Blog entry

Tools for painting icons- A mahlstick and how to make one

A mahlstick (or maulstick) mostly handmade is an essntial tool for painting icons. It allows working on vertical surfaces without touching the fresh colors, but it also keeps the (shaky and tired) hand firm and rested in the long hours of icon making- and finally it helps drawing the long smooth  lines that are so required in  icons.

How to protect your icon painting- Traditional top coats and byzantine icon painting

Long time since I wrote a "how to" post - This time, I thought to deal shortly with top coats and the traditional ways to finalize your work.

Egg-tempera is a very fine and durable material as long as it remains protected from insects (that really find it very... yummy) and moisture (and in case of Churches, the devastating effects of lipstick, that permanently stains, with its oils, the icon)

So, after completing painting, and letting a week go by (that is the time that egg-tempera really needs to dry)- We need to first protect and then totally isolate the colours.

Byzantine expressionism

Byzantine painting , an art form that  was expressionism centuries (maybe a milennium) before expressionism /symbolism or surrealism ever even existed. Some of the characteristic elements of this painting "genre" that point towards this direction are:

-The main figure/ feature Enlightened being -The saint, the Saviour or the Holy Mother) is bigger that anything else in the icon.

Making icon boards for byzantine icons

This post is dedicated to the the surface of the painting:- There are many recipes and various materials to prepare icon panels for byzantine icon making. This recipe is for  plywood panel in whatever size you wish to be covered that is covered with the white gesso paste and sanded in order to have its smooth, white surface ready for the egg tempera colors that are used in byzantine iconography

What you ll need:

Rabbit skin glue (in flakes or in granules)


Zinc oxide

Color recipes in byzantine iconography - another "How to" on byzantine icons

 What about the mineral pigments? Despite the variety of colors available on the market, there are only  ten mineral powders that tradition holds necessary for the creation of a byzantine icon.

How to paint a byzantine icon 101- Shopping list with the basics

I know there are many resources on the web on how to make a byzantine icon, but lately I  've given some advise on how to start from the scratch, (what to buy, where to do it) and I think it would be useful  for beginners, wanting to set up, a small quite corner in their home for their hobby

So what you basically need:

Some privacy, good light, an easel and a Mahlstick (you may see my post on that: )
A Flat spatula
A jar of fresh clear water