God and Art Series - Artist paints icons as creative outlet

Art is an expression of the soul. It is an expression of what is important to the artist.

Archeologists have discovered that since the earliest times of the Christianity, artwork has been used to honor great people of the faith. Much of this art is depicted in icons, which are, according to the Bing dictionary, "a holy picture, carving, or statue of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint, especially an oil painting on a wooden panel ..."

Agnessa is an artist from Sofia, Bulgaria, who loves painting icons. It has been her "most prominent creative outlet throughout the years. And has been for more than 20 years now," she says.

Agnessa's Etsy shop, Icons Art, is full of vividly painted depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Michael the Archangel and other major figures of the Christian faith. Here is some of her work:

As a young child, Agnessa was drawn to fine arts and crafts. "I have always been drawn to fine arts and crafts in general," she says. "My mother was a very talented seamstress and she also used to make all sorts of home decoration items, such as lamp shades, flowers or [she] upcycled furniture in a beautiful way. So I probably got this from her. I started painting at a very young age and even wanted to go to art school but ended up in the 'practical' profession of veterinary medicine instead as my family didn't think relying on arts will be good in the long run. Anyhow, I never stopped [pursuing] my creative endeavors."

"I've worked in various mediums, oil paints, watercolor, acrylic. But I always come back to icon writing and tempera paints," she continues. "Icons have a specific technique that needs to followed if one wants to remain true to the genre. What is interesting about it is that even it might seem a little too dogmatic to some it still gives a lot freedom and no two icons will come out the same. I like working with icons because the process is very calming, it transcends the belief in something good that is out there, even if it's not tangible."

Agnessa is committed to the intangible. She believes that her art is a gift from God and seeks to improve her work. "I am not sure [that my relationship with God] started at some definite point; I guess it has always been there. But according the Christian tradition that point must have been when I was baptized. My art was probably affected in a way that I believe it was a gift that I need to share and it is my duty to try and perfect it every time I start a new painting.

"My goals are simply to try and be better in what I do. I would encourage anyone to try something they are infatuated by and see if it brings them satisfaction. Even if the results are not that great at first, they surely will better with time. Ask questions. Be curious. Through trial and error you will learn so much! I am still learning from other artists and get great inspiration from them. When I was just starting I learned so much from a friend who is also painting icons; it made me want to better my own technique and it was really great that he was able to answer a lot of my questions. So now when someone asks about a certain thing in the process of icon painting I am more than happy to share my knowledge," she says.

Agnessa's hard work has paid off. Not only does she own Icons Art on Etsy, she has also gained international attention. "I have exhibited my icons locally and internationally and have my works collected in many countries. A few galleries in Sofia have some of my icons as well. [The] latest exhibition I had was last year in Rome, Italy. Often people come ask for a custom icon after they have seen it in someone's home and then I would invite them in my home studio so they can pick something they want. I gladly accept custom orders as well! If you want to commission an icon you don't see in my shop or if you prefer smaller or larger size than the ones available, please feel free to contact me!"

You can also find Icons Art on Facebook.

For some history on icons, check out:

Orthodox Icons

Images in the Old Testament

Next week Jocelyn from New CreatioNZ.