Preparing the Easter basket


    Sometimes an idea for a painting takes hold of me and I just have to sit down and make it come alive-- working for hours until it is finally what I envisioned in my mind. Preparing the Easter Basket is one of those paintings, and I am so pleased with how it turned out!


  I have long been an admirer of the art of painted Easter eggs in the Eastern European style and wanted to find out more about the tradition. Soon I came across the beautiful artwork of Ukrainian Easter eggs  (The individual eggs are called Pysanksa, the art itself is called Pysansky) and wanted to create a painting inspired by them.
    In my research on the tradition of Ukrainian Easter eggs and their use in Easter baskets on THIS great post about the painting of the eggs, and learned about the Ukrainian tradition of filling a basket with wonderful foods for Easter breakfast (and some beautiful decorative items, such as pysanky eggs and flowers) to be blessed by the village priest.

   According to Active Ukraine:
 "As the custom goes, 40 days before Easter all Ukrainians take up a strict fast, and avoid eating meat or dairy. Easter basket becomes the culmination of the lent, and is the most mouth-watering breakfast for the Easter morning, when all the delicacies are allowed once again." 

   For my painting, I decided to show a multi-generational trio of women-- a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter, all gathered around the kitchen table preparing the Easter basket for its blessing. I love the look of cozy little rooms, and I wanted this kitchen to exude the love and warmth of this family-- a combination of their religious and every-day life, icons hanging near kitchen utensils, the laundry hanging outside among the blossoms (Easter always ushers in Spring cleaning, doesn't it?) and a kettle of tea on the  stove. I am a lover of pattern and folksy style, and so everything seems to have a little motif of folk style to it-- from the linens to the canisters to the kitchen shelves. The 'era' of this pieces is left open for interpretation, the younger the person the more 'modern' the clothes become, yet they are all gathered around the table, enjoying this time-honored tradition.



    My friend Wendy did a great blog post about children's books involving these beautiful eggs and led me to THIS talented Pysanka artist, who explained the intricate artwork in this way:

    "The word PYSANKA comes from the Ukrainian word “pysaty” which means to write. PYSANKY are decorated by a complicated dye process similar to Batik. Melted beeswax is applied with a stylus, which is called a “kistka” or “pysaltse” to a fresh egg, raw, and clear of blemishes. The egg is dipped into a succession of dye baths, starting from the lightest, usually yellow, and ending with the darkest, typically black. Between each dipping, wax is applied over areas where the preceding color is to remain. After all the designing is complete, the wax is melted off and a hard glaze is applied. Bees wax is used because it stays liquid longer than paraffin, is more pliable, and has an adhering quality; and, of course bee-keeping was very common, so a large natural supply was on hand. 

The geometric motifs are the same as found in many forms of primitive art, but their use in PYSANKY gives them specific names and symbolic meanings. Ribbons and belts that encircle the egg with no beginning or end symbolize eternity. Triangles symbolize trios, such as the circle of life of birth, life, death; the Holy Trinity, and the natural elements of fire, air, and water. Stars once symbolized the pagan gods, and now stand for life, growth and good fortune. The cross appears in many forms and symbolizes the four corners of the world, and Christianity."

  Below are some photos from the Easter post by Active Ukraine which I found so fascinating and so inspiring. Many thanks to Oksana from Active Ukraine for allowing me to use them in this post! And please feel free to read the POST yourself, and visit their wonderful and extensive site about traveling the Ukraine. It's a wonderful site full of tons of great information and wonderful photos!




    And if you are inspired to make my little painting your own, it is now available in my etsy shop! EDIT- The painting has been sold! Thank you!
Wishing you many Easter blessings!~
~Heather

10 comments

  1. I love,love,love this painting!! The beautiful Ukraine tradition of decorating eggs has always fascinated me. So detailed and beautiful. Renchenka's Eggs was one of my children's Easter story favorites. It is a lovely story and I still have the book. One year , I tried my hand at making Easter bread and paska. Delicious and not that hard to make either. My favorite photo is the one where everyone takes their baskets to be blessed by the priest on Holy Saturday. I wonder if that tradition still exists Herrer in the US in the Russian Orthodox churches?

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    1. I'm so glad you love the painting, Winnie! And I know it will have a wonderful home with you! I will have to look for that book Renchenka's Eggs and the others that Wendy recommended. Its such a beautiful and fascinating tradition! I'm not sure if the tradition of blessing of the baskets is done here in the US, but I imagine it probably is in areas with a lot of Ukrainian-Americans.

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    2. Find a church where Polish people go usually to a mass and you will see the Easter baskets there at Easter time :)

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  2. BEAUTIFUL and springy! I just love this, it is so warm but fresh at the same time!

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  3. I love and am inspired by every single thing is this post. I also adore your dala horse postcards.

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  4. What a lovely and interesting post Heather!
    I loved to read about Eastern European customs on an non-European blog ;) seen through the eyes of somebody else.

    Yes - the Easter baskets - this is a big deal in Eastern Europe, not just the Ukraine - but also in Poland, my country. Ever year at Easter, on Good Saturday to be precise, we take a small wicker basket with some food samples to church to be blessed by a priest. The baskets are decorated with crochet doilies, flowers, ribbons, lacy handkerchiefs etc and imagine the gorgeous smell of the food at churches!!! Bread, butter, boiled eggs, pepper, salt, cake, kiełbasa (=sausage)/ meat, horseradish all go into it, plus the little yellow chicks, decorated Easter eggs and a Lamb figurine. Love this custom and I miss it a lot in the UK. Actually, I feel tempted to go for it this year :)

    Then after the baskets have been blessed we can have our Easter meal and eat meaty foods. The blessed egg and bread and butter are shared within the family at a shared Easter meal on Sunday and Easter wishes are given to everyone :)

    Pisanki - yes - another cross-Eastern-European word ;)
    Just as in Ukrainian, in Polish "Pisanka" also means "an Easter decorated egg", especially the one decorated with wax "written" all over it.
    it comes from the verb: pisać = to write :)

    Love the photos! The Easter baskets are gorgeous and its great to discover this theme in your paintings!

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  5. Love it! Really like the blonde girl with the hooped braids and the cute cardi and Peter Pan-collared shirt. Too cute. I've got an old Soviet countries cookbook that has instructions on how to make these eggs, but I haven't attempted it yet, mostly because my art projects have a way of going horribly horribly wrong.

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  6. What a gloriously detailed work of art! And I love the story behind the painting. It's been many a year since we decorated Easter eggs. Maybe I can find some wooden ones to paint...that would be so much fun! They'll last forever!

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Each and every comment is appreciated! Thanks for coming to visit me :) ~Heather

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