It has always bothered me when people insist that icons are “written”, not painted. I understand the logic: icons are a word of God in line and color. And one needs a certain knowledge of symbolic language to “read” them. But this insistence has always seemed wrongheaded; I always pointed out to my students that if icons are “written” they are written in paint, and thus “painting icons” is perfectly acceptable. And it bothered me because this judgement is usually rendered with a sense of superiority, as if the advocate of “written” icons is somehow privy to some sort of arcane knowledge.
There is quite the discussion of the subject on the Orthodox Arts Journal site, with both sides of the thing presenting their arguments; scroll down a bit and there are three posts on the subject: http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/: