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Journey through June – Saint Begga of Andenne – 2/26

Today I have drawn Saint Begga of Andenne (615-693)

Her feast day is 17th December and she is commemorated in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches;

Pencil drawing: St Begga of Andenne

A short description of her life:

The daughter of Pepin of Landen and his wife, Itta, Begga was the older sister of St Gertrude of Nivelles. She married Ansegisel, son of Arnulf, Bishop of Metz, and had three children: Pepin of Heristal, Martin of Laon, and Clotilda of Heristal, who married Theuderic III of the Franks. Ansegisel was killed sometime before 679, slain in a feud by his enemy Gundewin. Begga made a pilgrimage to Rome, and upon her return built seven churches at Andenne on the Meuse.

Some (but not all) hold that the Beguine movement which came to light in the 12th century was actually founded by St Begga; and the church in the beguinage of Lier, Belgium, has a statue of St Begga standing above the inscription: St. Begga, our foundress.

The Lier beguinage dates from the 13th century. Another popular theory, however, claims that the Beguines derived their name from that of the priest Lambert le Bègue, under whose protection the witness and ministry of the Beguines flourished.Wikipedia



Life of At Mary of Egypt

each year our late Priest would read aloud a short 15 minute version of the Life of St Mary. She has been one of my favourite saints for many years and I’m glad to share this recording of him again.


Draw draw draw

A frequent frustration with those beginning iconography is that their icons do not look ‘right’ – this is usually because they have begun the painting stage too soon. It is impossible to stress too much the need for a solid, comprehensible drawing under all the fine brush strokes, washes etc. 

Here is a recent preliminary sketch for an icon of the Archangel Gabriel: you can see it is not quite finished, that I have decided to move the figure slightly to the left of the board and there has been a deal of re-working. I wanted to have a fairly solid, statuesque type presence filling the board, so have chosen to focus mostly on the face of the Archangel.

This icon is for my personal family use – although I will be producing prints as several people have already asked for them. This board has a raised border – kivitos or kovcheg – and I wanted to reference the story of the Saint, so her figure is reduced and set in a scene where we can see St Petersburg, as she would have known it. The figure is less prominent and fits the traditional 8 heads high model of classic proportions.

Here is a current icon, at the drawing stage – you can see that the figure of St Mary of Egypt is longer than a realistic figure but the drawing still makes sense to our perception as a real – if transfigured – person. I have drawn a few details into the blank places while I explore smaller details. These won’t be in the final icon! You will see more details of this icon in the coming weeks. 

Drawing Hints:

  • Find examples of good icons: these tend to be older but there are modern Iconographers, notably Fr Zenon from Russia, who have an excellent grasp of the drawing required for icons to be transfigured yet not distractingly realistic or distorted.
  • To begin with use a ruler or set of dividers to try and understand the proportions – these are usually based on a nose-length or a head-length. Take your time.
  • Draw draw draw. Try and use a fine automatic pencil to ensure your lines are accurate (bear in mind how fine brushes can be). Have thick paper to begin with, so you can rub out repeatedly. 
  • Do not be precious; if a drawing needs moving, cut a piece off one side, bottom or top. Add a piece. Reduce it, using a photocopier. 
  • Use your phone or photocopier to take pictures. Often we look too long at work and cannot see the faults. Taking pictures helps to make them easier to spot.

I hope this is helpful! I will be teaching a course in May next year where we will discuss further details of drawing, how to examine and portray drapery and more! Please email for details or download the workshop application form from the workshop page.



After loving my time presenting “the Ninth Hour Prayers: Prayer in the Orthodox Tradition” last year, I am honoured and so happy to be going back this year doing some *painting* – I will lead a short workshop on a small icon on glass. You get to take something home with you, as well as listen to me talking you through the meaning of the features of the icon and their use in Orthodox prayer and interpretation in our understanding of personhood/Transfiguration. I am so excited to meet this year’s participants.

Afternoons at the Abbey are all about putting flesh on the richness of what we learn in the mornings—moving from our heads down to our hands and feet. Our workshops are organised into five ‘s…

Source: Workshops


Perseverance. Or idiocy?

