Tuesday, April 14, 2009



Angels of Sacrifice

While traveling in Greece a few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit with a Greek Orthodox priest who was also an iconographer. He gave me a lesson in the craft of gold leaf.

The priest used wood, canvas, and tempura along with gold leaf to compose his icons. He dried and seasoned the wood outside for 3 years. He stretched and dried the canvas in a kiln. He then sanded one side of it smooth to make it shine. This was done so that the gold leaf would lie smooth on the finished icon. He then painted the canvas with a mixture of powder, half egg yolk and half vinegar – the tempura. He applied dark colors first for clothing, and then light colors on top of this. This mixture was applied repeatedly and then the gold leaf was applied to create halos or backgrounds. He completed the piece by varnishing it and gluing it to a piece of the seasoned wood. The priest produced beautiful iconographic images depicting Jesus, Mary, and the saints.

The most surprising part of the process was the method he used to lay down the gold leaf. His method seemed a bit “unorthodox” to me. He took a paintbrush and whisked it across his forehead and onto the canvas. He then laid the gold leaf down over the area he had painted with his sweat. He finished by smoothing the leaf with a wooden dowel. I'm not sure how sanitary his method is, but who am I to argue with tradition? Besides, artists throughout the centuries have given so much of themselves to their work in so many ways – why shouldn’t one give his sweat literally as well as figuratively? I feel like I’m very much a part of my work; it enmeshes the artist and material into a work infused with love.

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I've titled my angel series Angels of Sacrifice, because that is the only story that I've written so far for them. The story seems to represent so many of us who have spent a lifetime giving to others in one way or another. I think it speaks to mothers most of all. Here it is, along with my angels.

Angel of Sacrifice


She lies cocooned beneath the gossamer wings

of her guardian angel.

She does not move, for fear her angel

will leave her


to face the universe of memories

that abide in her mind.


the angel came with strength, wisdom, love

and a promise to lift her sorrow.

Luminescent prisms flow in the distance

becoming brighter and clearer as she


Seeds of light burst round her in an

unwavering fashion. Her angel by her

side, they transcend toward

a presence brilliant and familiar.

She is teased with leaving behind the

heaviness of her life and escaping to

a place of peace.

But..knowing in her heart that it is

not the time..for there is

much more love to give before she

can go home again...

She returns...

Cheryl Dolby

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