To celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black, I’ve illustrated this commemorative stamp issue for Guernsey Post. The Penny Black was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, and marked the begining of universal postage; a one price goes anywhere, affordable postal service to all UK addresses.
The designs show Sir Rowland Hill, widely credited as the inventor of the postage stamp. They also show a 19th century postman and mail coach and feature a reproduction of the original Penny Black stamp.
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2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. To celebrate this literary milestone Guernsey Post commissioned me to create a set of stamps and collectable products. Stamps? Alice in Wonderland? Suffice to say it was pretty much a dream project.
My central idea was, what would postage stamps from Wonderland look like? I referenced vintage stamps from around the time of the book’s publication, which typically feature a portrait with decorative frame and border. I used bright colours in carefully chosen combinations, to bring out the slightly psychedelic feeling of the book. The character portraits also had to be instantly recognisable out of context of the book, which meant connecting with a popular consciousness of Wonderland while bringing something fresh to the familiar characters. The illustrations were also designed with the final postage stamp size of reproduction in mind.
For the characters, I went to the sort of ‘central casting’ that I carry around in my head. I quite often approach characters in this way – try to think who I’d cast as them in a film. It usually ends up being an amalgam of several people – and not necessarily famous people. There might be elements of Friends, family or people I’ve sketched on the Tube.
I wanted Alice to be a modern little girl, so I updated her outfit, hairband and hairstyle. She’s about 90% based on my daughter actually. (Who just happens to have a pet flamingo. No, not really.)
The rabbit is sort of based on Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s army as he’s a pompous character, obsequious to his superiors and disdainful to his juniors.
I had the Beat Generation writer William Burroughs in mind for the caterpillar. He’s got that wonderful voice – that’s JUST how the caterpillar would speak!
And the Hatter is quite unashamedly Terry Thomas. By the way, you might notice his hat is a giant tea cup and the famous price tag on the hat is like one of those dunking tea bags on a string. (Incidentally the price is now 52 and a half pence, which I read somewhere is about the modern equivalent of the classic ‘In this style, 10/6’ on the original illustrations!)