Updated: Sep 22
BETHLEHEM - After a long delay due to the spread of COVID-19, the Holy Land Iconographers completed a canvas wall painting at their workshop close to the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. For two weeks last June, Madlain, Sr. Esther and Marlena worked under the direction of Dr. Jim Blackstone from the UK to paint an icon of the Nativity of Jesus on a wall of their studio.
Jim Blackstone, himself a student of iconographer Aidan Hart, worked with the group via Zoom throughout the pandemic. Already graduates of the Bethlehem Icon School (where they each gained a Diploma in Icon Painting from the Prince's School of Traditional Arts in London), Jim's tutoring took them to another level, and in this project helped them to master a new skill; the technical aspects of canvas preparation for wall paintings in a church.
Jim came over from the UK for the two week project and Sr. Marthe, from the Emmanuel Monastery in Bethlehem and a student of their former teacher lan Knowles, joined them. They were all excited to see what they could achieve, but the biggest challenge was to produce one unified piece of work from so many different hands, and to avoid producing simply a patchwork of individual styles. Thanks to the collaborative way of working - the team synergy - that lies at the heart of the HLI workshop, itself rooted in friendship and shared prayer, as well as through Jim's step by step guidance, the team produced a unified masterpiece.
An ambitious project measuring 5.10 x 2.55 meters, it now beautifully showcases their collective talents. It is also a powerful testimony to the inspiration that lies behind establishing their own icon painting workshop in the heart of the holy city of Bethlehem, just meters away from where Jesus Himself was born.
Even while the project was being realized, various visitors were able to witness their work, including an Anglican group studying the arts in the Holy Land, led by the Dean of St. George Cathedral in Jerusalem. The workshop is very keen to welcome visitors, and this wall painting is a powerful testimony to the ancient art of iconography which is once again a part of the 'Living Stones' of Christians in today's Holy Land. Do be in touch with the group if you would like to make a visit and see this for yourself. It is a perfect part of any pilgrimage.
The workshop also undertakes icon commissions, be they panel paintings, wall paintings or restoration work, as a service to the Christian Churches both locally and internationally. Again, if you are interested they would be delighted to hear from you.