Here I am sanding off the third attempt at gilding this small icon.

I have no idea what is going wrong but I am, currently, unable to produce either water or oil gilding to the standard I expect.

Normally, iconographers don’t share their work problems – if they have any. I am, because I’m not trying to pretend I’m completely perfect or have reached startetz-like levels of prayer. Like my work, I am at the start of a long path and right now, it is covered in sharp rocks and thistles. Or nettles.

I need your prayers, friends. Just a dart whenever you remember. I have consulted two of the best iconographers I know, who are likewise bemused by my difficulties, so it is likely I have tried every single practical option possible.

Other than giving up, right now prayer is my only option.


St Samson, St Eirene & Days of Miracles

saint samson of dol Orthodox saint of Brittany

Lots of people seem to think the days of miracles among us are past. I’m not so sure. Today we commemorate the lives of St Samson of Dol, one of the founders of the universal Church in Brittany. He travelled widely in days when such journeys were undertaken at serious risk and showed faith just by travelling. I painted this icon of him several years ago – It’s a style that I’m not sure I would repeat but I still have great fondness for it.

We also celebrate today the Saint Eirene of Chrysovalantou monastery. You can read all about her monastery and the miracles she is most famous for here but I have one of my own. A much loved older lady in our parish noticed how sad I was, after seeing another friend have another baby. We had been married for about seven years. She looked at me and the next week, handed me a tiny icon of St Eirene. “Pray to her. She always listens.”

This small, battered, old fashioned icon took up residence in our icon corner at home. Three months later, I found I was expecting our own daughter, who was born about a year after I received the icon. The prayers of the saints, who listen to us even when we are weak and inattentive, are real. As is my very own little miracle.
My miracle


Women and Icons

While I am busy, I take a break to stretch my legs – and eyes – now and again. I found this short piece on women being photographed with the icon of their Saint. It is indescribably moving for me, I hope you enjoy it too. Click here


icon preparation

Sanding boards: a whiter shade of gesso.

Nothing guarantees rain like trying to sand icon boards outdoors. Having previously glued on linen, applied glue and then twenty or so layers of gesso (whiting powder with more glue and water), you then have to sand it all off again… Almost.

I begin with a bumpy board, complete with brushstrokes, and using assorted sandpapers from 120 grit down to 1200 grit, I take off about my own body weight in dust.

Sometimes this happens:


And you see (perhaps) teeny tiny less than half a millimetre pinprick holes. In this case, either cry and/or see if you can paint around them. If gilded, they will be more noticeable than you would believe.

Five hours and six shiny smooth boards later, I’m a wreck.


And nothing beats the shower that removes all the dust from my hair, which always escapes my scarf when sanding. Perhaps I’m too enthusiastic?!

Tomorrow, I hope, the beginning of a new icon or two. I’m still waiting for the paint to harden adequately on the St Katherine icon before I dare try the new assiste method but I hope to show that to you *very very* soon!

In XC, K


Great Friday: the darkness before dawn

I wanted to share this with you. I am trying to paint and keep silent during this later part of our journey to the Resurrection but this was too beautiful not to pass on.

We worship Thy Passion O Christ, grant us also to see Thy Holy Resurrection.


British Saints commission icon

Slow and steady

As all mothers will know, we never quite achieve as much in a week as we hope. Last week I had hoped to make major strides with the icon of the Transfiguration but everyday duties intervened. We have given the house an early spring clean, I’m preparing for a small Christmas Fair at our school and just keeping all the plates spinning sometimes uses more energy than I have. On Sunday, we finally had our house blessed – we had a few friends here, as well as Fr Raphael (Pavouris), and it felt so wonderful to see the icons of our home ‘Church’ being blessed.

As a small diversion, I began the drawing for my next commission – a small icon of Ss Beaga (Beya, Bee) and Maura. More on these wonderful women to follow soon.


And a little more progress on a study I am doing in parallel with the Transfiguration – today, I wanted to paint the eyes, which make such a difference to the balance of tones in the face.