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Creating a Physical + mental Space

Since a big part of the process of traditional iconography includes a process of purification/ separation from the rest of life for the iconographer, I try to do this in a few ways.

Firstly, I make sure that the choices I make on the day I’ll be working on an icon all reflect something about the person I am portraying. Maybe the lunch I make comes from the culture they lived in, or the coffee or tea I start the day with is made with an ingredient that is a symbol for the saint. The colors I wear might reflect the palette I have chosen for the piece.

One of the most important decisions I make is about what playlist I’ll listen to while I work. Because I love all music, I rely on the curated collections on Spotify to get as specific as possible. For example, I was able to play Civil Rights anthems as I worked on the piece of St. Pauli Murray. Some have to be more interpretive - so instead of listening to the music Mark Ji Tianxiang would have listened to, I chose a playlist called Melantronic - songs that frequently sample more traditional Chinese instruments that has an overall melancholic vibe - one that I fits his story well.

I can also choose a scent for my oil diffuser or a candle (and icons are traditionally revered with incense and candles so this is important!)

All of this is part of a conscious effort to make sure I am grounded in the purpose of the piece and to put me in this “separate” space to lend to that focus. The prayers and meditations that I choose to accompany the process throughout often blend into all of these elements and create something new and inspiring.


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