18 Comments

  1. Ron Slockett

    What a wonderful idea!! I look forward to this to use for my three children during liturgy or church school. I am also a novice wood carver. Would this be available to use for wood carving, itilizing the images as templates? Thanks a ton for your work

    1. Certainly. In fact, one of the oldest uses of printed iconographic drawings was as templates for iconographers. So it makes perfect sense to use these for wood carving.

    2. I would be delighted to offer some calligraphy as needed for these worthy projects. You may contact me through my website http://www.calligraphybycarla.com and see some examples of my work, though I am able to do many other calligraphic styles than just what you see on the website. I have been a professional calligrapher for 30 years.

  2. As the producer of a Church bulletin (and dabbler in other Church media) I am VERY pleased to see this and look forward to it eagerly! Thank you for doing it!

  3. Tom L.

    Awesome project. I can imagine these being useful for educational use as well, when the goal is to illustrate the iconography over the individual icons. My university prints textbooks in black-and-white on rough paper, which for art history mostly results in either no pictures at all, or bad photocopies. Never understood why they never tried old woodcuts of paintings, at the very least.

    Will you use a specific license, such as Creative Commons BY-NC (Attribution, Non-Commercial)? Might save you the trouble of writing long licensing terms, and that would still allow a looser license on individual basis. Be sure to think of adding field for the license in the database you’re constructing. A direct scan from a book in the public domain would be public domain as well, for example.

  4. Alexander Stoykov

    The idea is interesting and perhaps useful. I want to add that there is no orthodox tradition in graphics. There is a russian tradition in graphics, which probably started in the 16th century, a 100 years after the fall of Constantinople. Authentic orthodox painting not uses graphics because the colors are essential in the language of orthodox iconography. Many manuscripts used color even for letters. Some has been written even with gold ink. Not to mention that the first letter of the first passage in a particular text is interlaced with the whole paintings and this letter is called interstitial.
    I can say this because I well know orthodox heritage in iconography. Between 5th and 15th century there is not even a single manuscript, illustrated with graphics – neither in Byzantium, nor in Italy, nor in Bulgaria, nor in Serbia, nor in Macedonia, nor in Egypt, nor in Syria, nor in Georgia, nor in Armenia, nor in Russia, and etc. Nowhere! Graphics just has been not in orthodox tradition. There is a russian tradition in this respect – from 16th century. But she is only a russian tradition, not orthodox, because it was occupied by non-orthodox culture.
    Whether the graphics is an orthodox image? I’m convinced it is not. In the name of propriety your enterprise should recognize that is connected with russian tradition, not with the orthodox tradition.

    1. I must respectfully disagree with your comment. Certainly, it is true that block-printed icons as book illustrations are more typical of Russia than elsewhere. But one can hardly say that the entire genre of graphic (ie: monochrome line art) is absent from Orthodox tradition otherwise. From very early on in Byzantine art, line drawings were sometimes used as a substitute for full-color painting. For instance, antimensia were always adorned with simple line drawings drawn by the bishop in pen and ink. Ancient ones survive on Mt. Athos. In more recent centuries, antimens were printed with engraved copper plates, often bearing elaborate monochrome icons. There are some beautiful Serbian and Romanian ones from the 18th century in museums. Also, there are churches in Cappadocia frescoed completely in primitive line art, because the church could not afford a professional painter. Another excellent example is icons and ornaments engraved onto sacred vessels. These are clearly line art, and closely allied to intaglio printing plates. And they can be found in the metalwork of all countries going back right to the beginning of Orthodoxy. With regards to liturgical books, long before books were printed, plenty of books were hand-illuminated with ornamentation in just black or just black and red. These medieval manuscripts look very similar to early printed books – sometimes hard to tell apart in a photograph. So the graphic aesthetic I’m promoting here is by no means limited to printed Russian books. Even icons were sometimes drawn quite graphically in medieval manuscripts. Of course, the finest manuscripts were illuminated in full color, but simpler ones often had icons just drawn with a pen and slightly colored with a wash. This should hardly be surprising, considering that all icon painters begin with a drawing, and that these preparatory drawings are often extremely attractive in their own right. I think we could call preparatory drawings in and of themselves an ancient Byzantine tradition of graphic art.

  5. Pdn Joseph Matusiak

    Of course there is the classic Orthodox Clip Art which is no longer printed, but is available in digital format here http://dce.oca.org/resources/line-drawings/. However, I know the author will be very happy to see a new generation.

    1. Aimee Ehrs

      Yes, Fr. John’s work will always be useful, too! Thank you.

  6. These are wonderful! Thank you for creating these. Since I am a graphic designer and Sunday School teacher I have done some similar things and now you are making it easier. I will share this link with our teachers.

  7. Fr. Richard Rene

    This is an excellent idea. However, I would ask that you consider offering some guidelines for those who download and use this illustrations for their children to colour. These images are generally sacred and will need to be treated with due reverence. How should people dispose of them when they are done, since they are icons of a sort? I am sure that the last thing you want is to have a plethora of printouts of the images lying around, stepped on, or worse… Some guidance in how to treat the images once they are printed out, would be good.

