Back in 2008

Icon Adventures was founded by British iconographer, Helen McIldowie-Jenkins with the simple aim of offering out-of-the-ordinary ‘painting pilgrimages’ – at affordable prices.

Born out of years of travel to fascinating places to study icons and sacred art in their loca sacra, the first icon painting retreats were to the Egyptian Sinai and focused on the icon collection at St Catherine’s Monastery.

They were a huge success in their quirky combination of a practical icon painting course with art history, coral reef snorkelling, camel riding, desert dinners and the chance to climb Mount Sinai! (Sadly, these Sinai retreats were suspended due to be to the ongoing security situation.)


The adventure has continued with retreat courses in two other unique and inspiring destinations:

Assisi (Central Italy) Franciscan art and icon painting in the City of Peace, with its world famous UNESCO basilicas filled and the birthplace of Saints Francis and Clare.

Walsingham (Eastern England) Icon Painting in England’s Nazareth, the historic, pilgrimage site with two national Shrines to Our Lady and a birthplace of British iconography.

Key Features

Each course is open to Beginners and Improvers with specialist materials either supplied or sold. The itineraries combine a practical painting course with pilgrimage and complimentary extra curricula options. The retreats are ecumenical, open to all and have a art history element.

The trips are thoroughly organised to give the best possible guidance, tuition and support from start to finish. All the accommodation and facilities have been selected for their safety and suitability. Icon Adventures supports responsible tourism and therefore visits or promotes local businesses, products and providers in each location.


Helen’s studio is based in West London and she has taught art and icon painting for well over 30 years. Helen brings to her teaching many years’ professional experience of painting and designing icons to commission for individuals, churches and cathedrals in the UK and overseas. Helen’s work can be viewed on the sister website: www.elenisicons.co.uk.

Helen also has specialist, hands–on experience of 15th-19th century Russian icons through her work as a Cataloguer in the Icon and Works of Art Department of a leading Russian Art Auction house in central London.

Having painted in tempera since childhood, Helen began her icon painting career after being introduced to icons by the brothers at St Seraphim’s Orthodox Monastery at Walsingham in the 1980s. Her practice was developed through the guidance and mentorship of various priests and teachers, mainly from the Russian Orthodox tradition. Helen is a Secular Franciscan (OSF).

Qualifications: Diploma and Fellowship in Fine Art & Ceramics, a City & Guilds Teaching qualification, a First Class BA Hons in the History of Art, and an MA in the History of Art (Late Medieval Sienese Painting) from the Courtauld Institute, London (where Helen was an Edmond J. Safra Scholar).

Helen is an accredited art history lecturer with The Arts Society in the field of late medieval Italian art, it’s intersection with Eastern Orthodox iconography as well as early Franciscan art.