I completed my first icon a week ago, and was able to get it blessed by my priest yesterday (see photos).
I was needlessly worried about taking lessons from a ByzCatholic priest. He was very nice and knowledgeable. When I asked to do my icon differently than what he was instructing (ie. putting the Greek letters in the nimbus versus gems and polka dots, adding the 9 lines in the in the nimbus, etc.) he had no problem and only reiterated that what I was asking was actually the correct way the icon should be "written".
I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Having always been interested in iconography, I was thrilled to actually go through the steps myself.
I recommend iconography to everyone! It not only gives you a new appreciation for icons, but, for the Faith.
When we began the icons, we prayed...but, not only that, we actually wrote prayers on the white gessoed board. For example, if the icons are being made for a wedding couple, then their names are inscribed, if they are being written for someone or something in particular, a prayer for that person is written on the icon. Gave me goosebumps. I had to stop, and think. I covered my icon with prayers (in Ukrainian, all along the borders and edge.) I had read that a cross should be made on the icon wherever you think people might be kissing it, like Christ's shoulder, the corners, etc... It was really a deep, spiritual experience for me.
Then we applied chaos. It's a mix of brown and blue (God created the heavens and the earth)...and it get's applied all over the board as a base. This represents that out of chaos God created order. It was really, really inspiring. Every step had spiritual meaning behind it.
Even the use of the egg as the base for the tempera (natural material) paints. The egg represents life and resurrection. Once the yolk was cleaned and emptied into a container then holy water would be added (three times as much as yolk - Trinity). We used tap water. To the mix was added vinegar to keep the egg from spoiling too quickly (the vinegar was given to Christ on the Cross). Everything had spiritual meaning.
The room was silent - no music. The priest said that he finds it is easier to focus for the new iconographers in a silent room. More advanced will have liturgical music, or will actually chant. He did encourage us to keep prayers in our minds, or hum a hymn that will stick and we will simply repeat in our heads - all in order to keep stray, earthly thoughts out of our minds.
It was an expensive course, but, I am so happy that I took it. I highly recommend everyone try it. I can't walk by an icon now, without stopping, and staring at it for a long time.
I have always loved icons and what they represent, but, now, I have a new appreciation.
My priest was not available to bless my icon a week ago, and this last week I was anticipating the event like a huge celebration for me! I was so honored to see my icon be taken up to the Altar.
What an honor!
Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support!