My friends at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Doylestown asked me to paint a keepsake for their much loved pastor. The pastor and her husband, also an Episcopal priest, will retire to their new home out-of-state soon; so in thinking about what they would want to remember of their time here, I settled on an illustration of this beautiful 1840s church building. But to make it something unique to this couple, I wanted to depict a specific event and also include the people of the congregation. I think any parish member knows that while the church building may be the body of this worshiping community, the people are its heart and soul.
I chose to illustrate the Easter Vigil procession. Every year on the evening before Easter Sunday, the parishioners start this service around sunset in the columbarium garden, and walk solemnly around the outside of the church – a lovely tradition demonstrating the sacred importance of the holy day to come.
I made a little sketch to start off my concept. I knew I had to get good reference for the building and also the vestments and accessories of the procession, so I went over to the church and snapped some photos. I saw I’d probably have to move my view to the right, instead of the head-on view in my first composition, to get the entire train of clergy, servers and choir and also the congregation wrapping around the corner of the building. I met with a friend on the altar guild, who showed me some of the vestments and gave me important details of the procession.
With this photographic reference, I drew a pencil sketch of the church on one piece of paper and sketched out the figures on an overlay of tracing paper. This way I could move the figures around to get the best effect for the placement of the procession. Originally I had thought to place the crucifix, which is carried by the crucifer leading the line, against the red church doors; then I realized it would not stand out much in color, and that the lighted Pascal Candle would stand out much better.
I colored a photocopy of the sketch roughly with colored pencils. I made sure to include the incense from the thurible, a few birds perched on and circling the roof, and the hint of the red geraniums that the pastor plants annually along this side of the church.
Tomorrow I’ll conclude showing the process of the finished art.