Icon Painting Workshop

Icon of Theotokos
How to Work with Models

Holy Trinity Church in Princetone NJ, USA, May 6 - 10, 2024

Register here

What We'll Do?


Basic Face Proportions
The Model Construction
How to Analyze Different Models
How to Choose the Model to Copy From
How to Decide to Copy or not to Copy
What Is Essential and What Can Be Changed
How to Arrange a Model to a Format


Impression Sketches
Small Sketches
Drawing with Shapes
Studying the Model
Creating Your Own Version


Properties of Historical Pigments
Why Can’t we Use Color Wheel for Mixing Historical Pigments
Bright and Neutral Colors
How to Choose Colors for Your Icon
How to Work with Shapes of Local Colors
Tonal Values
How to Paint a Face Using a Sankir Method


We made this 5-day icon painting workshop for iconographers who want to learn free hand professional drawing and painting. The idea of this workshop is to teach students to paint their own icons without tracing.

The main targets of this course are the face proportions and structure, so we will start from drawing from different medieval images of the Mother of God from different models. We will try several options in composition, colour combination, and get to know the main methods of face-painting. The final image will be painted with egg tempera on board.

The workshop program is very intense, it consists of various activities. Demonstrations, performed before every drawing and painting sessions will be will be interspersed with theoretical presentations, be dedicated to theology, theory and history of iconography, problems and issues of contemporary icon painting. All practical activities are always taught and practiced in a focused and concentrated way without any distractions such as conversations or music. This enables the icon to evolve at a slow pace, enabling us to live and understand each step deep in our being.

Images of Theotokos - models for iconography workshop in the New Skete


Choosing a model for this course we decided to collect several images as this is how all professional iconographers actually work, - creating a synthesis of several models. The clarity of some models should not make iconographer feel that the work process is going to be easy. Making a new version of an old icon is always a complex mission, as we need to adjust the model image to our circumtances, at the end arriving to an autonomous, thoughtful, and a prayerful icon. At this course we will suggest students to perform several researches, gaining artistic skills and learning how to use our creativity responsibly.
This course teaches how to work professionally, finding classical human face proportions in medieval models, and how to use them as references creating our own icons as unique liturgical artworks.


The first 2 - 3 days of this course will be completely devoted to drawing with pencil and brush on paper. By studying different aspects of models, drawing and combining colours, students will practice professional freedom and get confidence in drawing the most characteristic details.
In the last 2 days we will draw and paint an icon of Theotokos (Mother of God) with egg tempera on a gessoed board 12 x 9 in (included). During this course we do not plan to use any gold in any form as to save time for more creativetasks. This will help students to consolidate the knowledge they gain in drawing and painting, and to memorize by heart at lest one of the methods of face painting for their future independent work. We hope that all students will finish their icons, however the main goal of the course is to learn and practice as much as possible rather than to have the icon completed.



For everybody interested in learning iconography and traditional art of drawing and painting. The course is adapted to beginners and for those iconographers who want to stop tracing/copying icons and begin drawing the face with a free hand.


Cost of this course is $550, it inctludes teaching, a gessoed board, and use of all the necessary tools and materials.


5 days:
On Monday we start at 09:30 AM


Drawing, painting, hands-on instructions and demonstrations, lectures and discussions with personalised mentoring and comprehensive feedback.


We provide students with all the necessary tools and materials, however we recommend bringing your own apron, textbook and pen/pencil for notes.


Holy Trinity church
33 Mercer St, Princeton, NJ, USA
See the Holy Trinity church on Google maps >>


The workshop starts on Monday May 06, 2024 at 09:30 AM. We will study from Monday till Friday from 9:30am till 5:00pm with one hour break for lunch around noon. There are some more short breaks for lectures with coffee or tea around 11:00 and 3:30pm.

Regarding the Housing: the Holy Trinity Staff advised us to check the Princeton Theological Seminary, which sometimes has rooms available at the Erdman Center. Here is the website: https://www.ptsem.edu/about/visitor-information/hospitality/lodging. Besides, Princeton and Lawrenceville are adjacent and Lawrenceville might be the cheaper option and still very near (5 minutes by car). However, may you have any questions, please contact me directly via email by phone (240) 219 35 27 (Direct Line & Text Messages).

Holy Trinity church in Princeton, NJ (USA)


  • Day 1.

    Basic face proportions. How to draw face oval, nose, eyes, lips. How to connect head and neck to she shoulders. Pencil drawing, no models.

  • Day 2.

    Drawing process: The importance of modelling the shape of the face. How to find individuality of the image, construction of the garment. Drawing with a brush. How to arrange the image on the page or icon panel.

  • Day 3.

    Begin drawing on the gessoed board. Basic principles of working with egg tempera: how to prepare egg emulsion, how to mix colours, how to vary the consistency of paint, how to apply the paint evenly.

  • Day 4.

    Painting process. Opaque and transparent layers. Glazing. Highlighting. Basic methods of face painting.

  • Day 5.

    Painting process. Painting the face and garment of Theotokos (the Mother of God) on the board.

  • Ready to Enrol?

    The cost of off-line The Iconography Workshop "Theotokos". How to Work with Models” is $550, it covers teaching and all the necessary tools and materials, including a gessoed board.

    The registration payment is $150.

    The students are expected to pay the rest of the payment for the workshop ($400) at any time during the workshop.

    This 5 days workshop will begin at 9:30 on May 6 and end around 4 or 5 PM on Friday, May 10, 2024. The group is limited to 17 participants, students are accepted on a first-come first-served basis. The registration payments are non-refundable, unless the workshop is canceled due to lack of participation.

    Making your registration payment please provide a valid email address. It will only be used for personal communications.

    If within 80 days from the purchase date you experience health issues forbidding you to participate in the chosen workshop, we will fully refund the cost of your order.

    If you wish to be informed about our future workshops and other events, email us directly or subscribe to our regular Newsletter at the bottom of this page.


    Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova. Sacred Murals Studio (originally: Saint Petersburg, Russia, since March 2022: Tbilisi, Georgia).
    Icon of Theotokos. How to paint/write icons from models?

    Philip Davydov

    Iconographer, iconography instructor and web-site administrator

    Second-generation iconographer with M.A. from State Fine Art Academy of Saint Petersburg (faculty of Theory and History of Art).
    2001 co-founder of Sacred Murals Studio (St. Petersburg, Russia).
    Teaching iconography in US, Italy, Australia and other countries since 2005.
    2006 Member of Union of Artists of Russia
    2009 - 2022 Professor at Institute of Theology and Sacred Arts (Saint Petersburg).
    Head of Iconography School of St Petersburg Seminary - 2021

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    Icon of Theotokos. How to paint/write icons from models?

    Olga Shalamova

    Iconographer and iconography instructor

    M.A. from State Fine Art Academy of Saint Petersburg (faculty of Theory and History of Art).
    2009 Member of the Union of Artists of Russia
    2015 - 2021 chief artist of the embroidery workshop at Feodorovsky Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.
    Author of the majority of our offline and online courses.
    Actively participates in exhibitions of contemporary ecclesiastical art in Russia and abroad.

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