Fr Richard is the director of the Art Gallery at Villanova University in Pennsylvaina, U.S.A. He is former chair of the Department of Theatre, Studio Art and Music and a professor at the University. From 2012-2013, Fr. Richard has had exhibitions of his artwork at locations in Europe and this past summer, at the Basilica in Baltimore, Maryland. These exhibitions included icons as well as vestments, shrines and stained-glass pieces.
In a media interview, Fr Cannuli explained the precise 22-step process of making an icon. He said that there is a lot of waiting time between painting with hand-mixed egg-based tempera and letting the medium thoroughly dry. For example, one nine-by-twelve inch small icon may take up to forty hours, spread over seven to fifteen days, to complete.
He compared the making of an icon to a spiritual journey and a reflection of the Christian faith. The icon is painted on wood, which represents the tree of the garden of paradise, Noah’s ark of salvation and the wood of the tree Christ was crucified on, he said. The yolk and water used in the egg tempera represent life and baptism.
When the icon is finished, it’s blessed by a priest and rubbed with oils so “you confirm it, you chrism it,” reflecting the stages of Christian spirituality, he said. He said making an icon “has nothing to do with the individual painter,” but is more about a person’s ability to let God be in control. “It’s like all along I was creating and now all of a sudden I let go and let God create,” he said.
Individual expression in iconography is muted by the fact that the paint must be pooled on the board, avoiding all brushstrokes that would leave a kind of “signature” of the painter, he said. Only the name of the saint is inked on the final piece.
To view a selection of his icons, visit his website: http://www.richardcannuli.org/icons.htm