For Tom Engeman, retirement just means more time to pursue the work he loves. “I make art all day long,” he says. “I make art on subjects I love. I can’t help myself.”
This gusto is clearly expressed in Engeman's work. A nationally acclaimed artist, Engeman is well known for his poster and stamp designs. In fact, it was the strong shapes and bold colors of a small butterfly poster that caught the eye of art director Derry Noyes and led to the creation of the new Monarch stamp.
The artist began construction of the Monarch by drawing only half of the butterfly with a black felt-tip pen on graph paper. This drawing was scanned into Engeman’s computer, and color was added digitally.
Working in Adobe Illustrator™ software, Engeman created rough shapes that corresponded to the open spaces inside the Monarch wing and body. These shapes were built on a layer above the black-and-white drawing and were filled with flat or gradient color. Once the shapes were created and colorized, Engeman moved the black-and-white drawing back on top to yield a finished butterfly half. This half was copied and flopped to create a mirror image, and the two pieces were merged to form a complete butterfly.
The simplified shapes and perfect symmetry, as well as the technique of adding color to a black line drawing, give the Monarch a strong graphic presence — a quality that translates well to the small scale required for stamps.
Engeman defines his approach as “cartooning” the subjects — meaning that fine details are eliminated and color is exaggerated to strengthen the graphic quality. “These are not scientifically accurate; they are an artist’s impressions.”
Details may have been eliminated, but appeal was not. In addition to the Monarch, watch for at least four more of Engeman’s butterflies to appear on future stamps. One look at these gorgeous creatures will make you want to start a butterfly collection of your own.