toyed with the idea of a red background, but decided instead to paint the icon using the under-painting technique and keep the colour palette calm an neutral. As usual I'm working with a limited tetrachrome palette of black, white, yellow ochre and ercolano red (plus some mars red for cooler tones).
This is the sketch I made onto the panel. I later adjusted the position of the head before I started painting.
Painting the outline with yellow ochre and black, the same colours that are used for the under-painting. This gives a unified tone to the whole icon.Not that I used a lighter colour for the loincloth that will be white.
Then I build up the darker areas with the addition of black.
The light background is white, ochre and a touch of black.
I then work on the cross in the background and the tomb. The brown is red ercolano, yellow ochre and black. The tomb is mars red medium,white and black.
Note here that I have made the lines of the cross the tomb move in transverse diagonals. This helps create the optical cone in front of the painting surface that brings person depicted into the icon into the same time and space as the viewer and into communion.
Here I have done the grapsimata and darker areas on the cross and tomb with the addition of black. I also added a little more mars red to the tomb.
The lighter layers on the cross are created with the proplasmos plus yellow ochre and the a touch of white. For the tomb I added more black to the proplasmos and then white. This creates a cooler tone which helps project the form off the surface.
The halo was painted first with a glaze of yellow ochre and then with white plus a little yellow ochre and a touch of black, and then in subsequent layers white was added. The cross on the halo is black and white, which when seen in relation to warmer tones appears blue.
The loincloth was painted with a warm peach coloured tone made of white, yellow ochre and ercolano red. This warm tone contrasts with the cooler tone of the tomb. Remember that one of the basic principals of Byzantine iconography is the contrast between warm/cool and dark/light.
Here I start building up the grapsimata and hair with ercolano red and black.
The flesh tone is yellow ochre and white. More white is added to subsequent layers.
Here I have added the cool glaze between the flesh tone and the proplasmos in the broader/lighter side of the figure (flesh tome +black+ white). On the narrow/darker side of the figure I use a warm glaze made of ercolano red and yellow ochre. Normally this would also be used on the cheeks, bu t because Christ is dead in this icon, I haven't used it.
The first layer of psimithia/highlights is flesh tone and white.
The second layer is pure white and is only on the light/broader side of the figure.
Prints of this icon are available here.
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