Talents "on loan" from God

Our fourth guest blogger in our Sacred ARTy Facts Series is Patricia Ballard, Vice President of ESAG. She shares with us her journey towards becoming a professional sacred artist, insights into her work and some of her beautiful paintings.

Patricia working on gilding of the Coronation of the Virgin at her Port Moody studio

I have always been interested in the Divine and the journey of the individual soul on her pilgrimage of life towards God. Jesus calls us to holiness or wholeness and my path has always been through the making of art. Since 1999 I have focused on the making of sacred art. It is when I am in my studio, often listening to sacred chant and working on my various religious subjects, that I feel close to God. For me it is a form of contemplative prayer.

Archangel Michael 9.5" x 12.5" Egg Tempera, Gold Leaf, Wood Panel 1999

Having trained in modern art with graduate studies in painting from UBC, in 1999 I attended an icon workshop with Vladislav Andreyev of the St. Petersburg Russian tradition and learned the basics of how to write an icon. Then I took two icon courses with Vladimir Blagonadezhdin as I worked on a larger icon for St. Stephen’s Church in North Vancouver. Next I worked with Frank C. Turner at the St. Luke Summer Workshop in Vancouver and later developed gilding techniques with a workshop given by Ana Diaz-Drew, a graduate master gilder from the Academy of Applied Arts and Artistic Professions (Madrid).

Our Lady of Tenderness 7" x 9" Egg Tempera, Gold Leaf, Wood Panel 2008

In 2003 I was invited to join the Epiphany Sacred Arts Guild which was just starting regular monthly meetings and where I came to meet many other sacred artists. I became a member of the executive and currently serve as Vice-President. I have curated several of their sacred art exhibitions and currently work with the management of the Guild. Since 2013 I have also served on the Sacred Art and Architecture Commission of the Archdiocese.

Our Lady of Humility 11" x 14" Egg Tempera, Gold Leaf, Wood Panel 2008

In 2009 I visited Assisi and saw the 14th century Annunciation painting by Ilario da Viterbo located over the altar of the Portiuncola in the Basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli. I loved it and since I had already learned all the techniques I challenged myself to work on a restored version with an addition of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after Fra Angelico. In 2013, and after many months of artistic journeying, I completed this complex composition which now has a permanent home in the Chapel of the Annunciation at the John Paul 11 Pastoral Centre in Vancouver.

The Annunciation 28" x 27.25" Egg Tempera, Gold Leaf, Wood Panel 2013

Although I have completed several icons, I look to the models for my paintings from the Early Renaissance of the fourteenth century because this period shows the mystical otherworldly qualities of the icon together with the beginnings of a more realistic depiction of nature. My current project of The Coronation of the Virgin which was originally completed by Giacomo di Mino (circa 1340-50) is another artistic challenge. Originally a part of a smaller triptych altar piece, I have enlarged the centre panel to 33.5” x 55” and am re-drawing, gilding and painting the work with my own touch.

The model for The Coronation of the Virgin Attributed to Giacomo di Mino circa 1340-50

In 2015 I was asked to restore a set of Stations of the Cross (circa 1940-50) for the new St. Clare of Assisi Church in Coquitlam. My focus with this project was to delve deeply into the emotions of the figures so that as a person moves along in prayer he or she would be drawn into the very real human emotions of the passion of Christ. It was an opportunity for me to learn how to clean, repair and repaint the work in such a way as to blend my own style with a previous artist’s work—another challenge.

Jesus Meets The Women of Jerusalem 22" x 26" Cast Plaster, Oil Paint circa 1950 Restored 2016

When I complete a work I always ask myself “Can you pray with this work?” If I can answer “Yes” then I have succeeded in my purpose as a liturgical Catholic artist. Catholic liturgical art is a vehicle through which God speaks to us, and we speak to God. It is a wonderful privilege to be part of this tradition and one which nurtures my own personal faith.

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