Stefan's Patron Saint




2001

My friend Vladan Blagojevic showed me a small card. I took a look, and the first thing I noticed, was the style of the image on the card, and then the Cyrillic lettering. Cyrillic script is the writing system used for languages across Eurasia and the basis for various alphabets used in various languages, especially those of Orthodox Slavic origin, which predominantly adhere to the Eastern Orthodox Christian Faith, and whose Churches follow the Byzantine Rite liturgy. The color image, rendered in the Byzantine art style, was that of a saint. In short, Vladan was showing me a religious card of a patron saint. But why?


But before we get into the why, I have to give you a little more background about Vladan. To begin with, Vladan is the founder of the Panorama World Travel Agency, in Lakewood, Ohio USA. I met him when he commissioned me in 1998 to do a mural for his agency (see The Panorama World Travel Mural in the Murals page). It was there the I met the lovely Miss Nancy Anne Lewis, the co-founder of Panorama -and now my wife (see The Lewis Apartment Murals in the Murals page to read how that happened!).


The other significant thing about Vladan, in addition to being a saavy businessman, is that he is from Serbia. Once he worked for the now defunct Yugoslav Airlines (JAT), which brought him to the United States and eventually making Lakewood, Ohio, his home. In fact, we now live on the same street, but back in 2001, I was just a carefree 42-year-old bohemian-artist when he showed me the card.



Stephan's-patron-saint,-painting-by-John-Rivera-Resto,-2001

Stefan's Patron Saint. 2001. Oils on canvas, 9.25 x 14 inches (23.5 x 10.16 cm).

After showing me the card, Vladan got down to business. He wanted me to paint an exact reproduction of the card to hang on the wall of his home. He explained that the image was the icon of the family's Patron Saint, which was passed down from father to son as a traditional inheritance never to be extinguished. This was done in the celebration of "slava" (Patron Saint Day), a very important and significant Serbian cultural tradition celebrating saints that every house respects. This is done in a once-a-year family gathering, celebrated with lots of food, drinks, and friends.


If I well recall, that year's celebration was going to involve Vladan's young son -Stefan. So the painting was going to play an important role. Now, it may not surprise you how many times in my career I have been asked to do artwork relating to church and religion -Pentecostal, Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, Muslin, Buddhist, Spiritualist, and now Eastern Orthodox Christian. But, what will surprise you -even shock you, is that (while I grew up in a Pentecostal family), I am an athiest. However, no one seems to care a fig about this, since I can produce for them the kind of art that fills them with joy.


I took Vladan's card with me and some weeks later I had the finished painting. Mind you, I could have painted a better image. But the one rule about the Byzantine art style, is that you don't change a thing. This is why the images of Christ in the Orthodox Christian Church, still look the same today as they did two-thousand years ago. So what I did was to place the card on an opaque projector, enlarge it, and then trace it on a prepared canvas. Then I made sure I painted an exact reproduction of the card rendering using Artist's Oils on a small canvas.


It takes longer to reproduce a copy of a painting than to paint an original. This is because you have to patiently paint every detail in the exact color and match every brush stroke. This is why I rarely take on this type of work -unless Vladan is doing the asking. He is royally persistent (I'm being kind here). Once the painting was completed, I sprayed it with a light coating of "Damar varnish" to bring out the color and to protect the surface. Vladan was most pleased with the artwork and, during a recent visit to his home in February of 2020, I saw the painting hanging on the wall of the dining room. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the end of this story.







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