By Jesse Robitaille
A handful of Canadian illustrators will be commemorated on Canada Post’s next issue, which is slated for release on April 5 at OCAD University in Toronto.
Highlighting five talented Canadians whose work can be found on book covers, posters, magazines, newspapers and even postage stamps, this new issue features some of Canada’s most successful and prolific illustrators.
“Next in the spotlight are a set of stamps honouring five of Canada’s most celebrated illustrators, many of whom have also created stamp images for Canada Post over their careers,” wrote Canada Post Director of Stamp Services Jim Phillips in the latest issue of Details magazine.
“Personal favourites from the portfolios of Will Davies, Blair Drawson, Gérard DuBois, James Hill and Anita Kunz appear in this eye-popping issue, drawn from work featured in books, magazines, advertisements and elsewhere.”
Designed by Lara Minja, of British Columbia’s Lime Design, the new issue is available in booklets of 10 stamps and souvenir sheets of five stamps. A total of 1.5 million booklets were printed, and 80,000 souvenir sheets were printed.
“The strength of the Canadian illustrators issue lies in the narrative quality of the imagery, the mastery of colour and composition, and the sense of imagination, humour, style and emotion,” said Minja.
A souvenir sheet official first-day cover (OFDC) with all five stamps will also be cancelled in Toronto. A total of 7,000 OFDCs were printed.
The five-stamp set was printed by Lowe-Martin using five-colour lithography.
A proud native of Belleville, Ont., Davies (1924-2016) is a legend of Canadian commercial art. He was responsible for fashion layouts, story illustrations and advertising campaigns for clients such as Simpson’s, Chatelaine, Reader’s Digest, Homemakers, Star Weekly and Woman’s Weekly, among other publications.
Davies also designed nine Canadian stamps, including:
- a 1974 eight-cent commemorative marking the 100th anniversary of Mennonite settlers’ arrival in Manitoba (Scott #643);
- a 1976 se-tenant pair of eight-cent stamps marking the centennial of the Royal Military College (SC #692-693);
- a pair of 12-cent stamps, one featuring Joseph E. Bernier and another with Sandford Fleming, issued in 1977 (SC #738-739);
- a pair of 14-cent stamps issued in 1978 to highlight the development of Canada’s national resources (SC #765-766);
- a 1984 32-cent Loyalist stamp (SC #1028); and
- a 1987 36-cent stamp marking Volunteers Week (SC #1132).
The new stamp commemorating Davies depicts one of his untitled Harlequin book covers – one of more than 500 covers he designed for romance novels published by Harlequin since its founding in Winnipeg in 1949.
“He’ll be remembered by many for his style, both in his work and in his everyday life,” reads an obituary published following Davies’ death in 2016.
Drawson worked as an editorial illustrator for many of North America’s most notable magazines, including Time, The New Yorker, Esquire, Rolling Stone and The New York Times Magazine. His stamp features his “Stage Fright” magazine design produced circa 1990.
In 1997, he was also commissioned by Canada Post’s Stamp Advisory Committee to submit a design for a forthcoming release depicting a vampire as part of the Crown corporation’s four-stamp Supernatural series.
“Their final choice was a revised version of this,” reads Drawson’s website, blairdrawson.com. “The image of a woman bleeding from the neck, as if blissfully post-coital, was not deemed to be appropriate for a Canadian stamp, and I was asked to substitute something else in her place. A bat, as I recall.”
Drawson currently lives in Toronto, where he works as a painter, illustrator and teacher at OCAD University as well as Sheridan College.
Born in France, DuBois chose Montréal as a place to launch his freelance career. His work has since appeared in many major magazines in North America and Europe.
His work was also the focus of Canada Post’s 2015 Christmas stamp trio (SC #279a-c, 281-283).
The new stamp commemorating Dubois’ work features his 2015 piece for The New York Times, “It’s Not a Stream of Consciousness.”
Hill (1930-2004), of Hamilton, Ont., had a major influence on his field. Named Artist of the Year by the Guild of American Artists in 1966, he earned two gold medals from the New York-based Society of Illustrators.
According to John Reeves’ 1990 book About Face, in the summer of 1966, “the year that his hero Mayfield Parrish died, the elite Society of American Artists named him (Hill) Artist of the Year, an honour hitherto conferred only on Norman Rockwell and James Spanfeller. He should have earned a six figure income and a mansion in Connecticut, but his shining hour came just as the Golden Age of magazines was ending.”
His work for Canada Post includes six semi-postal stamps (SC #B7-B9 and #B10-B12) issued for the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal.
The image on the new stamp honouring Hill is from a 1966 Redbook feature on hair fashion.
Lastly, Kunz is one of the most iconic illustrators of our time. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally and she regularly provides cover art for The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Time and other influential publications. She has also illustrated more than 50 book covers.
Her illustrations were also featured in Canada Post’s 2004 Year of the Monkey issue (SC #2015-2016).
The new stamp commemorating Kunz’s work depicts her “Best Friends” piece, which is from a series of personal work designed circa 2012.
An Officer of the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest civilian honour – Kunz was inducted into New York’s Museum of American Illustration Hall of Fame last year.