ROSKRUISH AND OKHRENIE

Roskruish and okhrenie are two terms a student of icons should know.  They signify two steps in the painting of Russian icons.

Roskruish (роскрыш– also transliterated roskrysh) is the application of the flat, often dark base colors to the image.  Here is a brief video showing that step in the painting of an Igorevskaya icon.  You will note that the costume is painted before the faces.  That is traditional.  In old icon workshops with assembly line production, it was customary for the costumes and backgrounds to be painted by a different painter or painters than the one who did the faces.  The face painter was generally more skilled — but of course in a small workshop it would all be done by one person.

Once the roskruish is completed, then the okhrenie (охрение) begins.  Okhrenie is the application of lighter colors to the dark base color of the “flesh” areas (face, hands, etc.).  It is essentially the process that creates the features of the face in paint, rather than just the preliminary drawing or pattern drawn or scratched into the surface of the icon panel (it was very common for Russian icons to have the outline of the pattern scratched into the levkas (gesso) surface of the wooden panel).

Here is the okhrenie of the Igorevskaya icon:

And here you see the continuation of the process:

These videos use the plav’ technique, in which the colors seem to melt into one another, rather than the otborka technique, which uses fine but clearly separate strokes of paint to lighten the dark background color and thus bring out features and highlights.

 

 

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SOMETHING QUITE DIFFERENT: THE “PLANT SAINTS” OF OLGA VOLCHKOVA

In early Russia, it was not the custom to paint persons other than Bible figures and saints.  And of course those were painted in the traditional stylized manner.  When the painting of secular portraits first began to be accepted in the 16th century, they were done with the same techniques and stylization used in painting religious icons, as in this portrait of Tsar Ivan “the Terrible.”  So the techniques of icon painting, it was found, could be put to other use.

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When the Communists took control of Tsarist Russia in the early 20th century and made painting religious icons impractical, the workers in the noted icon-painting village of Palekh turned instead to painting scenes of fairy tales and foklore, again using techniques learned in icon painting.

I was recently quite surprised to find that a very talented young woman in my part of the country has come up with her own very innovative use of the methods of the icon painting tradition.  Her name is Olga Volchkova.  Olga was born in Russia, and studied at the Tver Art School, at the Tver Icon Painting School, and also studied oil restoration at the Grabar Institute.  And in her words, she has “canonized plants” — has given them anthropomorphic form, extolling their virtues (and occasionally, dangers) in the form of saints.

I was happy to receive Olga’s permission to show some of her work here.  All photos are copyrighted by Olga Volchkova.

Here is her manifestation of the Saffron Flower:

(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)
(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

Here is “St. Calla Lily”:

(Couresty of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

Here is her “Holy Spirit of Herbs”:

(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

This is her stylized depiction of the poisonous flower Aconite:

(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

Here is “Black Tulip”:

Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: www.olgalaxy.com)
Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

This is her visual ode to the potato.  She says the little fellow at the top, where one usually finds “Lord Sabaoth” in conventional icons, is the “Potato God.”

(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: www.olgalaxy.com)
(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

Here is “St. Cyani” the Bachelor Button (Centaurea cyanus); note the bicycle in the background:

(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: www.olgalaxy.com)
(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

This is a more conventional saint, Crispin.  You may recall that according to tradition, he was a shoemaker, the patron saint of cobblers:

(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: www.olgalaxy.com)
(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

And finally, here is St. Watermelon.  Note the seed decoration around his neck:

(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: www.olgalaxy.com)
(Courtesy of Olga Volchkova: http://www.olgalaxy.com)

As you can see from these examples, there is much that a creative artist can do with the skills used for icon painting.  No doubt some conservatives may wish to take offense at the playful “canonizing” of plants, but to them I would say, “Get a sense of humor.”  One could do worse than to recall in visual form all that plants do for us.

To see more of Olga’s unique “plant icons,” go to her site: http://www.olgalaxy.com