On September 9th the Postal Service will issue a series of four stamps I designed that feature a Thanksgiving Day Parade. Howard Paine was a pleasure to work with on this, he’s been the art director on over 400 stamps and he hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm for producing great stamps. He had the idea for four stamps to fit together to create one long scene, a format that stamp collectors call “se-tenant.” Of course, each individual stamp needs to stand alone as a complete design as well.
These stamps are the first I’ve done for the USPS and the project was a challenge for a number of reasons. The concept was to show the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but for legal reasons, we couldn’t show any licensed characters or any direct reference to Macy’s Department Store itself.No recognizable balloons; that meant no Underdog. The most iconic images from the parade had to be suggested by selective cropping and careful positioning to give an accurate feeling of the parade without showing any specific balloons. We decided that the best way to achieve this was to depict a scene from around 1950, an era before the corporate images began to dominate the visual display of the parade. That time period also gave me a direction to think about in terms of illustration style. Mid-century posters and advertising often show a very complicated scene that is handled in a style that deals with the essence of form and doesn’t get hung up in detailed rendering.
Fortunately Howard liked the first sketch I sent him, and that was important because I didn’t have another idea how I’d solve this one. I added color to the second stamp in the line so everyone at the USPS meeting would have a clear idea were we were headed.
The legendary illustrator Tony Sarg was responsible for the design of many of the early characters in the parade, and for a number of years these balloons re-appeared in every parade. The other mandatory elements to be included were crowds lining the streets, marching bands, horses, and New York City buildings as a backdrop to the whole thing; your basic illustrator’s nightmare.
One of the toughest parts to working on stamps is that you’re not supposed to talk about the project until the issue dates have been officially announced by the USPS. My aunt asked me recently what I was working on, and I told her I was doing some work for the Postal Service. She thought that work had slowed down for me and I was delivering mail.
Wow, what a great job on the connected stamps. A heartfelt congratulations!
.August 25, 2009
BBKAugust 25, 2009
Nicely done! Congrats!!
Julia BreckenreidAugust 25, 2009
Paul, these are great and I love the palette.
Victor JuhaszAugust 25, 2009
Excellent. Congratulations. This is quite a treat to look at. Not sure why, but I've always felt that stamps were fun projects. Looking at these images reinforces why.
Looking forward to posting them on my mail.
nwrightAugust 25, 2009
has a great nostalgic feeling to it!
Daniel HertzbergAugust 25, 2009
laura t.August 25, 2009
looks great, paul!!! i'll have to keep an eye out for them next time i go stamp shopping :>
Walter VasconcelosAugust 25, 2009
Congratulations, beautiful drawing and nice colors Paul!
Yuko ShimizuAugust 25, 2009
These are fantastic! Congratulations!
I wish you re-designed 'forever stamps' as well. Recently, postage stamps go up so quickly and suddenly, for the last year or two, I have only bought forever stamps, but honestly, I hate the design....
David FlahertyAugust 25, 2009
Almost makes me wanna watch the Macy's parade. Nice job!
MarcAugust 25, 2009
Congratulations, Paul—excellent work! Love how strong each individual composition is, and how they integrate together.
Laura LevineAugust 25, 2009
I spy Mickey's glove!
Paul, congrats on an amazing project! I'd give anything to do a postage stamp - what an honor!
It's funny to think that once upon a time commercialism hadn't crept into things such as the parade. Now it's all licensed characters with TV shows. (Big exception for Underdog, who deserves all the attention he can get).
felix sockwellAugust 25, 2009
i had the privilege of hanging out with michael ozborne a few months ago (one of the latest designers of the Love stamp) and what a great guy. doing a stamp design is like climbing to everest.. theres no where else to go but back down.
Michael GreaneyAugust 25, 2009
Christina SongAugust 25, 2009
Hi Paul, this is Christina from your Sketching for Ill. class. Looking at your blog, I love all of your work. They're all an inspiration. Thank you for a fun class this past term!
Please pay my little personal blog a visit if you get the chance. Would love some feedback/comment/suggestions/critique on any of them.
Kyle T. WebsterAugust 25, 2009
Geez, Paul - this is just fantastic.
David HeatleyAugust 25, 2009
Brilliant panorama image! Looking forward to having to send a package in need of $1.76 worth of postage to some lucky recipient...
Christoph HitzAugust 25, 2009
I particular like your presentation move, stellar job.
Doug FraserAugust 25, 2009
Ah! hearing about all the restrictions placed on you, the illustrator, is always good to know. After they've tied your hands up under your ass, you're expected to deliver that stunning piece that makes everyone connected to the assignment look fabulous. Well Paul, take a bow, you've earned.
Mark FisherAugust 25, 2009
Super piece Paul.
Brad JansenAugust 25, 2009
Absolutely brilliant, on every level...
randy enosAugust 25, 2009
As Tom Trapnell used to say...X-slint!
Cathie BleckAugust 26, 2009
I can't wait to buy these...fantastic job!
John DykesAugust 26, 2009
Coooooool project handled beautifully....
Edel RodriguezAugust 26, 2009
hey Paul, nice job of combining all the stamps into one cohesive image, tough to pull off! I worked with Howard Paine on a series a few years ago, he's a great guy to do a project with.
Nancy StahlAugust 26, 2009
Oh, oh... you're too good, Paul. These are delicious. I'm so jealous I can't write another word.
Cathleen ToelkeAugust 26, 2009
Wow, congratulations Paul, on navigating a mountain of limitations and finishing with a beautiful and instantly recognizable result! Great selection of detail and composition.