Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sharing the Pen

I recently began an Icon Writing class.  My friend Lovely (former) Vicar invited me to join this weekly class when she became aware that I wanted to learn to write icons.  Yes, you paint them, but the term is to write an icon.  There is rich and deep theology involved in the process of writing an icon.  More on that later.

Our teacher is a master iconographer and is Russian.  Every Saturday afternoon she moves among her students and patiently tells us what to do.  She demonstrates the next technique, and then tells me to do it.  Sometimes I don't always understand precisely what she is telling me because of her thick Russian accent.  Sometimes it doesn't seem to matter if I understand or not because my attempts are awkward and highlight the fact that I am truly a novice.

There are so many things I find fascinating about this process, but what strikes me today is how we share the brush.  She will come and inspect my efforts, take my brush and restore my unfinished icon. 

A few strokes here, a little correction there, and voila!  It's beautiful.  When I joke that she is making it beautiful in spite of my efforts, she corrects me and says, "No, WE did it."

So, here it is thus far.  The halo is gilded, the face of Christ is coming along.

The process reminds me of what I do with first graders who are making their first attempts at writing.  We call it "sharing the pen."  They aren't ready to write conventionally, but it's so important that we encourage them to make an attempt.  An attempt that we accept.  My first grader might have a pencil, and I a purple felt-tip  pen.  They try to write a word and write down the sounds they hear (usually consonants) and I add the sounds they miss.  Together WE write.

My master iconographer teacher is doing the same thing with me.  She does not quash my confidence and encourages my willingness to take a risk.  When we allow mistakes, we allow learning to occur.  It's interesting for me to be in the learner's shoes again.  I am surprised sometimes at how frustrated I am.  A good reminder for this teacher of babes.

This leads me to think of God and his hand in my life.  I do my best to be faithful here on earth, yet I know that I fumble at every step.  I am comforted by the knowledge that God shares my pen and my brush.  


  1. 愛情是一種發明,需要不斷改良。只是,這種發明和其他發明不一樣,它沒有專利權,隨時會被人搶走。..................................................................

  2. A lovely reflection on the process. While I don't consider myself a process theologian per se, I do like reflecting upon process in spiritual disciplines. Iconography is certainly a spiritual discipline. Since moving south, I haven't had time to do any work on my icon, but I need to start making time for it. Much love.

  3. Thanks, Mary. Thanks, too, for inviting me to this class. It has become an important part of my devotional life. We miss you on Saturdays! Maybe sometime you'll find yourself up "north" on a Saturday afternoon with your icon supplies :) Much love back to you.....

  4. 卡爾.桑得柏:「除非先有夢,否則一切皆不成。」共勉!............................................................


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