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The difference between Orthodox and Catholic Icons.

As an artist coming from a protestant background the concept of religious icons intrigued me. As I usually visited Europe I was acquainted with Catholic Icons. I am planning a visit to Greece and I realized that there is a big difference between Orthodox and Catholic icons. So I looked into it.

So, let us start of by saying what is an icon. The dictionary identifies it as: a representation (as in a mural, a mosaic, or a painting on wood) of sacred events or especially of a sacred individual (such as Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint) used as an object of veneration or a tool for instruction.

Orthodox Icon.

In orthodox icons the representation is not naturalistic. The figures appear flat and devoid of emotion. Normal perspective does not play a role. There are no shadows, as the sainted individuals will have an ‘internal’ light. Every individual will be identified by attributes special to him or her, like St. George with a spear. Even gestures would indicate a specific person. A person steeped in the tradition will be able to identify the saint immediately.

The colors used all have symbolic meaning. Gold represents the radiance of heaven. Red represents divine life, while blue represents Human life. Red and blue together has special meaning as well. Jesus would have a red undergarment with a blue overgarment, to show that it is God that took on human form. Mary or other saints will have a blue undergarment with a red overgarment, to show a human touched by God.

Catholic Icons.

Catholic icons are more naturalistic. They use naturalistic color and the artist has full artistic freedom to interpret the icon as he likes. The icon is used as an educational tool and for aesthetic use. It is not revered, but visible gospel to help you focus your attention on God. Here we think of the great Renaissance painters, like Botticelli and Raphael.

In short we can say: Catholic icon is fine art, helping you to find God

Orthodox icon Is not revered or worshiped. It is a window into heaven, to show you God’s holiness. The prayers go to God. The icons is sacramental, a reminder of Gods presence.

The Van Ryn Cellar

Certain things we do give value to our lives. Most of the things that makes life special takes time, as well as planning for it to realize. You must be able to sit back, relax and live the moment. Usually it also becomes even better if it is a moment shared with someone special. This is what I call Slow Living.

Life is a race. You owe it to yourself to sometimes sit back and reflect. At these times I think of the Simon and Garfuncel song

“Slow down, you move to fast, you have got to make the moment last….”

One of the aids we have toward slow living is a good glass of brandy, enjoyed in good company.

On Saturday I visited the Van Ryn Distillery and Cellar with my sons. We spent a beautiful morning in the Cellar, doing a cellar tour and brandy tasting.

A visit to the Van Ryn Cellar is an unique experience. Brandy was produced in the Cape since 1672. Thus, brandy is produced for three and a half centuries in South Africa. Today it is an unique product with its own flavors and aromas, that can hold its place next to some of the best French cognacs, as this cellar can attest too by the major international awards won over several years.

The founder, Jan van Ryn, came to the Cape in 1845. He started the cellar shortly after arriving and started to experiment with different styles of brandy making. His belief in perfecting the product by aging it in wooden barrels, is still being used today.

The cellar has an old-world charm. The guide was knowledgeable and could answer questions asked. I was impressed with the beautiful old John Doore and Savalle copper pot stills that is still in use.

Neville, the cooper showed us how the barrels are constructed by demonstrating it to us step by step. He uses his own self built instruments. It is a rare thing to still see a very skilled craftsman at work.

The next stop was the brandy aging cellars. Here, brandy is stored and aged in barrels. The barrels allows a small parentage of evaporation of brandy . On entering these aging cellars one is overwhelmed by the heavenly smell of the evaporated brandy. It is called the Angel’s share. The process is part of the maturation. During maturation the harshness that one can pick up in younger brandies softens and matures into a more complex and rounded taste. Brandy is deemed immature if it is matured for less than 2 years. Here brandy will be matured for up to 20 years and more

The crown on the day was the chocolate and brandy tasting. We tasted the 12, 15 and 20 year old brandies. To my surprise I was bowelled over by the rich but mellow taste of the 15 year old Van Ryn brandy. The rich dark color is complemented by aromas of cigar box, fruitiness and citrus. A smooth rounded taste of dark chocolate and spiciness and a lingering orange peel on the after taste complete a satisfying taste experience. The oak is well balanced.

It was a rewarding experience. Treat yourself and a friend or two to a memorable day.

Living a Creative life

It is silly season again. Everybody is rushing, buying and running around. Hopefully soon we will start settling down and start thinking about the new year looming ahead. The dreaded time of new year’s resolutions!

Some years back I started to move away from new year’s resolutions. Gradually the idea of more intentional living started to take root. We see this trend in some self help programs as well lately. Set yourself few life goals.

