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The new Love stamps are available online here.
What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Love stamp with this pair of first-class domestic Forever stamps featuring a big-eyed kitten and puppy? Evoking feelings of warmth and playfulness, each stamp shows a cute and cuddly animal resting its front paws on a big red heart. The word “Love” in all caps is seen, but partially obstructed, in the background.
The stamps were formally issued January 19 at Austin Pets Alive, a no-kill animal shelter in Austin, Texas.
The stamps are being sold in sheets of 20 with four rows of five, with alternating Kitten and Puppy stamps in each row. When issued, the stamps were 60 cents each, but the price rose on January 23 when the new postage rates went into effect.
The stamp designs were painted with oils on wood panel, then scanned and edited digitally. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamps with original art by Chris Buzelli.
This year’s Love stamps are the 56th and 57th face-different stamps in the series and the 20th straight year the Postal Service has issued a Love stamp. The last year in which a new Love stamp wasn’t released was 2003. This is the first time a feline has appeared on a U.S. Love stamp. A canine – representing puppy love – appears on the 1986 Love stamp.
This is Buzelli’s first stamp. Buzelli (https://www.chrisbuzelli.com/) is a native of the Chicago area, was influenced as a child by a loving grandfather who loved to paint. Buzelli and is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. He now works and lives in New York City. His oil paintings and artworks have appeared in many national publications, books and projects for design firms/advertising agencies.
We can learn more about the stamp’s creation from Ethel Kessler, an art director for the USPS:
Ethel Kessler, Art Director
When did you start working on these stamps?
In 2019. Let’s start from the beginning. I have admired Chris’ work for a long time. [We were] waiting for the right subject to call him in on. And then it hit me, I just thought that any subject I give him would be great, and LOVE is always needed. And we do flowers so often that I was looking for something other than flowers. Chris is a gem. You say go and he’s off!
How did the idea of a kitten and puppy come about?
This was the first time I’ve worked with Chris, in fact, he had not worked on any other stamps, so he started his sketching process; and sketched, and sketched … planets, clouds, underwater creatures, and some other animals. The puppy (came) first and had such an awe factor, we kept coming back to that one; requested a kitty and we have a great pair.
Keep in mind that you are asking this question after the fact. This is a very intuitive process.
Some of the questions could never have been thought of before the illustrations were sketched and approved. I meet monthly with other art directors and Stamp Development where we show the progress of each stamp project to the team for their input, suggestions, and critiques, so some of the thoughts might come out in those meetings.
Was it always considered a two-stamp issue or was a single stamp (or more than two) considered?
No, but once you’ve got a puppy, don’t you have to have a kitty?
I have no trouble with part of the letters being blocked out, but from my newspaper magazine days I know some folks who would hate that. Was there any discussion about the full L-O-V-E appearing on the stamp?
We do Love stamps so often that it seems unnecessary to put the word love onto the illustration, unless, it helps to focus the viewer. I think it does in this case.
The new Sailboats stamps are available online here.
Sailboats in two abstract designs are featured on the latest postcard rate stamps. The stamps were issued January 22, the date when the domestic postcard rate rose from 44 cents to 48 cents. There was no formal ceremony for the stamp’s first day, but Lahaina, Hawaii carries the formal first day of issue format.
VanderPloeg designed the stamps, with Libby VanderPloeg receiving credit as designer, typographer and illustrator. Antonio Alcalá served as art director.
VanderPloeg started with pencil sketches, then moved into Adobe Illustrator to create the final work in bright, crisp colors. VanderPloeg also created the lettering for the word “postcard,” freehand on a digital tablet. The Postal Service said VanderPloeg created abstract images that depict a little harbor town on Lake Michigan and captures the essence of sailing. Both stamps show boats cutting through the waves at full heel.
