The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently announced that it will commemorate abstract artist Ellsworth Kelly, with a set of postage stamps scheduled to go on sale later this year.
The scaled-down masterpieces are works of Derry Noyes, a long time USPS’ long time director who for close to 40 years, has been creating tributes to some of the greatest names in American art and design.
Noyes describes Kelly’s art works as “well- suited for stamps”, which is not usually the case when reducing art down to the stamp size.
“It reduces down beautifully. The simplicity of the forms, the bright colors and the crispness of it all, it’s just made for stamp size.”
“This is not often the case”, she adds. “When you reduce art down, it can get very muddled, sort of fussy. It doesn’t look well at a mini size, whereas it looks great as a poster.”
Noyes continues and explains the process of creating the new Kelly postage stamps.
The process majorly involves the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee (a panel of 12 persons) composed of educators, historians, and designers etc. Noyes who served in the committee years ago before she became the director, says the committee’s goal is give a reflection of American history, pop culture, the people and events with a good balance for each year. Noyes says that stamp making lasts about two to four years though it can take longer especially if legal issues arise. During the said period, the USPS art directors meet on a monthly basis to discuss the ongoing projects as well critique the works and thereafter share them with CSAC. CSAC eventually approves the final stamp designs which are then approved by the postmaster general before they are released.
It takes years of hard work to gain the experience to deliver at any given work just as Noyes says – to identify art pieces that are a good fit for the stamps.“Your eye gets better and better at figuring out what is going to work and what isn’t at this little one-inch scale,” she says. She points out that when designing the stamps there are concerns that raised. One she mentioned, was how to place the stamps on one sheet and have them work in harmony. Illustrating using some of Kelly’s works used on the stamps, she says that one can easily tell that the works are corresponding:“Take Kelly’s ‘Blue Red Rocker, a 1963 sculpture in primary shades of blue and red and ‘Red Blue’ (1964), a painting that echoes the sculpture’s colors and shapes. One’s flat and one’s sculptural but you can see that they’re related, so there’s that going on as you place these on a page."
Noyes who has also been involved in a wide range of projects such as directing the American ballet and lacemaking over the years, has created minute tributes for the likes of Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keeffe and Isamu Noguchi.
Abstraction artist Ellsworth Kelly passed away in 2015.