In my own life I focus on three aspects. I think of healthy living, living more spiritually and living a more creative life. It is much broader than new years resolutions, but in the end easier to accomplish. With a resolution you might decide not to eat bread again, and this thought only lasts until you smell a lovely freshly baked bread. Once you had your lovely slice of bread the resolution is broken and you hardly ever think of it again.

With intentional living you decide to live a healthier life. The decision is not obsessive, it is not self abusive and it is not depriving you of the joys of life. It leads you to live more balanced. With my personality I never feels strong enough about anything to become fanatical about it. ( Over enthusiastic is a completely different matter.) This way of thinking will help you to decide, when you do need to make a decision, to maybe just choose the healthier option. and if you don’t, you did not break a resolution, and the next choice might be better.

My next option is to live a spiritually fulfilling life. Spirituality is a foreign idea these days. I do not intend this to be a specific religious idea either. With this I simply mean to live in the moment from time to time. Be aware of NOW. Experience the magic around you. See the clouds. Be part of the sunset. Enjoy and accept the heat of summer, accept it and experience it, rather than to complain about it.

Most important part in my life, is to live a creative life. Creativity is an essential part of being human. We create all day. You create the meal you will eat, friendships and relationships. Years ago I read the only self help book that really changed my life. It was The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. Even though I adapted it to suit my own needs, it is still part of my life.

The main part of this is a form of active meditation. She calls it Morning Pages. It means that you should write on paper with a pen 3 to 5 pages of thoughts that crosses your mind first thing in the morning. This helps you to plan your day, to identify things that bothers you, to set goals for the day and to put your day into perspective. The days that I do it is the days that is just so much more productive. It works for me.

To create we need to take something from out of ourselves. This will leave you with less original ideas. One need to put something back. This is called “filling the pond”. So treat yourself to something nice at least once a week. Go to a museum, walk in the park or go swimming somewhere in nature. You owe it to yourself!

The last part is regular walking. The action should be relaxed. The rhythm and repetitive motion will help you to relax and get creative thoughts flowing.

To really become creative you need to make time. Stop thinking that you need big blocks of time. Half an hour a day is plenty of time. That is just 2% of your day, but a 2% that might give you 80% of the joy of your day. Make time. Sacrifice television or social media. They are both time wasters, and I never hear anybody saying they do not have half an hour to do Facebook or Instagram, and it usually absorbs much more time than that.

Come on. You can do it! Live a more creative life.

Bookreview: Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

To be or not t be; that is the question.

How apt is this quote from Hamlet. After reading this book I discovered how little we actually know about Shakespeare. It is almost unthinkable that we know almost nothing about , what most people will see as, the greatest writer ever in the English language ( and even as the greatest writer in any language!)

In fact, there is so little known about him that there are even people saying that somebody without at least university training can have such genius as to change the way that English is spoken today.

Even the image we know as Shakespeare today is somebody that we assume might have been the great man. it is shocking to think, that if friends and colleagues of Shakespeare did not put together a folio of his plays some years after his death, that most of his output would have been forgotten or totally lost today. He himself never had any of his works published. They were written, performed and then discarded. Even if the plays were popular and he was well known as a playwriter. his plays were not seen as something worth keeping for later generations.

Even though we think that his work is still original, clever and witty today, it must have been even better in his day where he incorporated referrals to politics and gossip of the day into the script. Remarks we will not be able to grasp or understand.

I often read Bill Bryson books as light fiction, slightly tongue in cheek, but I really enjoyed this one. It made me realize that genius is no guarantee to be remembered. How much poorer we would have been if the great treasure of Shakespeare plays would have been lost .

The very idea of it will let me start reading all my favorites again.

Small etchings

I created a collection of small etchings. Each of them not much larger than a postage stamp. The process was absolutely facinating, The artworks are relatively small and one could still put in beautifully fine detail. As the plates are so small I could ink up and polish each plate to end up with an unique artpiece .

I used the drypoint techneque exclusively and after finishing several more series I am still discovering new ways of exploiting the medium .

With Covid and its aftermath chanses to exhibit was very limited. So I decided to have an online sale. The advantages of this is that there are no gallery fees . You can buy artwork for a really good price! The disadvantages are that the buyer cansee the art works (unless you visit me in my studio) and that we can’t enjoy a glass of wine together at the exhibition opening.

The artworks will sell at R 250,00 each . contact me here or on facebook messenger if you are interisted.

Etching gallery