August 26, 2017
The icon of St. Kateri Tekakwitha has been completed and is almost ready for its second coat of varnish later this evening.
Once I have a chance to catch my breath, and getting two totem paintings completed in time for submission on Sept. 10th, I'll put together a commentary to post on the website.
August 24, 2017
I have one more full day tomorrow and the St. Kateri icon will be completed. I'll take some photographs of the icon before I varnish the image (minimizing the glare as much as possible).
August 16, 2017
The gold-leafing is done and the sealer on the gold is dry. The inscription and halo are under the sealer so that they are sealed onto the gold.
I'll let the icon sit overnight before continuing with the painting. At this stage, I add paper along the bottom of the image to prevent any paint from falling on the gold.
Much work still to do but the pivotal gold leafing step is done.
August 15, 2017
It was time to begin the gold leafing process. To protect the image that is in progress, I needed to cover it with paper and taping along the edges. The tape is just inside of the edges of the images to allow me to work the gold size without touching the tape. That began late last week, with sanding and adding the a coat of Gold Size. Then the waiting began. It was taking longer to set and dry, and it just can't be rushed. It finally was dry enough yesterday (Monday).
The AC and all fans had to be kept off to avoid disturbing dust and lint in the air. It made for sauna conditions, but it is part of the gilding process. Sanding with 320 grit was done and dust etc. was carefully wiped of with a tack cloth. After that, I use the palm of my hand to wipe the surface, feeling any grit, wiping the palm off on a cloth and continuing until all surfaces are perfectly smooth to the touch.
It was then time to add the second coat of Gold Size, careful to minimize brush strokes and catching any bits of grit or lint. If the look of the size is acceptable, then the timer is set for 3.5 hours. That is how long it takes for the size to reach the right tack to apply the leaf. Sometimes the drying time can take longer; heat and humidity being factors.
I recall the Deesis Mural in Descent of the Holy Spirit Church in Lloydminster Alberta. I had scheduled to do the gold background in the evening. It was a cooler day and as it was approaching midnight without reaching the tack phase, I had to decide whether to call it a day and start over the next day, or just wait it out. It was 3AM by the time it came to gold leaf a 10 ft x 10 ft mural.
When it came to the 3.5 hours, I found that the tack was just right, so I was committed. 23K Italian patent gold, scarp scissors, and a sable brush, and we're off. The leaf has to be completed before the gold size fully dries.
After letting it set overnight, I gave it its first burnish. But before I can do the halo and inscription, it is best to leave it set for another day, to assure that the gold size is fully dry underneath.
August 9, 2017
There is still much to do, but I've reached the point where I need to do the gold leafing. That needs to be done prior to continuing with the detail work, and completing the face, the cross, etc..
Factoring drying times, it will take me approx. 4 days. Once the gold leaf is in place, I then need to add the halo and inscription prior to sealing the gold. The reason being that any paint which is going directly onto the gold, has to done before sealing as the paint will not adhere to the sealer. This of course adds a very cautious time of adding these while protecting the leaf which will scratch easily or show finger prints or palm prints from the oils off the skin.
After the coat of sealer is done, the icon will need another 1 day (or 2 depending on drying time) before I can continue writing the icon.
August 4, 2017
It's been a time of a few backward steps with the icon, following a message received, advising that braids not be used, as they were/are not typical for Mohawk and Iroquois. Seeing that my base coated image on the icon board had braids...
Seeing that the majority of images viewed in my research had braids, even though I had my doubts, I went with the majority. The recommendation against the braids said that artists in general have defaulted the stereotyping of braids. It answered the doubt I was sensing.
So after more sanding down of the areas on the icon which needed changing (my thumbs always dread all the sanding), I loosened the hair and added the shawl on the crown of her head. After putting the base colours again, the image did not sit well with me. The icon now looked like any conventional Byzantine icons, and St. Kateri had lost a lot of her Mohawk-ness, as more of her regalia was concealed etc.
So out came the sandpaper once again, having to undo the changes that I had done. Once that was done, tracing paper was placed on the icon so that I could begin trying options.
