George Kordis Icon Syllabus

Institute for Church Life

Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame

 Instructor: George Kordis

 Ass. Professor in Iconography (Theory and Practice)

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

School of Theology

Course title: Writing with light :Painting  a Byzantine Icon 

The course introduces the student to the theory and practice of the art of Icon Painting, according to the  Byzantine Tradition. The basic ideals and principles of the Theory of Byzantine Painting will be presented  in relation to Patristic Iconology,  on which the art of Iconography is founded. 

The main aim of the course is to introduce participants to the traditional process of painting an icon with the use of the  Egg tempera technique. 

Students are called to make an icon during the five day course.  More specifically, the schedule will be as follows:      

Monday: A. Introduction. The ideals and Principles of Byzantine Iconography. Byzantine painting as a system. Drawing of a saint ( head, figure, garments). 

B.The Egg Tempera technique. Practicing. 

Tuesday: A.The drawing of an icon. Work in class. Every student will draw his own icon. 

B. Work in class. The painting of the icon. Step I. ( Background, basic colors)

Wednesday: The Egg Tempera Technique. Garments.

Thursday: The making of an  Icon: steps II, III (garments, face)

Friday: The making of an Icon: steps III, IV (face, cornice, letters)



*St. John Damascene, On the Divine Images (English translation by David Anderson), N. York, 1980.

*St. Theodore the Studite, On the Holy Icons, (English translation by Cath. Roth), N. York ,1981.

 *C. Mango, The Art of Byzantine Empire 312-1453 : Sources and Documents , Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1972.

*Dionysios of Fourna, The Painter΄s Manual of Dionysios of Fourna, ( English translation  by Paul. Hetherington), London, 1974.

   History, Theology, Aesthetics, Technique.

*R. Cormack, Byzantine Art, Oxford University Press, 2000.

*L. Ouspensky-V. Lossky, The Meaning of Icons, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1983.

G. Kordis, Icon as Communion. The basic Ideals and Compositional Principles of Icon Painting, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline MA. 2010. 


Materials for drawing

1. Pencils (2-3B)

2. Rubber

3. Sheets of paper for sketching or a sketchbook

Materials for painting with egg tempera

4. 3 small jars for the mixing of colors

5. One piece of plexiglass (25x35 cm) for the mixing of colors

6. Paper tissues or a piece of soft absorbent cloth

7. Plastic Floral Palette (Dick Blick art materials.

8. Long- haired round brushes for egg tempera (pure red sable or their synthetic

equivalent). I suggest : Watercolors Brushes  (Blick master Short Handle Synthetic round) No, 2,4,6,10.

9. Some Flat brushes for all students. (no. 05842-4234)


1 kg. Iron Oxide Yellow (48000), 1 kg. (mars black (48420), 1 kg. english red

(light (40542) and 500gr english red dark (40545), 2 kg titanium white (46200).


11. 20 sheets of heavy paper (200 gr.)

12. Small plastic cups

13. One rectangular gessoed board ( 11x15) for each student and one for me. Dick Blick,, No. 14925-1006.


Materials for gesso ground

Rabbit skin glue

Whiting or gesso di Bologna or Gesso from Alpes

Titanium white

Materials for gilding

Gold leaf

 Red Bole


brushes for handling  the gold leafs

a palette knife

sandpapers for the smoothing of grounds