Great Britain

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Jeff Dugdale  |  Jul 05, 2016  |  0 comments

The four designs issued on the day of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London do not sit well as a set, but the 3d violet was the most dynamic and original.

The aptly named designer adopted a poster art approach, showing an athlete’s head pushing ahead out of a globe, apparently straining for the finish line.

The parallel lines trailing behind him also suggest speed, and variations in the background shade suggest the transition from day to night in what was the first global sports festival since the end of World War II.

Julia Lee  |  Jul 04, 2016  |  0 comments

One of eight stamps in a joint issue with the USA – but one of only two designs which were used in both countries’ sets – the Very Hungry Caterpillar 68p is unique among British stamps in having die-cut holes deliberately incorporated into it.

American writer and illustrator Eric Carle made his name in 1969 with his tale about the cute little creature that likes biting holes in things, and it has become very popular with parents teaching young children to read simple words.

Sadly, the US version of this stamp did not have holes, which makes it much less eye-catching! Design: Rose Design.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jun 02, 2016  |  0 comments

Britain’s second ever royal silver jubilee set strongly echoes the first, for George V in 1935, and harking back to another era is a clever way to suggest a sense of continuity.

This issue, however, rather more ostentatiously screams ‘silver’ – in the value frame, in the hexagonal cartouche for the Queen’s head and in the floral decorated capitals ‘ER’ – with a three-dimensional effect making them stand out still further.

The 11p value is particularly pleasing, with its rose pink and grey background suggesting rich satin curtains, and the deep magenta colour used for the Queen’s head extremely rare in a commemorative.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jun 01, 2016  |  0 comments

Another of the stunning photographic essays used for the Millennium series, this one takes as its subject the heart-shaped face of the common barn owl.

Owls always seem inscrutable, but this one from the World Owl Trust sanctuary at Muncaster seems to be looking into the lens with complete disdain.

Alternative nicknames for the species, such as ‘demon owl’, ‘ghost owl’ or ‘hobgoblin owl’, seem very apt when you are confronted by such a stare.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 31, 2016  |  0 comments

If the picture concealed in the hide of the cow in the Patients’ Tale stamp (see No23) was subtle, the optical illusion here is even more so.

The eye is drawn by the iconic image of the Supermarine Spitfire banking against a cloudy sky.

But look closer and you realise that the clouds are not just random shapes, but form the profile of the great aeronautical engineer who designed the plane, Reginald J Mitchell.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 30, 2016  |  0 comments

Using photography might be a ‘lazy’ approach to design, but a stunning photo can still make a great stamp.

A fine example is the lower left of the quartet in the Astronomy miniature sheet.

It depicts the Ant Nebula, a young bipolar planetary nebula in the constellation of Norma in the southern Milky Way, with its stupendous glowing spherical shells of gas and plasma, the residue of dead stars.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 30, 2016  |  0 comments

The appearance of Halley’s Comet in the night sky, hailed as a ‘maybe twice in a lifetime’ event, was celebrated internationally on stamps, but nowhere in such an original way as in Britain.

Not for Royal Mail the unimaginative approach of showing a portrait of Edmond Halley, historical illustrations of the comet or photographs of the probes sent to study it.

Instead, a caricaturist was commissioned to design four colourful but crazy images.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 29, 2016  |  0 comments

No stamp issue of the 1960s was as spectacular and controversial as the set marking the 25th anniversary of the conflict in which so much was owed by so many to so few.

For the first time, six different designs were combined in the same sheet.

Even more amazingly, four of them had silhouettes of Germany’s defeated aircraft alongside Britain’s victorious fighters and the Queen’s head.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 28, 2016  |  0 comments

Following the lead given by the Beatles stamps (see No28), the Charles Darwin set took further advantage of the versatility of die-cutting by way of jigsaw-shaped designs, alluding to the great naturalist’s thinking as he tried to work out how all life fits together.

Particular amusement can be had by juxtaposing the portrait on the 1st class stamp with the 81p value’s depiction of an orang-utan from the same angle.

Their similarly grizzled, similarly hairy faces remind us of the fun caricaturists had in Victorian times, when the idea that humans were descended from apes was shocking.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 27, 2016  |  0 comments

Eye-catching in every sense of the word, this stamp celebrated the Year of the Artist by showing nothing more than an amazing close-up of the one organ which is absolutely necessary for an observational artist.

It caused great excitement in some circles when it was suggested the centre of the eye had a tiny image of the starship Enterprise (from the cult science fiction series Star Trek) orbiting the Earth.

And with a little imagination you can easily see why that was suggested.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 26, 2016  |  0 comments

Although it was based on a simple photographic treatment, the Cathedrals issue was a stunning set.

As with all its fellows, the stamp of Gloucester Cathedral looks down the nave to give a wonderful sense of the dimensions of this impressive Gothic building.

The decision to eschew full colour in favour of monochrome was inspired.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 25, 2016  |  0 comments

Commemorating Dr Edward Jenner’s invention of a defence against smallpox in the 18th century, this stamp cleverly alludes to a folkloric tale and involves a very subtle optical illusion.

It was from the knowledge that milkmaids did not contract smallpox if they had previously suffered from cowpox that Jenner developed his ‘vaccine’ (the word comes from the Latin for ‘cow’) containing material from cowpox sores.

Accordingly, the design shows a caricature of a Friesian cow, whose black and white markings contain a silhouette of the doctor vaccinating a child.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 24, 2016  |  0 comments

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Queen’s Awards for Export and Technology, were four very bold stamps realised in dark blue and yellow, in similar format and available in se-tenant pairs.

At the heart of this stamp is the Export award’s crowned insignia, with an ‘E’ at the centre of four arrows growing out of the cogwheels of industry.

This casts a shadow over a stylised globe symbolic of international trade.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 23, 2016  |  0 comments

This arresting illustration is the work of Wildscreen at-Bristol, an educational charity which became a Millennium Project, working to promote our appreciation of biodiversity through wildlife imagery.

It looks like something out of a science fiction film, but is simply a beautifully lit photograph of the head of an ant, at huge magnification, showing its eyes, antennae, mouth and ‘whiskers’ in the finest detail.

Most eye-catching of all is the smile the ant appears to have as it glares into the lens! Design: GettyOne Stone.

Julia Lee  |  May 22, 2016  |  0 comments

One of two stamps celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, from a set on the theme of peace, this design uses simple imagery to make a telling point.

Two open hands, suggesting no malice, with fingers of different colours, representing all mankind, emerge from the globe in supplication to the background of heat and flames, alluding to conflict.

It looks like a thought-provoking piece of modern art, rather than merely a postage stamp.

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