In the first option, I removed the shawl from the crown of her head and set her loose hair down her back. The image was nice enough but it struck me as too young looking and too romantic. St. Kateris wasn't a young lass but a young woman.
All the while, I left the icon in St. Kateri's hands, trusting that she will guide.
It came to me that the shawl did need to be on her head and not just on her shoulders. There were a few reasons for that. St. Kateri was known to cover her head to conceal her facial scars from the Small Pox that had decimated many of her family and her people. My first design had left her head uncovered seeing that I was depicting her without the scarring; a miracle that had occurred moments after her death. But I had forgotten the other reason for covering her head, her eyes. They had been seriously damaged from the small pox and the sunlight was really hard on them. She needed to shade them from the glare of the sun. And so, covering her head would have been an automatic daily response.
And also supporting the decision to replace the shawl on her head, was how her family always insisted that she get married (for which she ran away to avoid), and how she wanted to begin a religious order for herself and a few other Aboriginal women. Being bare headed would not have been considered as modest, or typical of someone in avoidance.
So the new design is completed and the base colours have been restored. Having taken the few backwards steps, I am now able to move forward. The school much appreciates the thought, research and prayer that goes into my icons, as does Sister Mitchell for the same. And more deeply, I always thrust that the prototype, St. Kateri Tekakwitha in this case, will guide my hands in writing the icon that is wanted.
I'll post a picture once I get a bit further in the development of the icon.
August 22, 2017 Note:
As I was blocking in the base colours for the icon, I received a timely note from Sister Kateri Mitchell as the Tekakwitha Conference Center. During my research, in designing an icon that was as true to St. Kateri as possible and referring to the earliest portraiture of her, I had written to Sister Mitchell. She was pleased with my research, but requested that I not portray St. Kateri with braids, the stereotyping used by artists in many of the images.
So, out came the sandpaper, and the need to make the necessary changes to the design. *see following journal entries for the revised design and note.
August 1, 2017
So much has taken place over the short while. With it all being intertwined, I thought it best to combine the updates for both the icons and totems as they are part of the same picture. Only time will tell whether it is a sign of the journey that is ahead.
As soon as I had completed and delivered the Ste. Anne icon on July 17th, I needed to push ahead and get the design going for the St. Kateri icon for St. Thomas Aquinas High School. The research was a bit tedious as the statues and images of St. Kateri are all over the place. None struck me as authentic, other then the small original painting of her which gives precious little information, typical of most paintings of that era. I also researched Mohawk images given that her father was from the Mohawk Nation. I also sent a few emails to the shrine and conference center in the United States (both with Mohican contacts) to double check my info and whether I was on the right path.
From all that, I prepared the design and constructed the board. I had just inked in the design onto the board when I saw a Facebook posting about Carey Newman refurbishing his 2008 totem. I inquired as to where the totem was. When he said Duncan, I volunteered my help if he needed. So I happily went in to Duncan on Wednesday last week to help for the day, with no idea what to expect. I was just ready to help in whatever way that was needed. I was just thrilled that I had followed my instincts, in that this was an opportunity to connect with a totem in its refurbishing, (after my journey with totems within my painting series).
July 25, 2017
The design for this next icon has been sorted out. Unlike most images and statues of St. Kateri, this design portrays her in Mohawk regalia which doesn't include buckskin. It was important for the icon to be connected to the earliest portraiture of St. Kateri. One difference will be the colour of the blanket. In the early portraiture, it looks as though it is black, but Indigo was a common colour used by the Mohawks and Iroquois. With the icon, the Indigo will be in a darker range. I've also included the yoke and cuffs associated to a Mohawk regalia.
The design has been inked in onto the icon board which I constructed and prepared in the tradition manner of covering the board with muslin, applying 9 coats of gesso, and sanding to a smooth finish. The smooth finish is essential for the gold leafing that will be applied later. There will be corrections and adjustments made along the way, while writing the icon.
Unlike the last 3 First Nations icons of St. Paul, Sacred Heart, and Ste. Anne,, this icon will have a traditional Byzantine appearance with gold leafing, as it is part of the icon project for the chapel at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in North Vancouver, BC.