In my curacy parish (Houghton-le-Spring) a wonderful artist called Thelma Steel decorates the paschal candle every year, here’s the one she did last year:
I decided in my parishes this year that I’d like to do the same. I rang Thelma for advice and what follows is a guide to painting your own.
Step 1: buy your equipment
You will need:
Acrylic paints and paint brushes
Vodka or meths
Paint adhesion medium or PVA glue
Water based varnish or PVA glue
A chinagraph pencil
Step 2: Sketch out your design.
It should have a cross, an alpha and omega and the current year – anything else is a bonus!
I did a quick Google for images to help me. I decided to add the symbols of my churches – a shell for St James and a lamb for St John the Baptist.
I measured the canvas space and drew a design, adding colour.
Step 3: prepare your candle
Take some kitchen roll and dip it in vodka or meths and wipe down the area where you will paint.
Step 4: draw your design onto the candle
Check first which end of the candle the wick is so that you draw your design the right way up (I made this stupid mistake!)
Draw your design onto the candle with the chinagraph pencil. If you make a mistake, use a ball of blutack to rub it out.
Step 5: mix your paint and paint the candle
Mix your chosen acrylic colour with the paint adhesion medium/PVA glue (don’t panic, the white dries clear). Carefully paint your candle. If you make a mistake let it dry and then peel it off. Layer up for a deeper colour.
Step 6: varnish the candle
This bit is scary, use your water based varnish or PVA glue to varnish over your design. Don’t worry, it will dry clear and leave a vibrant colour that is sealed.
Step 7: prepare the holes for the nails/incense pins
If you are going to insert 5 nails into the candle at the Easter vigil, here is a hack my training incumbent taught me. Heat an unfolded paper clip, twist the heated paper clip into the candle and it will create a small hole making it easier to insert the pin during the Easter vigil liturgy.
Then you’re ready to go. Here are mine ready for Holy Saturday and the Easter vigil service: