The making of an icon: Priest monk shares his journey of becoming an iconographer

Posted: February 10, 2014

From graphic artist to a cheesecake baker to a freelance journalist, priest monk Vladimir Lysak’s journey to becoming a full-time iconographer has not been the most direct path.  

“It’s been quite the journey,” laughed Lysak during his presentation, The Threefold Path: A Personal Reflection on Becoming an Iconographer, at Briercrest College and Seminary.

Lysak, who creates religious/devotional paintings known as icons, explained his love for drawing began as a young child.

“Even before I could actually say full sentences I was always drawing,” he explained. “My parents knew when I was a young boy, when I said the words ‘petea lilly,’ I was supposed to be given a pencil and paper to draw.”

As Lysak got older, he continued to grow and develop his childhood passion. Then, about 25 years ago, Lysak gave his life to Christ and began looking for a way to honour the Lord with his love for drawing.

“Before painting icons I was a graphic artist. I used to paint various things like Michelangelo things, and I used to draw, so I thought, ‘how I can offer these gifts to God?’ That is when I decided to become an iconographer,” he explained.

Since stepping into the world of iconography, Lysak has painted over 500 icons.

“They can be created in a variety of media, but most people, when they speak about icons, think of panel paintings done in the medium of egg tempera, with the yolk of an egg acting as a binder for natural mineral pigments. The technique of egg tempera painting has been in existence from before the birth of Christ,” he explained.

One of the things that drew Lysak to iconography is the way he is able to see his prayers made manifest in a physical way.

“When I say in my iconography classes, ‘if you don’t pray you don’t paint,’ I mean it because prayer is such a strong element to who you are as an iconographer,” he said.

He explained that there are times when he is painting and praying that the icon he is working on ceases to be his own creation.

“And it is that moment, sometimes it brings me to tears, because suddenly I have become a conduit and that is what keeps me going.”