In the article on icons, that I referred to previously from the Catholic weekly OSV, there was an interview with a Catholic iconographer named Marek Czarnecki. Czarnecki has been writing icons for fifteen years. For him, this is more than a simple job, it is his personal calling. He sometimes devotes whole periods of time to prayer and fasting before writing. The Connecticut-based artist studied iconography for ten years with a Russian Orthodox iconographer before he began his work. Here, to give you an idea of what such a writer of icons does, is a small part of that interview:
OSV: How does iconography relate to art, to theology, to prayer?
Czarnecki: People think that iconography is a style of religious art, and it’s not. It’s a whole vision of reality, but we use art as a tool to scribe that reality. . . .We say icon writing instead of icon painting because what we are making isn’t just a picture but a theological text. That theological text can in no way disagree with what is the written text or what stands in holy tradition. It’s not my job to figure those things out. The church has already decided those things. My job is just to articulate them.
OSV: When you get ready to write an icon, do you have to prepare in a spiritual way?
Czarnecki: I’ve been doing this for so long it’s just an integral part of my life. I teach, and as a group we start with a prayer of consecration and a mission statement about our work. Then, while we work, we pray. That’s just as important as the preparation you do before you start working. It’s that way with the very simple Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”