Ukrainian Pysanky Eggs

From our archives, Sharon-Rose Milan – now Sharon-Rose Fraser, wife and mother – from years ago, in April. She is still an artist and pro-life activist.

What can you tell us about pysanky eggs?

Every pysanky egg is supposed to tell a story; every colour and symbol represents something different. Black means eternity; red means happiness, life, hope, and spirit-awakening; green means strength and endurance; white means purity and innocence. Using four or more colors signifies family happiness, peace, and love. Pysanky eggs use colours and symbols to tell a story. So the color black and a triangle, which symbolizes the Trinity, would mean that I want to spend eternity with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

When did you start making pysanky eggs?

I made pysanky eggs for the first time in 2012, when I was a guest at Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario. I was drawn to the art form by its calming nature, which led me in contemplative prayer. Through the symbolism in the eggs I was able to express my personal journey and what I wanted to achieve while I was at Madonna House and after I left. I kept making Pysanky eggs to develop the skill: it teaches patience, perseverance, and steadiness of hand.

What other art forms do you enjoy?

I paint with acrylics, do pastel portraits, use water markers, and sketch cartoon characters. Pysanky is a different mode than what I am used to, but I enjoy learning different art forms. Most of all I am drawn to the human face—there is something beautiful about faces; no two are exactly alike. I enjoy being able to produce work that is never identical, and I’m not a writer; drawing lets me tell a story.

Who or what did you learn from?

My dad, my mom, and my siblings are all artists—I grew up with a paintbrush in my hand. I have always been an artist.

What do you do with your pieces? are they ever shown? are they for sale?

Most of my work I give away as gifts, or I use as decoration in my own home. I do commissioned pieces and create political cartoons and covers for The Interim newspaper.

How would you define beauty?

The youth catechism (YOUCAT) says that “God is the source of beauty and also the source of truth. Art, which is dedicated to the beautiful, is therefore a special path to the whole and to God. [2500-2503, 2513] … What cannot be said in words or expressed in thought is brought to light in art. It is ‘a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches’ (CCC 2501). In a way that closely approximates God’s creativity, inspiration and human skill are combined in the artist so as to give a valid form to something new, a previously unseen aspect of reality. Art is not an end in itself. It should uplift people, move them, improve them, and ultimately lead them to worship and thank God.”

What is the purpose of art?

The purpose of art is to express beauty, which should lead the observer to contemplate truth, beauty, and goodness—which should ultimately direct them to the author of beauty, who is God.

Who inspires you and what inspires you?

My mom inspires me; she has been creating art her entire life and was the one who first put a crayon in my hand. Seeing her push through difficult pieces and make her art a prayer is an example to me of perseverance—and she always produces great work. My dad is also an inspiration; his art is carpentry, and I get many of my hands-on skills from him. I love the works of Boticelli, and admire Gustav Klimt for the elegance and innocence of his faces.

A brief history of Pysanky eggs

In Ukrainian, the eggs decorated for Easter are called “pysanky” from the word “pysaty,” which means “to write.” The design is actually written on the egg with a fine-point stylus dipped in wax, and then dipped in a series of dyes. Originally, pysanky eggs symbolized the release of the earth from the shackles of winter and the coming of spring with its promise of new hope, life, health, and prosperity. After the advent of Christianity, the decorated eggs took the new symbols of the Resurrection and its promise of a better world.

Photo by Jonathan Castellino