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Angels and Seraphim

Father Patrick and Father Moses painting the Angels around the Pantocrator, during November and December 2013.

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the sketch of the whole dome program directly on the plaster back in August of 2004
The dome, as originally built back in 1996, always leaked badly and had to be replaced. It was rebuilt earlier that summer of 2004. We had to supervise the plastering of the new dome, since it would be done with our special plaster for fresco painting. While we were up there with the plasterers, we thought of doing some design work, and Fr. Lawrence and the parish decided that we could have the plasterer's scaffold remain an extra month, so we go to work rather unexpectedly.
For this project, we got into the dome by climbing up an outside scaffolding and across the roof. The reconstruction of the original dome required scaffold inside and out. Here we are hoisting stuff up. That's Fr. Moses up there. The view was great.
Fr. Moses measuring with a big compass
There was a lot more math than we expected. Lots of measuring and proportions. We worked from original small sketches which we transferred onto the ceiling with the use of graphs.
Ladder up the middle.
The Prophet Habakuk
Late night work
We photographed the Sinopia Sketch of the Dome, seeing it for the last time.
Every hour, the scaffold was taking shape though out that day. It was rather exciting.
Geoffry Lake (parishioner of St Seraphim's) was on hand, and was able to lend a great deal of professional advice with regard to the numerous options which came up during the building of the scaffold.
Final sketches
Serge Anderson made us another pile of stacking plywood boxes. We can stack the three sizes to be any size that we need, and they are in constant use. With them, we can fine tune the height of the scaffold floor, and build supporting structures to climb on. This is a big help to my injured shoulder.
Finding ourselves back up in the dome for the first time in many years, after completing the scaffold work, we traced the entire composition, making record of our sketches and texts. This sketch will mostly be lost as we wet and scratch the plaster in preparation for the final plaster layers. It was very difficult to hold tracing paper upside down over our heads. Fr. Moses built these adjustable poles which we could use to wedge against the curved ceiling, and hold pieces of tracing paper in place. We traced the Pantocrator sketch piece by piece for further work and development and to use for the transfer of the sketch onto the fresh plaster.
Here Fr. Moses is tracing the text that surrounds the icon of the Saviour. It is taken from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 101: HE HATH LOOKED OUT FROM HIS HOLY HEIGHT, THE LORD FROM HEAVEN HATH LOOKED UPON THE EARTH, TO HEARE THE GROANING OF THEM THAT BE IN FETTERS.
A new cartoon was put in place for examination and criticism. We used the Sinopia Sketch that we made 9 years ago, but changed several details. The sketch for the face of the Saviour we used is similar, but not identical to the one we have been looking at these several years.
The Sinopia sketch is lost as we wet and scrub the plaster. This allows for better adhesion of the next layer of plaster. Below you see the first section of the fresco outlined. Just the Saviour's face. We thought that to try to paint the hair and halo at the same time would be too much for one painting session.
On Tuesday, the 6th of August, we were ready to start painting. Fr. Moses plasters the 1st section, starting at about 9pm
It was the first of many evening Vigils for Fr. Moses.
9 PM
Tracing put in place
And scratched into the plaster.
First colors laid down, 10:30 AM
12:30 PM
Lines and details. 11 PM.
11 AM the next morning
8 PM the next day

Frescos in the dome

Record of painting on February 11, 2014

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Here we are painting the 4th angel, starting on November 26. that’s Fr Moses surfacing the plaster for painting.
Here is the finished angel, later that week.
That left 2 Seraphim and 2 angels to go:
The next week, the next Seraphim.
The week of December 8, and the next angel.
The range up to that point.
Back in the dome in January, during the week of January 20th, we painted the final angel:
Then it was time to touch up seams between the various sections. We also had to remove the bolt holding our compass string, and plaster over the hole in the middle of the Saviour’s neck:
Fr Moses filling the hole with new plaster. This would be the smallest fresco section of the dome.
The hole filled with plaster, before color being added.
We then decided that it was time to view the fresco from the ground. The scaffolding was designed to have sections of the flooring removable for viewing from below. In the photo below, you can see that some of the floor sections have red lines painted along their edges. These pieces of plywood were especially placed to be unscrewed and removed, allowing access to the floor platforms underneath that are then taken away to open up a section of the middle of the scaffold floor.
Our friend Ivan came to help Fr. Moses:
The open scaffold. We could not see the entire painting at one time, but could see almost everything by moving around below. We were looking mostly at the seams between the fresco sections, and the colors in general to see if anything need further work. For 2 days, while I worked on the tracings for the upcoming Prophets, we made notes, but there was not much to do. We work so physically close to the frescoes, it is hard to imagine what it looks like from a distance. There is also an enormous amount of light up in the dome, which makes our colors behave differently than in the rest of the church where the light is far more subdued.
Aaron, who is a parishioner, helped Fr. Moses put the scaffold back together after we were done with making notes on anything that needed attention.
Meanwhile, I started making the tracings for the next range: the Prophets. Here I’m drawing the Prophet Isaiah, which I’ll talk about in the next email.
Tom Pellizzer helped with the new scaffold arrangement. There are now three scaffold sections, built lower than those we have used before, giving access to about half of the Prophets. Those are their sinopia sketches you see on the wall.
Fr Moses before the sinopia sketch of the Prophet Moses, who will be the first prophet we paint.
As I write this, we are just finishing the tracings of the first three Prophets. I’ll show that in my next email. It’s 8:30 PM on Tuesday night, and Fr Moses is just beginning to plaster the section for the Prophet Moses. Please remember us in your prayers, as this is a large fresco, and a first time kind of session. First of the twelve Prophets, new location, and all that.

