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creative inspiration Angels and Icons in art How I developed a belief in the power of angels and an interest in Icons

I grew up in a powerfully spiritual place, in Trinidad in the West Indies; a colourful island, vibrant with religion in all its many forms. There was a deeply devotional, enthusiastic and musical allegiance to the wide traditions of Christianity. There were beautiful, elegant mosques, noisy Hindu weddings and twinkling Divali lamps. There was also ‘Shango’, the Bush religion with its roots in Africa. The maids taught us children to fear this; they believed that it was a very real power and told us to make the sign of the cross if we were ever afraid. Trinidad was also a land of colourful and powerful

religious images. In this land of ‘carnival’ and steel bands, I was surrounded by beautiful statues and pictures of the Sacred Heart, of Mary Our Lady, of St Anthony and St Christopher. We bought little cards of these sold by street vendors in San Fernando alongside images of Ganesh, Vishnu and Shiva, with our pocket money. I grew up with an awareness of and sensitivity to the spiritual world and an acceptance that access to it was via statues and images as well as through prayer, church services and ritual. After Trinidad, I found life in an English boarding

school to be a real culture shock. However our A-level art group went to Italy and I was introduced to the beauty of Italian art. I loved Fra Angelico, Cimabue and Simone Martini. We went to Assisi and I wondered at the Giotto frescos; St Francis and St Clare became my favourite saints.

Angels I loved religious art, particularly pictures of angels but I was horrified when studying theology at college to see the ugly line drawings in the New English Bible and to find that a belief in angels was dismissed as childish fantasy. Belief in angels had been so strong in medieval and Victorian times, and I was delighted when alongside the ‘new age’ movement, belief in angels became popular once again. I have come to have a strong belief in angels and feel them protect and guide me. I love painting angels, as there is so much room for freedom of expression. I try to feel their presence when I paint and ask them to help and

moment, the other for an Icon of Pope John XX111. This was commissioned for the Roman Catholic Church, in Wendover, to be ready for the week after Easter when Pope John XX111 and Pope John Paul 11 were canonised. An Icon of Pope John Paul 11 was written by Constantina Wood and will be in the Church of The Immaculate Heart of Mary in Great Missenden. There was a lovely mass when these two Icons were blessed.

Isobel Cherry Writing Icons Archangel Michael Icon

guide me. I have greeting cards made of my paintings and the money I raise goes to a charity in India.

My angel painting called ‘With You Always’ hangs in the therapy room of a Reiki healer

Icons After college, I travelled to Corfu with a friend and it was there that I saw Icons. They were so mysterious, beautiful and golden! I saw people approach them with the reverence I remembered from Trinidad. In 1975, I went with my husband to Crete; we wanted to see Greek churches, monasteries and Icons. It was wonderful, with dark churches smelling of incense and little old ladies in black, lighting thin brown candles in front of beautiful golden and silver Icons. Years later, we went to Mount Athos in Greece, one of the most famous centres for devotional Icons in the world. We were able to buy an Icon ‘written’ by the monks who live there. However, it was not until I retired from teaching that at last I had the opportunity to learn to write (paint) Icons myself. I did four terms with Constantina Wood and wrote an Icon of the Archangel Raphael and the Archangel Gabriel. Since then I have studied with Peter Murphy, both in Canterbury and at West Dean College, near Chichester. I wrote Icons of St. Clare, the Archangel Michael and Christ Pantocrator. Last summer, I attended a course in France at Prouille Abbey. We worked on an Icon of Mary, the Mother of God, Our Lady of Peace. In November, I studied with Sister Esther at Turvey Abbey in Bedfordshire, where we wrote a different Icon of the Archangel Michael. I was thrilled to receive commissions, one for an Archangel Gabriel which I am working on at the


This is a ‘different’ art form. There are extremely rigorous ‘rules’. All the teachers I have had, have also been very strict! You begin in prayer. You should try to work in silence in order that the ‘prototype’ that is in Heaven can work with and through you to portray their image properly. There must be a real connection when someone stands in prayer before the Icon. Before working on the face you should receive Holy Communion. When you have finished the Icon you should be the first to pray before it and then it should be blessed before it is used, placed in a church, a home or in an exhibition.

Archangel Raphael Angels and Icons

• Authentic Icons painted in a

traditional style for both churches and private collectors

• Angel paintings and cards to order

• Pottery angels

Isobel Cherry 01494 774575 angelsandicons

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