How this year’s Royal Mail Christmas stamps were designed

We speak to designer David Hillman about how he worked with illustrator David Holmes to create the Royal Mail’s nativity stamps.

Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary
Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary

David Hillman has designed this year’s set of Christmas stamps, which celebrate the story of the Nativity.

Hillman worked with illustrator David Holmes on a set of six stamps, which depict scenes from the Magi and the birth of Christ.

The designer was appointed 18-months ago after presenting two different routes, with two different illustrators.

Creating silhouette characters on a tiny canvas

Hillman selected parts of the story to be depicted before appointing David Holmes to illustrate the scenes, which have been simplified with “silhouette characters”.

“I’d initially looked at woodcuts and black and white but went for a colour concept based on different skies and silhouette characters,” says Hillman. He adds: “We wanted to avoid old masters and classic representations.”

Consistent sky scenes

Christmas stamps are the smallest produced by the Royal Mail, which presents a unique challenge according to Hillman who says: “We couldn’t be doing huge landscapes, the ‘no room at the inn’ scene and all that business.”

Another option was a still life scene of the gold, frankincense and myrrh, but Hillman wanted the sky scenes to be consistent.

“David and I are both ex-art directors so we both has an understanding that it needed to be as simple as possible,” says Hillman.

David Holmes says that he was inspired by “the great painters of the past” such as Canaletto and in homage to them he has sourced lapis lazuli, a pigment which has to be extracted from a semi-precious stone of the same name and was used by the likes of Canaletto.

Holmes says: “Biblical subjects used to be painted using lapis lazuli, a very rare and wonderful blue pigment, which painters would use to get that vivid blue for the Virgin Mary.

“It’s also a deadly poison so I had to be careful and wear a mask. Using the colour is my respectful acknowledgement.”

Mary and Joseph head to Bethlehem
Mary and Joseph head to Bethlehem
Three Wise Men see star in sky signalling birth of new king
Three Wise Men see star in sky signalling birth of new king
5
Angel appears to shepherds
Angel appears to shepherds
Mary and Joseph by manger following birth of Jesus Christ
Mary and Joseph by manger following birth of Jesus Christ
Christmas 2015 Alt Pict

Christmas 2015 Tallents HSXmas 2015 Mini Stamp revised artwork

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