Illustrator and designer Gavin Ryan has been working as a guest illustrator with Australia Post for many years. Most recently he was asked to put his artistic talents to use on the Fair Dinkum Aussie Alphabet stamp issue, a project he describes as the ‘brief he had been waiting for’. We talked to him about his experience working on this project.

How did you get into illustration and design?

Art runs in my family and I was starting to work in illustration before I was out of high school. After school I got a gig working for fishing magazines and found myself filling a bit of a niche with fish illustration. It was not long after that I was approached by Australia Post to do my first set of marine life stamp designs, which was the start of what became a regular gig working with Australia Post.

What was your reaction when asked to work on the Fair Dinkum Aussie Alphabet stamp issue?

This was the brief I had been waiting 25 years for! It really appealed to me because it was much closer to the satirical cartoon work of my personal art. A set of 26 designs, Australian A-Z. Perfect!

Throughout the project I really enjoyed being able to play with all those clichés of Aussie culture and urban mythology, and to explore the literary angle with its emphasis on words and letters.

I welcomed being given creative licence to get a bit edgy and let a little bit of acerbic character observation come through, into what might otherwise have been a bit too saccharine.

Where did you start with this project?

I was given a brief with lists of words and places to be included in the illustrations. However, it wasn’t long before I was starting to fire off with many further possibilities, and I was very gratified that most of my additions and extras were accepted.

I found myself compiling little alliterative verses, poetic vignettes for each letter using as many applicable words as possible. These gave me nice, nonsensical narratives to base my compositions around, and these became as satisfying an artistic challenge as the designs themselves.

What did you want to achieve with the illustrations?

I wanted to poke a bit of fun at things because that is a typical ‘Aussie’ trait. I wanted to take the Mickey but in the nicest possible way, with humour and affection. But I also wanted to make it a challenge to spot all the words, and see if I could get the audience to work out what my original verse had been.

Some letters of the alphabet were just plain difficult to find enough applicable Aussie words for, but we got there in the end. I think there might have been a few additions of mine that were deemed a little too challenging for the stamp buying public, like the axe that the little girl in the design for the letter “X” was about to perform surgery on her Xena doll with.

How much did you enjoy working on this project?

This was easily the most fun and interesting stamp set I have had the privilege of working on. I like my art to have some meaning and some emotional impact and I think this set of illustrations has a lot of that. I hope everyone enjoys them and they get a strong positive reaction in the stamp world.

Read the full article on the Fair Dinkum Aussie Alphabet stamp issue.

This article was produced at the time of publication and will not be updated.

Philatelic Team