The Process For A Small Holy Face

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

As I worked on a small icon of the Holy Face for one of my students, I took photos of each step of writing the icon, from preparing the drawing to applying the final varnish.  Process photos serve as a record of my work, as well as tool for teaching about the icon.

After finishing the drawing in my sketchbook, I transferred the drawing to the panel and a piece of matboard.  The matboard gives me the chance to practice steps of the painting before moving to the panel:



The sankir, the base layer of paint for the flesh and hair, is the first step of the painting:



The second step is the first highlight, which establishes the larger portions of the face that will be brought up with lighter highlights:


The rest of the highlights and shadows build up the contours of the face:





When enough of the highlights have been applied, the gold leaf for the background and the halo may be put down and covered with shellac so the final white highlights may be applied with the right intensity:




The final highlights, halo, lettering, and initials complete the icon:


My thanks to my iconography teacher, Mary Katsilometes, for her guidance during the writing of this icon.