Royal Mail Bees Stamps - August 2015

In April 2014 I was asked by Royal Mail to paint a sample illustration of a Bilberry Bumblebee Bombus monticola, as a tender for a proposed set of 6 stamps on British Bees. I was fortunate to win the commission, which I worked on throughout the summer, and completed in September of the same year. The set was issued on 18th August 2015, which was good timing given the nationwide concern over the use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids. These persistent, systemic chemicals kill not only the flea beetles they are aimed at but they also affect the nervous systems of pollinators, notably bees. Unbelievably (or maybe not) following pressure from the NFU and the Agro-chemical industry, the government has just partially lifted a ban on these poisons, so the future of bees is uncertain and could possibly prove hugely costly to the environment, as well as financially. I hope these stamps might promote the plight of bees and help publicise their importance to us all.

Royal Mail Butterflies Stamps - July 2013

In 2010 I was asked by Royal Mail to submit samples of butterfly artwork for a proposed set of ten butterfly stamps they were planning to issue. This was to be the first time butterflies were to feature on British stamps since Gordon Beningfield produced a set in 1981. The Butterflies Issue came out on 11th July 2013, which coincided with warm weather and a sudden increase in butterfly activity. It turned out to be the best summer for butterflies for several years, even drawing the attention of non enthusiasts.

It was clear when Royal Mail approached me, that they were favouring photography as the probable route for the stamps, but their minds were still open and I felt it was a part of my submission to try and convince them that the flexibility of artwork was the best way to proceed. With such a small format as a stamp, and bearing in mind the Queen's head and the denomination are mandatory, a bold, eye-catching image was essential, and I felt artwork could do this more ably than photography.

Royal Mail had already decided on a short list of around 20 species and had also decided they wanted to show the butterflies on a white background, as if in flight. This was OK by me, although when painting butterflies, I do like to include flowers and plants, as they are obviously closely associated with each other and can combine to make beautiful designs.

I initially submitted two paintings, one of a Chalkhill Blue, the other a Painted Lady and after some months, involving several Stamp Advisory Committee meetings, I was informed that I had won the contract to produce the stamps.

The ten designs were completed in 2011 and I was also asked to write the information for the Presentation Pack and First Day Cover. This involved supplying illustrations of the early stages of the butterflies featured and instructions for illustrations of a looser nature, which were commissioned for the Presentation Pack. Earlier this year I was also asked to write the text for a double-page spread about butterflies for the Royal Mail Yearbook, which includes all the special stamps issued throughout the year.

Bumblebees App *now available*

I've also been involved in a project to illustrate all the British bumblebees for an app. This has now been produced by BirdGuides for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and contains illustrations of all the British species plus photographs and video footage. There are also distribution maps and detailed texts, including advanced identification notes by Steven Falk. Identifying queen bumblebees in the spring, after they have emerged from hibernation, is fairly straight forward but later in the year when workers and males are around identification can be more tricky, even though there are only 23 British species. It's been an interesting group to work on and hopefully the illustrations I've produced will help with more positive identification. Details about the app. can be seen here :- Bumblebees

Field Studies Council charts

I've illustrated 6 charts for the F.S.C., the most popular being 'Butterflies, and the most recent being Guide to Insect of the British Isles. The charts are now available here.

Butterflies of Britain
Day-flying Moths
Caterpillars of the Butterfies of Britain and Ireland
Insects of the British Isles

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