Before starting work on an important commission connected with religious painting, I first pray to be healthy in mind and body so as to be able to put into practice what I have learned during a lifetime of painting.

- From whom did you inherit the gift of painting?

- Nobody in my family has ever painted. I must have been born with this gift, a godly gift . I started to draw when I was 13 years old, and, as I was quite good, I left home to study with the masters. 

- This was the first church you painted alone, 47 years ago. How long did it take to finish it?

- About two summers... I worked, then stopped, then worked again. Finding the money was a problem. I used to contribute too. Never had any desire to get rich. Just wanted to paint a church in my own village. The plaster for the fresco is all done by me. You prepare the plaster and then paint it metre by metre.

- What are the techniques of Byzantine painting?

- There are three main techniques: fresco, emulsion and oil-based painting. The best for buildings is fresco. It is a very difficult technique, but also the most rewarding. You first make a paste of plaster, sand and chalk. This is to smooth and straighten the wall. Then follows another layer, a mixture of 5 year old slaked lime, chalk and finely cut tow. If a little piece of this plaster fell down from the wall, you would notice that it is made of thousands of fine  threads. The plaster has to be about one centimeter thick. Before levelling it again, the wall is dampened. The slower it dries, the less I have to  hurry to finish the painting. Once dry the fresco can no longer be altered.

- What kind of colours does one use with fresco?

- Only oxides. Burned colours. Only 4 or 5 basic pigments. There is a rather limited range. By no means enough for everything one wants to do.

- What is the difference between interior and exterior fresco murals?

- Technically it?s the same. But you have more time to paint if you?re inside the church. When you are outside you?re dependent on the weather, so you have to cover eveything, especially against the wind, because wind dries the wall faster.

- What is the basic technique for icons painted on wood?

- The best wood is from the lime-tree. Alternatively, one can use fir-trees. This is better than oak. It is  important to use a soft wood. This absorbs the oil. For a gilded icon, the first thing is to apply the gold. Otherwise it can stick to the painted sections.

- Which style do you consider closer to God  -  the Byzantine or the western one?

- The Byzantine one. The western one is closer to man. In contrast, the Byzantine is stylized, more churchly, more saintly. A few years ago, we used to paint in a more realistic style. Gradually, we went back to the Byzantine tradition. But there were many things we did not know how to do. The style on the whole is overstylized, almost inhuman sometimes. So, we opted for a compromise: the neo-Byzantine style, in between the pure Byzantine tradition and the realist one.

- Are there recommended colours for painting Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary?

- As far as their garnments are concerned, yes. I cannot paint Jesus in green or brown clothes. His robes were red and blue. The same is true for the Virgin. This tradition came down in iconography and the lives of the saints.

- How does one paint God?