Hello Smallpaxers. My name is Kevin Butek. I am the designer and illustrator for Illuminated Ink. Our goal through our artwork and products is to "stir children to wonder at the beauty of our faith." We have an online coloring contest that has become very popular. The picture above is our latest installment. The Catholic faith is so full of symbolism (visible signs representing invisible truths) which has carried through in art over the centuries. Our recent coloring contests have been inspired by medieval stained glass windows and orthodox iconography. What I like most about the contest is seeing how the kids bring the pictures to life. Check out the winners gallery.


Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Here's a hello from your last contest's 1st place winner of the adult category! I have been enjoying SmallPax for a while now and am delighted to see you here.

Ria said...

And from another resident of the gallery, Welcome. I have greatly enjoyed coloring a number of your pieces in the past, and hopefully I'll be starting this one very soon.

Ben Hatke said...

That is probably the best simplification of the Byzantine style I've ever seen. Very nice to have you here!

Kevin said...

Thanks for the warm welcome!

Ana, it's been a joy receiving your artwork, as well as your students'. I too have been following Smallpax for some time and am glad I finally got around to joining.

Ria, I am so pleased you enjoy the contest. Feel free to pass it on! Which contest did you win?

Ben, I am honored to receive such a compliment from you. I love your work!

Love2Learn Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Nichols said...

There is an ancient prohibition against portraying God the Father (Second Nicene Council) which is reiterated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for the Father is invisible and incomprehensible, pure Spirit.
This is, of course, violated with impuinity in both East and West (think "Sistine Chapel").
Actually, the only orthodox (and Orthodox) portrayal of the Holy Trinity is of the three angelic visitors hosted by Abraham (eg, Rublev's "Trinity").
However often violated, I heartily endorse the ancient canon.
However, this is very nice work, for all that.

Kevin said...

Bravo Daniel! Yes, I was aware there was a prohibition in Eastern Iconography from portraying the first person of the Holy Trinity. I am not sure there is in the Western tradition. I’d be interested in knowing the reference number for your Catechism passage. It does not sound like that is a prohibition from portraying God symbolically, rather a statement of the Truth of His nature.
Regardless, the piece was influenced by the traditions mentioned, focusing on the symbolism of certain Bible passage in which God the Father is the focal point. I struggled with how to portray Him, knowing the restrictions. I did find a few icons with the Father portrayed as “the Ancient of Days” in connection with an Old Testament passage. But I kept His eyes closed, those windows into the soul, to emphasize that the figure is just a symbol.

Daniel Nichols said...

The prohibition is not just for the East; it is from the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which should be binding on all.
The passage in the Catechism is from CC 1159: "The sacred inage, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new "economy" of images."
Of course, this in far from enforced, East or West, and images of the bearded old man are ubiquitous.
As you note, there are icons of God the Father in the East as the Ancient of Days, but these date only to the 12th century or so. Before that, the image of the Ancient of Days was seen as Christ in His Divine Nature.
While Ben Hatke sees your work as Byzantine, I rather see it resembling the pen and ink drawings from catechetical and liturgical works of the mid 20th century. In the East, for example, Christ is never portrayed as (symbolic) animal; when He is shown other than in His incarnation He is Ancient of Days, or Divine Wisdom.
What is Byzantine in your imge is the treatment of the angels, and the (exquisite) Virgin at the bottom of the page.

Kevin said...

In my research, I did read of Christ representing The Ancient of Days, or God the Father, for, as Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:9) I thought it might be confusing for children to see the Lamb representing Christ, while Christ represented the Father.
You are correct, the Byzantine tradition influenced my portrayal of the angels and the Virgin, as well as the remaining figures in the bottom half of the illustration. Although, while I have seen saints holding scrolls, they have always contained text; while I, again considering the children, placed more western symbolic imagery in place of the text.
The upper half of the image is definitely influenced by western traditions, especially the animal representations.
Daniel, I thank you for your clarification regarding appropriate imagery. You seem well versed on the topic. Have you had some formal schooling in liturgical art? Most of my knowledge comes from personal research with limited sources. Can you recommend any books to delve further into the topic?
Regarding orthodox portrayal of the Trinity, I was aware of Rublev’s visitors to Abraham, but is that only when portraying the Trinity as person’s? I have also seen icons representing God the Father with a ray of light or a hand in a cloud. Is this within the rubrics? Are there other acceptable ways to represent God the Father?

Daniel Nichols said...

My "formal schooling" consists of the one workshop I attended. For the rest, I am self taught. I am not near my shelf of iconography books, but will give you a list when I am.
You are right about the Father being represented by a right hand in the upper right hand corner; generally emerging from a cloud, indicating the essential hiddeness of the Father. The hand shows that, in Eastern theology, know God by his energies, while his essence is unknowable.
Other than that I am unaware of any legitimate representation of the Father except hidden beneath the angelic manifestation to Abraham...

Daniel Nichols said...

As promised, here is a list of resources for iconography:

The Meaning of Icons by L Oupensky; the authoritative work.
A History of Icon Painting by a group of Russian scholars, recently translated into English; a very beautiful and profusely illustrated book.
The Icon by Michel Quenot.
The Icon, Image of the Invisible by Egon Sendler
The History of the Russian Icon by Lucy Maxym
The Art of the Icon: a theology of beauty by Paul Evankimov.
The Mystical Language of Icons written and illustrated by Norweigan iconographer Solrunn Nes.
Transfiguration by Maria Muzj.
And Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church by Alfredo Tagido; marred by its small size (ever study a 2"x 2" Last Judgement? Also by its uncritical acceptance of late Russian uncanonical depictions of the Trinity.
Hope this helps!

Kevin said...

Thanks! Hopefully I have time to look over some of these in the near future. :o)