The first stamp depicts a single boat above royal blue waves, a white swell crashing against the prow. The white mainsail — adorned with a thick yellow stripe — and a pink jib stand majestically above a white, pink and gray hull, all set against a gray-blue, cloudless sky. The second features two boats racing under full sail. The closer boat sports a teal-and-white mainsail and a pink jib — white spray curls from its white and teal hull. The farther boat has a sleek black hull and a white mainsail tipped with red.
The stamps are sold in panes of 20 and coils of 100. Technical details from the Postal Service reveal that the pane and coil stamps have the same image area (0.73 of an inch wide by 0.84 an inch high) but have overall different sizes. Overall, the pane stamp is 0.87 of an inch wide and 0.98 of an inch high while the coil stamp is slightly larger at 0.90 of an inch wide, but still 0.98 of an inch high.
Both types of stamps were printed by Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. on the Muller A76 press.
Several U.S. stamps show boats and ships with sails, of course, but we can say with assuredness that these new stamps area meant to show pleasure sailing, as opposed to any large vessels meant for water transport, shipping, fishing or whaling.
Ernest J. Gaines
The Ernest J. Gaines Black Heritage stamp is available online here.
The 46th stamp in the Black Heritage series honors author Ernest J. Gaines (1933-2019), who is best known for such novels as The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson Before Dying. Gaines drew from his childhood as the son of sharecroppers on a Louisiana plantation to explore the untold stories of rural African Americans, adding a vital voice to American literature, said the USPS in a news release.
The stamp features an oil painting of Gaines based on a 2001 photograph. Greg Breeding served as art director and Mike Ryan designed the stamp with art by Robert Peterson, a rising artist from Lawton, Oklahoma.
The Forever first-class stamp, sold in panes of 20, was formally dedicated on its first day of issue, January 23, with a ceremony at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where Gaines had a long connection.
Adding a vital African American voice to American literature, Gaines, who died in 2019 at the age of 86, brought worldwide attention to generations of men and women who asserted their own dignity in the face of racial oppression and violence, the Postal Service said.
“At an early age I used to write and read letters for them,” he told The Boston Herald in 1999. “In that way I got to learn their stories.”
Gaines was born on Riverlake Plantation in the town of Oscar just outside New Roads, Louisiana, where his family had lived in the former slave quarters for five generations. He moved to California in 1948, but for decades afterward, his fiction reflected a deep and unbreakable connection to the rural Louisiana of his youth.
After serving in the Army for two years and graduating from college, Gaines received a prestigious fellowship in 1958 to study creative writing at Stanford University. He published his first novel, Catherine Carmier, in 1964, but he achieved true fame, widespread acclaim, and a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 1971 with The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, a novel chronicling the recollections of its 110-year-old African American protagonist, whose life spans slavery to the civil rights era.
In 1993, Gaines published his most critically and popularly acclaimed novel, A Lesson Before Dying, about a college-educated African American teacher who provides education and inspiration to a young farmhand awaiting execution for murder. Over the course of their difficult visits in prison, they form a bond that shows both the need to resist those who would deny them their dignity and self-respect. In addition to earning the National Book Critics Circle Award, A Lesson Before Dying resulted in Gaines receiving a prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.”
In 2013, Gaines, who penned eight novels and several short stories, accepted the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, calling it the greatest honor he had ever received. Today the Baton Rouge Area Foundation continues to endow an annual Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, which recognizes African American fiction writers who are just beginning to rise to national prominence.
Stamp artist Robert Peterson (b. 1981) is an emerging contemporary artist specializing in figurative painting with a concentration on portraiture, according to the Band of Vices website (https://www.bandofvices.com/robert-peterson). “He aims to create beautiful works of art that reflect a softer side of Black people yet still shows their strength and resilience, something that he believes is not seen and exhibited enough throughout galleries and museums.
Peterson’s website thanked the source he used to create the portrait of Gaines: “I want to thank the brilliant photographer Raoul Benavides for allowing me to use his photographs as reference for my painting.”