Merry Christmas 2023!!!
Newsletter December 2023:


Dear Friends,
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May it be a year of discoveries and good changes for you and people you know! And those, who know people you know too!
This Newsletter has 4 main topics:
1. Re-Learning
2. Courses
3. New Book (coming soon)
4. Three new icons and a Graphic image

Theotokos. Hot encaustic on ceramic tile. In the beginning there is a long story of my latest relearning experience, all caused by a problem with my technique. If you are not the kind of person interested in technical aspect of iconography, click here and skip to other more practical news below :) - they will be after a long horizontal pic with several icons together...

Why Relearning? Because the old way did not work. I will speak about my own situation, which made me change my whole approach to iconography. I will not disclose any names and details yet. -Yet, I am totally unsure that the project will go as planned, so I am just speaking about my experience, which I think may be useful to all iconographers.

It started as an exciting adventure, - I was contacted by an elder colleague who saw my little ceramic icon on the right. He liked how essenbtial it was and invited me to take part in his project. I was exited and honored when I came to see him to learn about the details. From the very beginning I was captured by the two things, which could never meet in my own head. This man gave me a great credit of trust officially inviting me to his project, and at the same time, right from the beginning he clearly saw how seriously my work needed to change to fit the project he was undertaking.

The first draft of icon of Christ When I came to his studio, he showed me a photograph of a classical white marble iconostasis construction, for which I was suggested to paint two icons. Showing me how my icons were supposed to look like, the master began drafting a standing figure of Christ, then asked me to continue, and after several seconds he said:

- Very good, leave it like that. - Let’s see how it woks.

The result of this very short drawing process is here in the right and in the lign of images it's the first one on the left. I am sure that you can clearly see, how unstructured is this image and how unfinished. Yet, for this professional artist it was already clear, that the image has some potential, so he did not want me to move forward and make it…. - I am still in a research of a word, what he stopped me for. I only discovered it some weeks later (I hope I did).

I brought several of my icons on different boards to see how they would look with marble. Somehow the icons on regular gessoed boards were OK if looked at separately, but placed next to a piece of white marble they looked way too flat, almost plastic. We agreed that I would use hot encaustic directly on wood. At that moment I was simply excited, so I took the measurements for the icons and went home, thrilled by an interesting opportunity.

To connect my icon with the marble surface I decided to give the board some texture with an old plane with a semicircular blade. When the board was ready I made several sketches and started... The process was usual, - the technique which I use and teach for almost 20 years, - who would have thought it may cause a problem?

Drawing on wood. I always begin with drawing, than I cover the large image sections with local colors, and then continue with highlights and shadows. I did what I planned and soon returned to the master. When I was showing him my work, he said that what I did was too standard, and that I should pay more respect to the wood, make a freer drawing and use more varied paint density. I began following the advises, but after a day or two I found myself cleaning the board and starting over, then cleaning it and starting over again. It was happening for several days and it was so bad, - I thought I was following the recommendations, applying them to what I thought was my professional experience, but nothing seemed working. Time after time at a certain point I was realizing, that I was on a wrong way without remembering the moment when I the wrong move was made. I tried photographing every step, but it did not work either. Time after time I was always too late to take “the right turn”. When I would see “the turn” missed, it was always too late: by then the image would have too much paint on it, too many details and too little expression.

All this time I was working on the same board, starting it over and over, and cleaning it over and over again for more than a week. Something was not working, and I began seriously doubting all of my professional competences, - it was a time of real crisis, for which I saw no way out… It was Olga who saved me, - he said that my technique was the problem, even when I was thinking that I did nothing wrong.

Image developed with both highlights and shadows, - too much information She saw my work from the from outside and she as able to see, that my problem was not in committing a specific error. The problem was that the context of my work has changed while the technique has not. I was trying to use method used for egg tempera on gessoed board, which did not work on raw wood, where the pine texture has a crucial role and meaning.

december_studio.jpg So, here is what was happening:
After performing the drawing, I was as always applying the local colors, trying to keep them transparent… And one the areas, which I was covering with light colors, my usual drawing (which was not even very dark), remained visible…

So, when I was moving on developing these areas, I felt obliged to continue developing them considering this drawing… which was making them overworked and too heavily loaded.

