Ouspensky and Lossky suggest that “Layers of paint, superimposed upon another, create a barely perceptible relief, lower in the darks and higher in the lights. In this way the icon is not only painted, but also as it were modeled, according to the traditional requirements of an icon’s structure.”102

The various techniques of painting icons include specific attention to the physical nature of the subject of the icon. Perspective is ignored, as the focus is not on the depth of field in the icon.103 The role of the icon is not to bring us closer to what we see in nature (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc.) but to emphasize the absence from this world.104 This represents a resistance to the concept of “natural” beauty as an ideal for the subjects of icons. In fact, ”…it would be outrageous to represent Christ according to the natural beauty of some ordinary human model.”105 Rather, an icon is characterized by “…an idealized type unlike any purely human model, with supranatural characteristics such as large eyes, nose and hands.”106 This is common hyperbole used to depict Christ and the saints and contrary to the ideals in the west where young men became actual models for paintings of Christ. These humanly beautiful pictures are unacceptable to the Orthodox tradition. The people in icons generally have a small mouth, implying that that the saint has no thought for his own life or what he may eat or drink, but seeks first the kingdom of God.107 Large eyes convey the idea of inner watchfulness and attention. The “…eyes often seem to be inward looking, turned away from the external world of the senses.”108

“Sensual exuberance was discarded by making the mouth smaller, and the nose thinner and longer.