A local artist's designs have received the stamp of approval from the United States Postal Service.
Hilton Head Island resident Linda Fountain's "Holiday Baubles" illustrations have been issued as the official 2011 holiday stamps. The stamp pane features four designs of Christmas tree ornaments that Fountain created using an art form called cut-paper illustration.
Fountain said her ornament designs were inspired by memories of hanging glass ornaments on the Christmas tree as a child. She said she was always intrigued by the beautiful shapes and graphic designs of the ornaments.
The postal service contacted her about the project about two years ago. She said the creative director had seen her work and liked her bold, graphic style.
"I was really excited when they called," Fountain said. "And I can't wait to see the actual stamps."
Fountain said she sent about 30 sketches to the USPS, and they narrowed it down to the ones they liked best. Then she sent them color versions, and they selected the four illustrations for the stamp pane.
Fountain said once the final sketches are selected, the next step in cut-paper illustration is to place the sketch on a piece of colored paper and use a utility knife to cut out the shapes. Then she spray mounts the cutouts in layers on a Bristol board. The final step is to scan the paper and email digital images.
"My art is so graphic (that people) ask me why I don't do it on the computer," Fountain said. "I think the cut paper has a quality to it that the computer just can't render. It has more of a humanity and less-perfect feel."
Fountain said she started doing cut-paper illustrations around 1994. She had always been enthralled with the bold, beautiful colored paper and thought it was the perfect medium for her.
After working as an advertising art director in Rochester, N.Y., for 15 years, Fountain turned her focus to illustration and opened her art studio. She said one of the first projects she did after opening the studio was a job for Estèe Lauder. She also has created illustrations for Coca-Cola, The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.
Fountain said she still does some graphic design on the computer, but she prefers the tangible art that results from cut-paper illustration.
"In this electronic age it is like the difference between an email/text versus a handwritten letter," Fountain said. "Sometimes it's the nuances that set a person apart from the rest. It takes longer to do it this way, but I find it more rewarding."