A little over a month ago I contacted the director of the St Stephen’s Iconology program about the directed project, because applied theology project abstracts were due at the end of November. I wrote that I’ve been working on an icon with our parish iconographer, and would like to do that and document it as my project. He was sick, but his assistant wrote back for him:
The Visual Diary is intended to be a record of your personal relation in front of the Icon – there is a great deal of flexibility in how this can be expressed dependent on the student – sketches, text, thoughts etc can be included. Each visual diary is different and unique to the individual. You may use prints, books, personal icons, icons within the Church etc.It is definitely important to have a visual diary that you can bring with you to the Residency in the summer – these are shared and reviewed openly by Nicolae, among the students.
I have included below a fragment of an email sent by Nicolae to a previous student regarding the visual diary – I am including it to help you get a sense of what he is asking for…
the visual diary is not expected to be an exclusively written diary, but, in fact, a mainly sketched one. Think, if you like, about Leonardo DaVinci’s sketchbooks: ‘places’ where sketches and text would blend into each other: you can even use collage, – among others – if you feel like. The Visual Diary is your intimate meeting place with the Icon, – a ‘realm’ where you record your mystical, aesthetical, or mystical/aesthetical emotions in front of the Icon, using the ‘language’ ( sketching, writting ) you feel, at that moment, as the most appropriate for recording what you’re feeling in that particular moment: you’re free to scribble, to doodle, sketch, write, and mingle all these together, – as long as their inter-relation makes sense, – has coherency – as a ‘recording language’. The Visual Diary is intimate realm of freedom: God wants us free. Record your experience of freedom in front of God’s face.
It is a good idea for the first year to focus your efforts on the visual diary, to spend time in front of the Icon – plesae, give all this some thought and let us know if you have additional questions and also, if you would like to do a project in addition.
This response had basically opposite the intended affect. I bought a journal and poked at it, made plans for what should go in it, began a few preliminary enquiries, and then avoided it for a month so… I very much want to finish that sentence, and have been speculating rather a lot on what exactly should be connected with it, but for the time being, it’s most honest that I simply leave it. I went to Colorado to visit a myrrh streaming icon from St Tikhon’s, made a sketch of it, and had it pinned to my wall for two months, because there was no context for it inside the mostly empty sketchbook. Perhaps also because I didn’t want to feel shallow for not having any “mystical/aesthetical experiences,” even with very well loved, miraculous icons, with grave literally oozing out of them. (Yes, literally. That’s what the myrrh is about; oozing or gushing)
You’re probably laughing at me. This is sort of a public space: why would I be ok with saying things on a public blog that I wouldn’t say in a private journal, because of “white page syndrome” or “lack of context?” Fair enough. Back to that in a bit.