Here are some of the paintings done by the recent' classes teaching the gothic style of art using the 12th century English illuminations of the School of St Albans (with one contemporary French image there as well). These classes took place in July in Kansas, Calgary and at Thomas More College in New Hampshire.
As usual what strikes me hear is the ease with which Catholics from the Roman Rite take to these forms which are closely linked to that Rite. I have taught many classes of Eastern style icons and there is a cultural barrier to overcome that means that the quality of the painting is not as high. Some who have been exposed to the prejudice against Western forms that you hear in some icon painting classes, are intially suspicious. However, once they accept that they are allowed to like Western gothic art and that it is just as authentically liturgical and worth of veneration as a Russian or Greek icon, then they seem to take to these forms very naturally.
Students always want to change things and interpret. In Eastern icon painting classes, you almost always have to say no because the changes suggested are not appropriate. I find that in this form the students quickly inhabit the gothic world and when they suggest changes they would like to make, they are in accord with the tradition and so, provided that it won't detract from the learning process, I usually them to do it.
Fr John Bambrick, who attended the class at TMC in Merrimack NH wrote a generous review of the week in his parish bulletin and here is what he said:
"The Week of July 28th I took a class on Christian Iconography at St. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack New Hampshire. It is a small liberal arts college with a strong traditional Catholic identity in New England. Professors are called ‘Fellows’ at this College. To be honest I cannot draw a straight line; however through the skill of Fellow David Clayton I competed an egg tempera copy of an illumination from a Medieval Psalter. The excellence of his teaching was apparent when the entire class completed their Icons. If David is ever considered for canonization this could be considered one of his first miracles! He has just published a very fine work on prayer for the family called, “The Little Oratory: A beginners guide to praying in the home”. You can find this gem on Amazon.com. He also maintains a blog on Art, Religion and culture called thewayofbeauty.org. We also had a wonderful field trip to a Russian Icon Museum in Massachusetts. One of the most reproduced Icons is the Mother of God under various titles." The full bulletin is here.
Most of the students had never done a class before, although some were doing their second or third class. The image top left, which is shown again on a larger scale was done by an 18-year old who was attending his first class ever. The original images are from the 12th century Westminster psalter apart from the image of the Creator making the universe according to weight and measure and number, which is from a French manuscript of the same period.
I am receiving inquiries from about when the next class will be. So for any who are interested we will be running one in Columbus, Ohio running from October 20-24th. This will be the first one that comes with the option of continuing-education credit and, we hope, transferable college level credit (all accredited by Thomas More College of Liberal Arts). Full details will appear shortly in this blog, but any who are interested should email me giving me your email address which I will forward to Gina Switzer the lady who is organizing it so she can contact you.