    1. Fr. Richard, you raise a very interesting question. It seems to me that not all reproductions of icons are necessarily also icons (in the liturgical sense). If we glue them to a board and venerate them, then we should follow through and treat them as icons in all ways. But how should we treat pictures of icons that are just illustrations – pictures in art books, marginalia in parish bulletins, church school materials, etc.? Personally, it strikes me as unreasonable to say that every such image must be treated as a liturgically sacred object. But I also certainly wouldn’t want to seem them crumpled up and stepped on, either! There must be some appropriate middle ground. I’m curious if any of our readers have given careful thought to this question, and would care to share some wisdom.

      1. Fr. RIchard

        You are right, Andrew. Printouts of icons are not the same a liturgical icons, but neither are they NOT icons at all. I don’t have an easy answer either. Certainly printouts should not be crumpled up and thrown away, nor left on the floor. Ideally, they should be hung up out of harm’s way. However, should they be recycled, or burned when it comes time to dispose of them? I would be interested in other comments and wisdom too.

  8. As an illustrator who builds church school lessons for my class (ages 3-5), I have always wondered about the use of b/w icon drawings in handouts. I occasionally leave off the title on the drawings of icons. That makes it unfinished, and I have hoped that takes away the problem.

    An answer to this question is needed.

    I have always adored the illustrations in my prayer books, and they are my favorite types of illustrations to make. Can’t wait to see the database.

    1. Hi Lauren. If I understand correctly, you are concerned about whether such a drawing is really an ‘icon’, and thus whether it warrants the inscription of the name of the saint. In my opinion, this problem does not really exist in Orthodox tradition. Until quite recently, there was never any sharp distinction between ‘icons’ and everything else. The word, of course, simply means image, and was used interchangeably for all kinds of images (and still is in Greek). As for ‘holy images’ (images of saints), there was always a spectrum. At the top would be the authoritative canonical icons promoted for veneration and copying by the councils and hierarchs. These were sometimes even inscribed personally by a bishop as his sign of approval. At the bottom of the liturgical spectrum would be the image of Christ on every Byzantine coin. Anything else fell somewhere in between. Frescoes and mosaics on walls, for instance, were never meant for personal veneration, and often had wide leeway with apocryphal subject matter. They were not considered as authoritative as panel icons, but they were still blessed as liturgical art. Sometimes they bear inscriptions and sometimes they don’t.

      In any case, my point is that there is not really any ‘rule’ in Orthodoxy that only painted boards constitute icons, or that only icons may have inscriptions, or that every inscription implies approval by the bishop. Ultimately, what matters is that your artwork is edifying and appropriate in its particular context. If the title-inscription is helpful to the purpose in which you are using the image, then I think it’s fine to include it.

  9. Audrey J.

    This is wonderful. I taught Sunday School (3rd grade) for 37 years and would have loved to have coloring books containing this type of art. What an excellent (and fun) teaching tool for young children.

  10. Seth G

    I’m glad to see people raising the issue of whether these should be colored on. I’m going to begin teaching at a Catholic middle school in the fall, and one thing that concerns me a little about the school is that, while it has a very, very strong sacred music program for students, there are no sacred art classes for students and I gather there’s kind of an “anti-drawing” and “anti-coloring” mindset, which I think is seen as being too “childish” for middle school students.

    As a teacher I try to reward students who complete work early with things like being allowed to color, or to use art and illustrations in their analysis of literature. (I’m an English teacher.) I think the school would be more receptive to letting students do this if they could see the drawing/coloring as being related to the sacred tradition.

    I think it’s a little myopic for a school to emphasize sacred music to the exclusion of sacred art since they are both, I think, equally integral to the Christian tradition. For that reason, I’d like to make use of these graphics in my class. But I hesitate to provide students with sacred images that they won’t treat with due reverence, so I wanted to know what people on this forum think if I were to use these graphics in a classroom setting like that?

    1. Hi Seth – Thank you for your question. In my opinion, it is very good for children to draw and color icons. I have personally observed that it is an edifying act for them, bringing them closer to the saints, and developing in them a pious attraction to icons. I heartily encourage it. Of course, older children should certainly be instructed to treat these drawings reverently, and to try to copy the appropriate colors from painted icons. Once they have tried coloring them, and have become familiar with the images, they should also be encouraged to try drawing them from scratch. The results might be atrocious, but nevertheless, it’s a good way for them to adopt icons as a pious tradition that they can understand. (And by all means – show the children where their drawings need improvement, and help them to do better. Correct drawing requires close instruction, just like correct spelling.)

      Icon coloring books are pretty ubiquitous in both Catholic and Orthodox churches, so I think it’s safe to say that the general opinion of the church is that it is okay for children to color icons. Remember that to an innocent child, drawing an icon is no different than drawing a picture of her family. And it should be no different. Icons are simply portraits of saints, and they are only sacred liturgical objects when we use them as such. I think it is clear from Jesus’ own words that we should never hinder children from approaching that which is sacred out of some adult fear of impropriety.

      (And yes, you are right that it is very foolish for a school to teach literacy and music, but not visual arts.)

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