Icon Painting Workshop

Icon of Archangel
How to Work with Models

St Marys Abbey NJ, USA, May 6 - 11, 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


How to stop copying and start working on your own? This is one of the questions we hear most often. Many icon painters would really like this, but don’t know where to start. The first step to this is to study the proportions of the face and body and learn to draw the face and figure by heart. After these steps, you should become familiar with traditional iconography step by step.

Should the new icon always be a copy of the old one? How much room do we have for our own decisions? This is exactly what we are going to discuss and learn in this workshop: which elements of iconography should remain intact because they have significant meaning or symbolism, and which elements can be changed and how we can do this.

In this workshop we will create a series of images on paper and do not plan to work on a gessoed board. The program is very rich, it consists of various tasks. Demonstrations given before each drawing and painting session will be interspersed with theoretical talks covering the theology, theory and history of icon painting, issues and challenges of contemporary icon painting. All practical activities will always be taught and practiced with purpose and concentration, avoiding any distractions such as talking or music.

Fresco image of St Francis of Assisi by Cimabue.


The main goal of this workshop is not only to teach you how to draw with no tracing, but will also teach how to make choices and work with models professionally. You will know a lot of criteria you have to pay attention to when you draw and paint.

You will learn a number of classical and new approaches to iconographers’ work, and accomplish a series of sketches made as a virtual preparation for an icon of Archangel Michael. All these studies will allow you to gain new artistic skills and help you to work independently after the course.


Curriculum of this workshop suggests a sequence of sketches performed with pencil and egg tempera on paper only. They will introduce you to a wide range of classical iconography tasks.

We will start with studying the basic face and body proportions and learn how to draw face and half figure in iconography. After these steps we will move on to a study of medieval models, checking where they match our “basic” face proportions, where they were altered, and what makes them expressive. Performing deep studies of our models we will pursue the logics of their authors, - not always it is an easy task.

We will practice various methods of drawing to train the eye. After detailed and attentive studies of models, after practicing a variety of drawing methods, we will learn how to arrange the figure to a format. The idea is to teach you how to operate both lines and shapes and also to constantly evaluate your work using different criteria. A lot of time will also be dedicated to different aspects of planning the future icon and also to methods for evaluating it when work is still in progress.



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.


$910. This payment includes $360 tuition for double occupancy lodging and meals and $550 for teaching and all the necessary tools and materials.


Period: 4.5 days: May 06 - 11, 2024.
8:30 – Breakfast
9:30 – 1:15 Workshop
1:15 – 2:15 Lunch
2:15 - 5:30 Workshop
6:00 – Dinner
On Saturday we work from 9:30 am till 1:00 pm


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.


St. Mary's Abbey Retreat Center
230 Mendham Road, Morristown, NJ, USA
See the St. Mary's Abbey Retreat Center on Google maps >>


Course participants are invited to arrive at St Mary’s Abbey on Monday May 06, 2024 to stay for dinner at 6:00 PM and for an introductory lecture after dinner.

Breakfast is served daily at 8:30am.

We work from Tuesday till Friday from 9:30am till 5:30pm with one hour break for lunch.

Lunch is served at 1:15pm.

There are some more short breaks for lectures with coffee or tea around 11:00 and 3:30pm.

Dinner is served at 6:00pm.

On Saturday we work from 9:30 am until 1:00 pm with no lunch.

The lodging is provided by St Mary's Abbey NJ and the meals are served by a food Service company Sage Dining in another building than the retreat center. Their brochure says that they do accommodate special dietary needs. However, may you have any questions, please contact them directly via email retreatcenter@delbarton.org or by phone (973) 538-3235 x2100 (973) 409-3499 (Direct Line & Text Messages).

St Marys Abbey NJ (USA)


  • Day 1

    Basic Face and Body Proportions
    Drawing Facial Features in Detail
    Introduction to Egg Tempera

  • Day 2

    Iconography of Archangels
    A Basic Scheme for an Asymmetrical Face
    Studying Models
    Impression Sketches

  • Day 3

    Small Sketches
    How to Arrange a Head and Shoulder Figure to a Format
    Practicing Drawing with Shapes
    Paint a Face with a Sankir Method

  • Day 4

    Colored Sketches
    Final Sketch for Icon

  • Day 5

    Finishing Final Sketch for Icon

  • Ready to Enrol?

    The full cost of off-line Iconography workshop “Icon of Archangel. How to Work with Models”. is $910. This payment includes $360 tuition for double occupancy lodging and meals and $550 for teaching and all the necessary tools and materials.

    The registration payment is $150.

    Upon arrival students are expected to pay the rest of the payment for the workshop ($400) and the $360 for lodging & meals directly to the Abbey.

    This workshop will begin on May 6 and end on May 11, 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 Archangel Michael. 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 Archangel Michael. 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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