Paloma Alcalá '16 hails from a family of stamp lovers—her father and grandfather were avid collectors—but she didn't come to regard the meager postage stamp as a major piece of art until she began work on a campaign for the U.S. Postal Service.
"That's the amazing thing about postage stamps," Alcalá says. "They're really tiny little works of art."
Alcalá, of Alexandria, VA, got involved in the project this summer in collaboration with her father, a graphic designer hired by the USPS to adapt classic stamps for the Lady Bird Johnson centennial. The resulting souvenir sheet features six stamps designed in the 1960s by Walter D. Richards and Gyo Fujikawa, and celebrate the former First Lady's beautification projects.
Alcalá's task in preparing the images involved some major Photoshop work to isolate every color appearing within the stamps on a magnified scale, ensuring each element and color remained faithful to the original artwork right down to the "very thin blue lines in the sky of the stamps."
Classic stamps previously were engraved and printed using four colors—blue, green, magenta, and yellow. Modern printing utilizes a standard four-color palate of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—commonly referred to as CMYK—combined in dot patterns to create every color on the spectrum, a process called offset lithography.
The adaptation process took several weeks and left a lasting impression on Alcalá's perceptions of postage. "Stamps are like a reflection of the time in which they were created," she says.
The project also inspired her to begin her own collection of engraved stamps. "It's an unusual art form, but it's a really amazing one."
For more information on the Lady Bird Johnson Centennial stamps, visit the USPS "Stamp of Approval" blog.