The Art Behind the Icon
Fadi Mikhail was initially apprehensive about iconography. He saw the art form as meticulous, even boring. All that changed after he watched an iconographer paint — and then tried it himself. Now, he finds beauty and depth in the process of iconography and sees the bigger picture behind each painting.
“You go into wonderful cathedrals in Italy and France, and you see the magnitude of the artwork and how many people have been involved in making this very grand place. And it’s life changing when you see it.”
Fadi Mikhail: We always think about an icon as the final image, but the process of making the final image is just as exciting, I think. But the icons, whenever I’d see them, they always looked so finely painted that I could just imagine how meticulously they’d have to be painted and how boring I thought that was. I thought, “God, I never want to try that. That looks really boring.”
So I went to watch an iconographer paint in L.A., and it just struck me how he also loved the material — the smell of the material, and the process of preparing the board even before it was painted. I thought, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s my in. I love that.”
You go into wonderful cathedrals in Italy and France, and you see the magnitude of the artwork and how many people have been involved in making this very grand place. And it’s life changing when you see it. And not always for the right reasons, I fear. Because we’ve made it so beautiful, we actually miss the beauty and the simplicity of the person who is the main reason for it all.
This might be or look like an archaic way of working, but actually, there’s something very real about it — and true and authentic about it that isn’t just about the novelty of doing it that way, but about knowing that it’s not as shallow as it could be. It’s deep — it’s going to the fullest depth that you possibly could to make a work of art.
The mineral world — when it comes to getting the pigment powder. And the animal world — where we use eggs to make our paint. And then we, as man, we all come together, and we bring all these things together, and we create something to both glorify God’s creation, men, and help them on their journey of glorification to become more like God. And also to glorify God and to say, “Thank you for everything you’ve given us.”
So I love that all-encompassing, bringing together everything God has given us, in the creative process to remake it and repurpose it to give back to him in the end. Which I think is a lovely sort of dance in life, a very enjoyable sort of poetic dance.