Creating a philatelic tribute to former NDP opposition leader Jack Layton was the subject of a class art project at Ottawa’s Merivale High School. The project was selected last fall by their teacher, and philatelist, Irv Osterer. He said it was not done as a political statement of any sort, but as a way to create a project that was relevant and current to the students. Layton’s death made front-page news a year ago, and while there is no policy of issuing stamps to honour opposition leaders, the newsworthiness, and his high profile made it a good project.
The Grade 11 students had to research not only Layton’s distinctive look, but also the challenges in creating art for an image as tiny as a stamp. The students had their choice of media, ranging from watercolour to caricature. The finished designs were then treated digitally, to create the final stamp representations. Students also created cancellation, first-day cover (FDC), and booklet designs. The FDC “cancels” are marked July 18, Layton’s birthday. The project proved an interesting one at a time when many youngsters have never even used postage stamps. Osterer sent photos of the stamps to Layton’s family, and received a response from Layton’s widow, MP Olivia Chow. “You have an immensely talented group of students,” she replied, “and under your leadership, they have created many works of art. I will share them with the family and all of Jack’s NDP MPs and staff.”
The stamp designs are on display from now until mid-autumn at Ian Kimmerly Stamps, 62 Sparks St., Ottawa. “Ian is just a great guy and has always been so supportive of my philatelic forays in the classroom,” Osterer told CSN. Kimmerly, who is not known as an NDP supporter, said the designs reflected the youthful perspective of the young designers. One of the students, Danielle Denisko, said she really enjoyed the project. “I liked the prerequisite of using four different types of media before creating our final piece,” she said. “In the end I chose to use pencil, and created a detailed portrait of Layton with shading, I tried to capture his personality through his smile and his eyes. “It is important for youth today to listen and learn from leaders and to be inspired to stand by their own beliefs. Art is an effective way to translate thoughts and emotions onto paper in a way that a person of any age will be able to relate to it,” she added.