This month our staff spotlight is on Father Jeff Mead, our chaplain who serves the Meadows, Manor, and Chandler communities. He also happens to be a remarkable artist who specializes in the Prosopon style of iconography, a way of painting religious icons.
Initially a self-taught artist, Father Jeff has been interested in art since he was a very young boy. When he worked in the Middle East as a missionary chaplain, he developed an interest in icons. He had already been creating pencil drawings of icons for years but became inspired by the multitude of icons he saw that are part of the cultural landscape of that region. In particular, Cyprus, which seemed to have them everywhere; in grottos alongside roads, in and on churches, over doorways of homes, restaurants, grocery stores, even pharmacies. After several years on the mission field, he and his wife returned to the United States where he served as an Associate Priest at an Anglican church in suburban Dallas. He then came to Morningside, where he has faithfully served our community for the past 15 years.
Once settled in San Antonio, Father Jeff sought formal instruction in iconography. He met D’mitri Andreyev at a Prosopon iconography workshop taught in Austin. The Prosopon School of Iconology has students worldwide. Under D’mitri’s instruction, Father Jeff has painted 14 of the more than 50+ icons he has created in total.
Painting an icon is not a fast, easy, or inexpensive process as the materials Father Jeff uses include gold, natural dried pigments, such as lapis, cinnabar, vivianite, gold ocher, and lead white, which are then mixed with egg tempera and applied to handmade wooden icon panels. The panels he uses are made by a craftsman in Serbia.
In the process of painting, there are multiple layers used to help create the sense of luminosity and vibrancy in the paintings. The icon is painted using patterns that follow ancient tradition including one of the Annunciation of Mary found in a cave on a catacomb wall that is attributed to St. Luke.
In all, there are 22 steps in creating an icon, and each one is accompanied by prayers that are prayed throughout its composition. This iconographic method is characterized by a multi-step process in which the succession of steps is concrete and definite, as are the liturgical services of the Church.
Creating the icon is both a prayerful and worshipful experience. Vladislav Andrejev, the founder of the Prosopon School says, “The icon is the Gospel reflected in color. Each icon points us to Jesus Christ.”
Father Jeff has been commissioned for several icon paintings, one of which has been made into prints and sold at a religious bookstore. Recently, Father Jeff’s artwork has been published on the cover of the Reverend Dr. Tara L. Jernigan’s book, This Foundational Order, an excellent work on the role of the deacon within the church. In addition to his duties as a chaplain for the Meadows, Manor and Chandler communities, he also teaches a basic drawing class on our Chandler campus,