Icon artistry

A group of seven women (most with no artistic background) met for three days last week to participate in an icon painting class, organized by Suzanne Harvey, and taught by Joyce Tanner, official iconographer of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

“This is an ancient art form that began with early Christians who wanted to paint a picture of Jesus,” Tanner said. “How do you teach people who can’t read or write the Gospel? You do it through painting.”

The class, sponsored by St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church and held for the last eight years, is offered twice a year at the Cunningham Schoolhouse in the Fresno Flats Historic Center on School Road.

Each artist is given a blank board, which they trace a pattern on before beginning to paint, and even though they are working on the same icon, each comes out just a little differently.

Mahle, who has attended for four years, called it a quiet, peaceful time, and good fellowship with friends. Dottie Lee called it a holistic and calming experience. She has also been attending for four years, and confesses to not being a great artist.

“But when I finish my work, I find it worthy of going on my wall ... there’s no wrong way to paint,” Lee said.

According to Tanner, every icon tells a story, and the experience has proven to be an aid to those on their spiritual journeys.

“I love it when students tell me their lives will never be the same,” Tanner said.

“This class is creative, it’s religious,” Harvey added, “and we learn the history of iconography.”

The class will be held again in September. For details, Suzanne Harvey,, or (559) 683-6985.