Thursday, January 10, 2013

Brian Sanders: Illustrating Stamps & Coins, Part 4

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.

During 1997and 1998 Brian designed a further twenty-six stamps and thirty-two coins for the Marshal Islands commissioned by Unicover on the subject of ‘Legendary Fighting Ships’. Eight coins were minted as a separate set entitled ‘Legendary Fighting Ships of the US Navy’.


Regarding the obviously substantial amount of research involved in preparing for an undertaking like yesterday's 'History of WWII' or today's 'Legendary Fighting Ships', Brian says, "In the case of WW2, I knew the itinerary for the year ahead and so was able to plan for the research, which was the most time consuming part, as it was pre-online and involved traveling to the various museums."


"Once I had made good contacts at places such as The Imperial War Museum, Greenwich Maritime Museum, The Fleet Air Arm Museum etc; things speeded up. The RAF Museum had already been most helpful because of the earlier stamps and having those under my belt opened other doors more easily. Not all academics are generous with their time."


To receive a commission for the design of a coin is a rare privilege most illustrators will never experience. When asked how it felt to receive such a commission - and then to actually hold the physical manifestation of that design, rendered in shining metal, Brian says, "It felt great on both counts. The first of the $50 silver proof coins were sent by airmail. The postman used to come very early in the morning in those days and so as not to disturb us left them on the doorstep!"


Brian feels he was well inclined to the subject matter of ‘Legendary Fighting Ships’. "The military and maritime section of our library (my wife, Lizzie is also an illustrator although currently reading for a masters in history at Kings College) is somewhat top heavy."


Regarding his masterful rendering of the ocean, in all it's seemingly endless permutations, Brian says, "We all learn from others and there are plenty of better painters of the sea than myself, from the 18th century forwards. I suppose that if I had to pick one, it would be Thomas Somerscales."



"I have always been a water watcher though," says Brian.


He continues, "National Service as a Royal Marines Commando gave me opportunities to view it close up from canoes...


"... and landing craft... "

" ...or the bigger ships such as aircraft carriers."


"The seascape from the decks of assault ships HMS Reggio and Striker in gale force winds remains with me to this day."


Brian says, "I have had many comments of interest from collectors, mostly favourable  - some peculiar. E.G. A Dutch collector collected only stamps with Windmills on them and wasn't sure, because of the size, whether the Brederode stamp/coin had one. I was able to reassure him there were at least two."


"Another gentleman queried the layout of Missouri's armament. Details from 'The U.S.S. Missouri' - a wonderful book about the ship written by her Master at Arms - proved the point."


One wonders if such massive illustration projects leave room for other commissions. In his case, Brian says, "I did manage a couple of other small commissions, but soon found that the Unicover projects were sufficient to handle and stopped accepting other work."


Does Brian consider his stamp and coin series to be the highlight of his long and storied career? "No," says the artist, "but working with Kubrick, the colour supplements of 'The Sunday Times', Telegraph' and 'Observer' gave great pleasure and a super shop window. Publication in 'Nova' magazine was a memorable pinnacle."

"Stamps opened new doors."


In 2005, The Marshal Islands also re-issued ‘Historic Fighting Ships’, and two sets from the World War 2 series.

* Previous posts on Brian Sanders' career as written by Bryn Havord have been collected on the Art of Brian Sanders blog. This week's series will be added to the blog in the next few days.

Guest author Bryn Havord has sixty year’s experience as a journalist and graphic designer, winning two major national design awards for his work; the majority of which has been in Fleet Street working on national magazines ranging from Vogue to Woman, and on national daily newspapers. He is now an equestrian artist painting mainly horse-racing scenes, and an associate editor and designer working on illustrator magazine.



  1. This batch of stamp paintings is especially beautiful. I like the subject matter and the dramatic painting and color.

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