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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Brian Sanders: Illustrating Stamps & Coins, Part 1

Monday, January 07, 2013

Guest author Bryn Havord, following his overview of English illustrator Brian Sanders’ work produced in the 1960s, 1970s and early to mid '80s, which we featured in April and December 2011*, continues with samples of Brian’s work made from the mid 1980s until 2005, for stamps and coins.


The Royal Mail’s commissioning art director Stuart Rose had seen Brian’s watercolour work in several magazines, and asked to see his portfolio. Brian's first Royal Mail set: ‘Police’ was begun in 1978 and published in 1979.

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(Above: River Police Thames Patrol Launch.)

At the first meeting Brian was surprised to learn that he was expected to work only four times larger than a printed stamp, which was approximately 5 x 4 inches. Most of Brian’s work was large in scale, made to reduce to page or double spread magazine format. However, he took up the challenge, soon learning that good composition works at any size, but inevitably, at that size, the artwork becomes tighter.

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(Above: Mounted Woman Police Constable.)

Having spent several weeks researching with the police on streets, motorways and river patrols, so he could produce a series of working drawings, he nearly lost the commission at the presentation stage by declining the Metropolitan Police’s request to replace the mounted policewoman (above) with a man. His small show of feminist solidarity might well have altered his career prospects, for in those days there was always a three-way competition for each set of British stamps. However, the art director’s assistant, Barry Robinson, smoothed ruffled feathers; steered the work through the large stamp selection committee, and the set was chosen. Their working friendship lasted over the years until Barry retired.

For his second set featuring ‘The Fishing Industry’ in 1981, Brian toured the coast of Britain where he discovered an industry in decline, but met many entertaining characters, particularly in north west Scotland.

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(Above: Scottish Crab and Lobster Fishing, below: Seine Netting)

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Brian thinks that his third set illustrating ‘Youth Movements’, made in 1982, was the first time he designed four stamps that worked well as a set.

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(Above: Essays approved by HM Queen, below: Girls Life Brigade original art work)
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His fourth set for the ‘British Council’ which he produced in 1984, was designed by the Newell and Sorrel Design Group, with Brian executing the final artwork.

Continued tomorrow.

* Previous posts on Brian Sanders' career as written by Bryn Havord have been collected on the Art of Brian Sanders blog

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