Preparing for New Fresco Work in Saint Seraphim's Church

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Saint Constantine the Great and Saint Helena

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Saint Seraphim Church

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Saint Michael Series

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The Dormition

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Holy Trinity Fresco, painted latter part of Oct. 2011, early Nov.

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Monday night (Oct. 15), and Fr. Moses beginning to plaster for the decorative border, which we have to paint first, as we always paint top first to keep the painting below clean.

Fresco of the Transfiguration - 10/24/12

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Monday night (Oct. 15), and Fr. Moses beginning to plaster for the decorative border, which we have to paint first, as we always paint top first to keep the painting below clean.
Meanwhile, Tuesday Morning Fr Patrick is tracing the figures of the Savior and the Prophet Elias, which we'll be painting in one session.
Fr. Moses painting the border
Tuesday night, the border finished, the two layers of plaster laid the night before the painting. This photo is takes at about 5 AM, the first layer having been completed some hours before, and the second showing 3/4'ths of the layer in place.
Wednesday morning, Fr. Patrick scratching the tracing of the cartoon into the plaster later that morning.
Painting beginning as soon as the plaster is hard enough to withstand the brush. The plaster dried very slowly this day. This photo is taken at 11:00 AM, which is late to be just starting the painting.
11:30 AM
12:30 PM
1 PM
4 PM
11:30 PM: Fr Patrick finishing up the day's painting, and Fr. Moses applying a layer of plaster to paint the border to the left of today's painting. He'll paint that border tomorrow.
The Prophet Eilias, as he looked the next morning. Not totally finished, but enough completed, so that the rest will be done in "secco": dry plaster, egg yolk added to the paint for adhesion. Most byzantine fresco were completed this way.
Fr. Moses Trimming away the extra plaster.
The trimmed fresco. Next week: the Prophet Moses and St. John (who is below the feet of the Saviour)
From Fr. Patrick: These are the pictures form the week before last, painting St. Peter and the corner to his left. I had drawn the figure a month ago, but was never really happy with the sketch. It just did not seem to go with the composition, which is difficult because of the unusual, triangular shape of the wall and fresco
Our sketch
another view of our sketch
Fr Moses finishing the night's plaster at about 6:30 AM on Wednesday, October 17.
With the usual difficulty of the plaster draining and drying quickly at the top of the fresh section, we had to paint some of the background right away.
Fresco at 11 AM
1:30 PM
10:30 PM
Fr. Patrick: I had started to do the white highlights, but was not sure if they would be permanent, as the plaster was 14 hours old by this time. I stopped after finishing the face, hands, feet and some of the garments, then decided to do the rest the next day with egg (in "secco".)
Fr. Moses began plastering the corner, to be painted the next day. We decided to do this section separately from St. Peter because it's difficult to get down into that corner. At 54, I have to make plans around the fact that it's hard for me to be jumping and stooping around all day on the scaffold.
St. Peter the next morning
Later that day
Border work
Fr Patrick: I drew another figure, using a different model. We chose one from the Transfiguration fresco in the King's Church, in the Serbian Monastery of Studenica.



    5 PM, Great Vespers or Vigil, as posted (preceeded and followed by Confessions)

    8:30 AM, Resurrectional Matins and 6th Hour Psalmody
    10 AM, Divine Liturgy
    Noon, Agape Meal

    6 PM, Vespers