Finding Francis

Franciscan Icon Painting & the Art of Assisi

Online course – available now
Book ‘Finding Francis’ here

St Francis of Assisi (ca. 1182-1226) is probably the most popular saint in western Christendom, with an influential 800 year old history of artistic representation. Following the recent ‘St Francis’ exhibition at the National Gallery London, and based on years of teaching in Assisi, this online course is now available for individual study. It provides a unique introduction to Italo-Byzantine art and icon painting in the western medieval tradition and an introduction to early Franciscan iconography.

The Core Painting Course
Content: Two primary sources provide the basis for this historically accurate approach to medieval panel painting, enabling you to succeed in painting your own icon of Il Poverello in the western medieval tradition.

Through clear demonstration and contextualised explanation, you will be instructed how to use traditional egg tempera on panel, according to the method outlined in the 12th century treatise, On the Divers Arts by ‘Theophilus’. Gilding will be presented as an option for the more experienced.

The ‘model’ for the image and the iconographic focus will be the mid-13th century Italo-Byzantine ‘Vita’ panel the Life of St Francis, attributed to Coppo d Marcolvaldo – a work strongly influenced by the iconography of the Orthodox East.

The ‘Bardi Dossal’

As an outcome, serious students will develop solid painting skills and a working knowledge of this very useful and authentic tempera technique. This will be of lasting value to those new to icon painting, as well as those with more experience.

Structure: This is an asynchronous course, comprising 14 professionally produced videos for you to watch in your own time and work at your own pace, using pause and play as you need. The videos are filmed in close-up detail and vary in length between 5-22 minutes to provide step-by step, intensive technical instruction.

A link to each video is emailed to you weekly (or more frequently if required) and will available for a week – or longer by request. This is accompanied by a suggested timetable for synchronising the work stages with the video tuition. It is possible to complete the course in 4 weeks, or be flexible and take a break.

Downloadable Resources
Included in the painting course: schedule outline/timetable, icon patterns, monochrome and colour copies of the image (these can be sent by email/post).

The Full Francis: Optional modules
In addition, there are two extra course modules which contextualise, explain and support the core painting course in greater depth. These options are reasonably priced and can be selected on the booking form (see below).

Virtual Pilgrimage & Art History option:
In true Franciscan spirit, explore the life, role and message of Francis by taking an almost carbon neutral, 4-part pilgrimage through image, architecture and landscape of some of the most important Franciscan sites in and around Assisi (shot on location). Discover the meaning and making of the most important early Franciscan fresco cycles and follow the life of Francis to his stigmatisation at La Verna and final, hidden resting place.

This 4-part course explains Italo-Byzantine art in relation to the early Franciscan order and the importance of the primary hagiographic sources (Thomas of Celano and St Bonaventure) in the development of Franciscan iconography.

Continuous Mentoring Option:
For those who are new to working in egg tempera – or who want to develop their practice with proactive feedback, individual support is available for the duration of the course via WhatsApp/email. By providing real-time guidance for finessing each stage and resolving practical painting issues, painting skills will be substantially improved, enabling the successful completion of the icon.
This form of mentoring is available as often as required during weekday working hours and can also be conducted via email.

This course is taught in English and is particularly suitable for those with previous icon painting or other practical art experience. It is also an excellent place to start for those new to classic egg tempera /icon painting!

Newcomers should bear three things in mind:
The painting process will take longer than expected.
It is not as easy as it looks.
The initial outlay for materials and equipment and need for a quiet working space should be factored-in.

Materials & Equipment
Please note, materials are NOT included in this online course. A list of all the specialist materials and equipment required, including supplier details and budget options, is available here:

Finding Francis_ Materials & Equipment Lists

A limited number of pigment sets and professional quality icon boards may be available to purchase. To buy everything from scratch, a budget in excess of £150+ GBP should be anticipated.
Gilding is not advisable if you are new to egg tempera. It is more important to attain competence in the painting medium before using genuine (and expensive) gold leaf.

Essential IT Requirements
Laptop/desktop/large tablet with good audio facility
Google / gmail email account (you must be signed into your google account to access the videos)
Smart phone (for those choosing the mentoring option) with WhatsApp- or the facility to send images via email.

‘Finding Francis’ is the online version of the wonderful Assisi retreat course, designed and delivered by Helen Dejean (nee McIldowie-Jenkins). It is based on Helen’s many years of experience as a professional iconographer, teaching icon and medieval painting courses and her academic field of study.

Helen is a postgraduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where she is currently reading for a PhD in Byzantine art history. She holds two Masters degrees form the Courtauld: in Late Medieval Italian Painting and Byzantine Art (with distinction), a first class Hons degree in art history from the Open University and a teaching qualification for adult education. Helen is also an accredited lecturer with the Arts Society and a third Order Franciscan (OFS), based in West London.

Course Fees:
The ‘Full Francis’ – discounted fee for all three modules: £250 GBP
Core Painting Course (14 videos) £130 GBP
Virtual Pilgrimage & Art History Module (4 videos): £40 GBP
Individual Continuous Mentoring: £100 GBP

Book ‘Finding Francis’ here

Student Review from ‘Finding Francis’ May 2022:
“The course was a new and very well presented online experience which explored the use of Theophilus’ method of flesh painting. Our group was the first to use this method, so it was a real privilege to be taught by Helen about this approach.
Because it was clearly taught via video demonstration, it was easy to follow. Helen was also available by a WhatsApp group and by phone if we were having difficulties.
The virtual retreat to places associated with St Francis added depth and meaning to the painting of the St Francis Icon. I think all the group members would say that they ‘found Francis’.
I would definitely sign up for another course with Helen. She put her knowledge and expertise into this course and we all benefitted from her generous sharing.”
[MRH. Norwich.]

Thank you.
Pax et bonum!