The work & process of artist Jodi Simmons
I research the subject by reading extensively from contemporary, ancient, and sometimes obscure literature. I regard equivalent images in the historical representations of the visual arts. Connections begin to form in story, symbol, color and composition which feel like a dialogue of traditional and contemporary interpretation. I then work on a drawing to express this dialogue.
Once the drawing is complete, a wood panel is prepared with gesso of calcium sulfate, chalk and rabbit skin glue. Any areas to be gilded are further prepped with French clay bole. Using traditional water gilding technique, I proceed with laying double thick, 23 or 24 karat German gold leaf. All designs in gilded areas are done by hand using embossing tools and burnishing stones.
The pigments are ground and mixed with egg yolk; they come from all over the world and include materials such as semi precious stones, minerals, metallic and earth elements, as well as plants and insects. The paint is applied to the gesso, or over the gold for sgraffito. After the painting is complete, it needs to dry for several months, and then the panel is sealed with linseed oil and copal resin.
In 2012, my husband Michael started making the frames. They are built and/or carved from various woods. If a natural wood frame is appropriate, it is oiled upon completion. Gold frames are gessoed, gilded and sealed.
From beginning to end, a lot of time, attention and care goes into my work. The work gives back to me too. I learn from the research. The slow and often tedious methods teach me patience (ha!). When I finish an icon, it always looks back at me as if it were its own, individual entity...a lively gem - and the traditional, quality methods and materials ensure it will shine for many years.