Ancient art techniques such as cave painting will be taught in Aylesbury

Launch of art classes and exhibtion at St Marys Church in Aylesbury - pictured is artist Constantina Wood
Launch of art classes and exhibtion at St Marys Church in Aylesbury - pictured is artist Constantina Wood

ST MARY’S church now boasts its own artist in residence who is also available to run workshops in schools and with community groups.

Constantina Wood is best known for her work producing religious imagery in an ancient hand crafted manner.

The 52-year-old painter is organising weekly drop-in sessions, half term children’s activities, adult classes and aims to create a permanent memorial to Aylesbury’s patron saint.

Launch of art classes and exhibtion at St Marys Church in Aylesbury

Launch of art classes and exhibtion at St Marys Church in Aylesbury

Constantina, who has lived in the town for two and a half years, will be at St Mary’s every Wednesday from 10am to 2.30pm.

She said: “Rather than just seeing a painting hanging up, you will get to see each work coming along.

“The work I do on icons is not something people come across very often.”

Icons are religious images painted on a solid wood panel.

The design is created by putting seven or eight layers of gesso – or chalk mixed with glue – which is then sanded down so it feels like marble.

Afterwards a picture outline is traced onto the wood, which is decorated with gold leaf and layers of natural pigments found in the earth.

The artist hopes that on Wednesday afternoons members of community groups or schools will drop in to meet her, and invite her to run sessions for them.

In January Constantina will be starting an ‘icon school’ where she will be teaching the skills from 7pm to 9.30pm each Wednesday at the church.

In February she will be running half term classes for youngsters aged from eight to 16, teaching various drawing techniques, including cave painting.

Constantina said: “Every day they will do a different technique.

“The cave painting one will be very interesting.

“They will mix egg yolk or lard or milk with natural pigments and they will be making pictures like they did in ancient times.”

She is also involved in submitting a funding bid to build a permanent memorial to Aylesbury’s patron saint Osyth.

Born in the 600s in Quarrendon, Osyth survived drowning as a child, and was later beheaded by pirates near Colchester.

Legend has it that after her head was cut off, holy water poured out and her body picked up her head and carried it to a nearby monastery.

The bloody handprint as the body entered the monastery was said to have stained the door for the next 300 years.

Because at the time the bones of saints were valuable and often stolen, her remains were brought to Aylesbury for safe keeping.

At the place where they were buried a shrine was built, and this later became St Mary’s Church.

Constantina aims to create a Triptych, an artwork made from three wood panels, to celebrate St Osyth.

Rector of St Mary’s, the Rev Shane Wood, said: “Constantina is an accomplished artist. It is encouraging to see the programme already developing whereby both young and old will be able to benefit from her teaching.”

Details via www.cosamara.com