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Artist’s Thoughts

St. Dymphna patroness of mental and nervous illness

What the Artist Thinks

I really enjoyed designing the icon of Saint Dymphna.  People ask what my thoughts were when I sat down to create this icon. So let me tell you. 

First, I studied her life to get to know her.  I studied other artists’ renditions. I thought about how she would dress and what she would like. I found that I had a lot of things to work with for this young lady ie: station in life, age, nationality, sanctity, martyrdom. 

I wanted to portray her as a 15 year old, full of life. All the other pictures I’d seen of her, showed her being much older. Even the costumes were inaccurate and from much later time periods.  I wanted to portray her as the young lady she was, so I asked Our Lady of the Mountains parishioner, Selah, who is the same age Dymphna was when she was martyred, to be my model.  

Next I researched seventh century Irish Celtic costume. St. Dymphna was an Irish princess in seventh century Ireland. When I designed her crown, I wanted to keep it Celtic, simple and youthful since she wasn’t quite an adult yet.  For her clothing, I chose purple for her cape because she was royalty. White for her gown to signify her virtue. I trimmed the collar and cuffs purple with gold. She even has tiny pearl earrings on of which you can see only one.  Like all teenage girls, I’m sure she liked jewelry.  And it would be simple because of her age and the time period. 

Then I needed to have her hold items that would identify her as Dymphna. In the early Church, many people could not read, so in order to identify the saints, the people knew what colors they wore and what they carried. Dymphna holds a candle which shows the light of Christ in her. She also holds a bouquet of lilies and palm branches. The lilies signify her purity, while the palm branches denote her martyrdom. And last, but not least, she also holds the sword of her father, the instrument of her martyrdom. 

I tried to use Celtic style wherever possible in the icon. The sword has a Celtic pattern on the handle. The trim on her collar and cuffs is also Celtic design. She has a gold Celtic shaped cross around her neck to convey her Christianity.  And for the background, green, the color of Ireland, with tone on tone shamrocks that represent the Trinity, and let you know, if there is any doubt, her Irish nationality. 

So, as you can see, an artist must put some thought into her creation. She just does not sit and start painting. 🙂

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During this time of year as we head into a season of Holidays (Holy Days), we still have a lot to be thankful for.  Even though there is still a lot of tragedy in the world with terrorism, the attacks against the Eastern Christians and many natural disasters.  We are entering into a season of hope and expectation.  It is that hope that keeps us going:  hope for that new job, that new relationship, that new child, that new home, that new trip.  Whatever it may be, keep the hope alive.  Remember:  those who have hope live better and longer lives because they have something to strive toward.  Jesus gave us hope in the Resurrection, after all He is the first born of the dead.  His life was not easy, nor will ours be.  But with trust in God, they say “all things are possible.”  Believe it: hope.

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The Great King, Humbled

Our great God comes to us again this Christmas, humbled, as a little, helpless baby.  Many through the ages have speculated why Jesus chose to be born in a lowly manger when indeed, He could have been born in the finest palace built by man.  Some say it is because of the way inns were run in those days, you never knew who your roommates were going to be.  It was common for strangers to share rooms and even beds!  That was true even up to the 18th century.  Others say that a quiet little stable out of the way was the best place for privacy and peace.

But I think that it was because since God created Nature, that was the only place for Him to be born.  He wanted to be among His creation, not man’s creation.  Merry Christmas and may God bless you!

This picture “Away in the Manger”, shows the peace and quite that only a stable can provide.


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As We Prepare this Advent…

I know that the rest of the world is in shopping mode, preparing for Christmas. Now that Black Friday has become a whole week instead of one day, we now have “Green Monday”, which follows.  Not to mention the retailers who try to lure us away from our Thanksgiving dinner for even greater savings.  December 25th for them is a day off work with the added perks of gifts, a good meal and perhaps a football game.  The next day it is back to work and business as usual, waiting for the next holiday.  How empty and boring is that kind of life?

But they have missed the best part, the real point:  the King of kings, the Lord of lords:  Jesus!  Christmas is welcoming our Savior into our world.   He chose to become one of us, to decend from His cheribum throne to meet us at our lowly human level.  How can we comprehend this marvelous miracle?  Those people who are so intent on the parties and gifts are really missing the Spirit of Christmas, the excitement of His coming into the world.  They are trying to fill the void in their life.  It was a black and white world until Jesus came and gave it color.   Such a precious little Babe!

This is the Advent season, the season of hopeful waiting.  Enjoy the excitement of expectation.  Then fully and prayerfully enjoy the Christmas season;  the season of the fulfillment of God’s redeeming promise to the world.  If you try, you can feel the closeness of God to us during this blessed season.  And remember: Christmas lasts until the Wisemen come to adore the newborn King.

Be joyful!  Be hopeful!  Enjoy the spirit of Christmas.  Be blessed!

This picture is entitled “The Touch of God’s Hand”.  Can you imagine God touching you like this?  The Blessed Mother knew His touch.  God touches the earth with His mercy again this Christmas.