After establishing the main shapes I just removed the drawing on my future light areas, and got all the freedom how to develop them (or not).

So, I guess, when the Master stopped me from continuing my first image, he stopped me from drawing into details. He saw a good combination of shapes and stopped.

Drafting process. P.S. Sorry I did not take picture of my work in the worst moment, when I discovered how much harm can be done by my "normal" drawing under the light garment… But you can imagine I hope.

What else is going on on our side of the mountain?

Set up for filming online Iconography courses Apart from usual online teaching activities, we are enjoying filming assignments for Iconography Study Group in 4K V-Log, - what a pleasure! Now we do not have to constantly control 2 cameras from overheating. We don’t need to stop painting / drawing every 24 minutes for cooling up. Our current camera can film with no limits (almost). Olga can just draw and paint without worrying about the technical side, and I have all the data to color-grade the footage.

About a week ago I have finished teaching a brand new course “Theology of the Icon”. It’s been a bit of a challenge, as it coincided with the research process I described above. Each lecture took slightly more than a week and all that in addition to routine duties, so I feel that probably the last lecture was little too loaded with problems of iconoclasm. Before announcing this course again I will need to review the whole program to tune it better for practicing iconographers. I am personally thankful to all those, who joined and asked serious questions! I will think about integrating the questions part better into the curriculum, - that appears to be such a crucial part!

Our Online Course on Egg Tempera. Faces starts on January the 4, - 10 more days to get ready...

Archangels. Off-line (in person) icon painting course in Melbourne (Australia) Both our January courses in Melbourne (Australia) have almost filled, - we have 1 or 2 spots left in each, so, if you live in the Southern (or Eastern) hemisphere and thought about attending an in-person iconography course in Melbourne, give it a look:

The course scheduled for the New Skete monastery (NY, USA) in May is almost full, so now we are looking for one more location in the US. If you know a convenient place with abundant daylight in the room and an opportunity for the students to find affordable housing & meals, your proposals will be most appreciated.

We also continue working on the program for two courses in Russia Cristiana in Bergamo (Italy), scheduled for July-August 2024. In the nearest time we should have all the details finalized and announced.

Due to a large amount of work we have paused our tours to medieval Georgian churches in remote areas. Anyway, the days are short and our city car has trouble handling muddy mountain roads. Time to stay at home and to… Make books!

In this Advent season Olga is working on her new project, but I don’t know how to describe it correctly. It is another little book (, but a very specific one. It has a very unusual way of leafing through the pages and transitioning between two simultaneous stories. I can’t say anything more concrete yet, she is in process of production, which we hope may be over in a few days, than we will present it on our both Facebook and Instagram pages, - you will not miss it if you are there.
A Christmas Book Drafting
We have recently heard from the publisher of the previous book with Olga's illustrations. They said the book is still available even though it's selling well and they are thinking about some further collaboration with us, - we pray and hope it may happen :). A short notice to our Australian subscribers: if in january you happen to be in melbourne, I will be have with me some of these books, - you may purchase them from me, - just let me know in advance.


Here I want to present you with images of 2 types. First: three new icons, all approximately 9-12 inches high. The icon of Christ in the middle was painted by Olga Shalamova while the two side icons by Philip Davydov.
Icon St John the Baptist by Philip Davydov Icon of Christ Pantocrator by Olga Shalamova Theotokos. Hot encaustic on ceramic tile.

In addition to that I want to share a graphic image "Christ and Peter" by Olga Shalamova. This image was commissioned by our friend and the idea of this image is to show how contradictory human nature is. This image shows two Peter’s opposite sentiments: “Depart from me, for I’m a sinful man, O, Lord” Luke 5:8 and “Lord, to whom shall we go?…” John 6:22-71. image Christ and Peter by Olga Shalamova

Thank you for reading our News and for being with us in this difficult time!

Merry Christmas and Happy New year!!!

With gratitude,

Philip & Olga
Earlier Newsletters:

Type your email to subscribe to our Newsletter: