“I use egg tempera, which is one of the oldest painting mediums. It’s egg yolk mixed with ground rocks, colorful minerals. It goes back to ancient Egypt and is extremely durable and long-lasting. It’s the traditional medium for Byzantine icons. Egg tempera also dries very quickly, and that’s important for the process. There are dozens of layers in the painting and glazes of different colors, and different highlights and shadows. And those are all layered – it’s not blended like oil paints or like post-Renaissance painting.
I also use gold. It never tarnishes. It represents Heaven and light. Gold is also a precious metal, and kind of has a value in itself. I love the way that gold interacts with the viewer. It captures the light and reflects it around.
I paint in the traditional Byzantine style, which evolved organically from ancient Roman and Greek painting into early Christian art. It kind of evolved to fit the needs of Christianity, I guess as a way to instruct. Very few people were literate, so you could present stories and saints visually, but it’s also more than that. It’s also an encounter. It’s a way to personally encounter these saints and these holy people and these events.
I think the primary experience of icons is to provide this experience that we on Earth can communicate with the divine and have this face-to-face encounter. The Byzantine style kind of encourages that. There are certain elements that are very honest; There’s no illusion to it. A lot of post-Renaissance Western art is trying to create an illusion of depth and light and shadow and trying to represent the world exactly how we see it. Byzantine art doesn’t have that kind of pretense.
Something else I really like about the style is there’s quite a bit of abstraction. Especially in the clothing, there’s a lot of abstraction in the way highlights are rendered as geometric shapes, and even sometimes in just pure lines.
I did a series of murals for an Orthodox church in Rockford, Ill. I was really happy with how those turned out. It was a great experience to get to know that community. I love doing that work, and I hope I get to do other wall paintings in the future. I have another big commission coming up that I’m working on. It’s another large project in that vein.
I grew up in the greater Goshen community. It’s kind of always been home. I guess I really didn’t think too much about Goshen growing up here. But then when I was in college – just coming back for the summers and maybe becoming an adult – I was able to just experience the town on my own rather than kind of in my parents’ shadow. I was able to get out and get to know people and get to know the community. In the time since I was in high school 20 years ago, Goshen has changed a lot and in a lot of good ways to encourage the arts, I think. Another aspect is the downtown just exploding with all these wonderful businesses. Goshen is just a really great community and I have a lot of really good friends here. My church is here. There’s just a lot of good things about Goshen. It’s very supportive of the arts.”