86 Anthony Ugolnik. The Illuminating Icon. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1989), p. 55.
87 Coniaris, 1982, p. 177.
88 Michel Quenot. The Icon: Window on the Kingdom. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991), p. 84.
Iconography is “… a creative activity in which the artist has no initiative, in which he finds the problems and their solutions long since formulated, in which he conforms to a well- established hieratic canon and expresses neither his personal emotions nor the beauty of nature.”89 Icons are never painted from the imagination of the painter or from a living model.90 Rather, iconographers used existing icons as points of reference. This affirms the Orthodox commitment to tradition. However, Ouspensky suggests that to paint icons as the ancient iconographers painted them did not mean to imitate their style, but rather to imitate their lives, as Paul imitated Christ. This was accomplished not by copying gestures and words but imitating life. ”…to follow the sacred tradition, to live the tradition.”91
Icons have a unique beauty that is also significantly different to ideas of beauty in the West. Beauty in Orthodox understanding is not the beauty of the creature but the potential beauty when God will be “…all in all.”92 The icon does not represent corruptible flesh but transfigured flesh. This is divine beauty. In this way, there is a clear distinction between a portrait, which focuses on the corruptible flesh, and an icon which focuses on that which is transfigured.93
Much of this focus on the eternal is accomplished through the use of color and, especially, light. What the Gospel proclaimed by words, the icon proclaimed by color.94 Sometimes there is a darkness at the bottom of the icon representing evil and a brightness at the top representing the Divine Presence. Sometimes there is a ladder indicating the possibility of a journey into light.