Coptic Icons by the artist Adel Nassief :
The art of Coptic icons symbolizes the soul of the Christian faith. This form of art began strong and helped explain the religion's teachings at the beginning of the centuries. The very first Coptic icons are those known as the Fayoum Portrait (these are Portrait of the dead persons' faces that were placed on their coffins and were painted on wood with wax and tempra similar to the icons). They represented depth of perception, strong feelings and the profound look of wide eyes reflected inner feelings. The strong effect of these faces still remain in the bawiat arches at the Cairo Coptic Museum and all the bawiat Frescos representing the height of the Coptic Art .
I was inspired in my works by this era for its distinction in drawing precision, symmetry of proportions and in stressing the spirituality of the shapes.
My academic studies helped me in achieving the beauty values, the principles of design and structure, and the architecture of the icons using the color principles to create the icons' harmonious climate and the embodiment of the spiritual feature of the icon taking into consideration the climate depth in the design. I do not copy or imitate special features but my works are achieved through a study of the subjects and places surrounding the work. For example, there are subjects that need dramatic coloring of the icons to reflect the feel of the subject. On the contrary others need a whole panorama to show their value. This is reached by a complete harmonious structure study of the church to comfort the prayer and convey a true spiritual feeling.
My interest to study the old icons, the beauty of their colors unchanged by passing centuries encouraged me to use the old techniques (though difficult and time consuming) in making the icons . These techniques proved to be good and ensure that my works will last for many years by using tempra (egg yoke and natural oxidizers) and specially using 22 karat gold leafs against the use of copper leafs that are easier to use and oxidizes quicker but spoils the aspect of the icon.
Iconsís technique by Adel Nassief ( Step by Step ) :
- A wood surface is painted with hot gelatin once, then once more time after drying, this is covered with a linen or cotton material well stretched and is repainted with gelatin.
- A mixture of gelatin and calcium carbonate is used to paint the material about 10 times each layer opposite the previous one. Using emery paper the surface to be painted is smoothed.
- Places to be painted gold are treated with a special product many times giving it a glossy look then painted with the special product for sticking gold leafs. After 24 hours the 22 karat gold leafs are stuck with great care.
- The gold is then lustered (this for real gold only) and isolated then colors are added in different shades.
- Features are drawn and highlights are added starting with the darker ones and reaching the lightest till the icon is completed then it is isolated with final varnish.
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