RICHARD Lewington’s colourful designs for the Royal Mail’s new collection of first class stamps will wing their way around the country from today.
Mr Lewington, from Appleford, near Didcot, painted 10 of the UK’s most colourful butterflies, nine of which can be found in Oxfordshire.
The artist, who has painted insects for Dorling Kindersley guides in a 40-year career, asked Royal Mail to use his designs in 2010.
“I showed Royal Mail some examples of my art work but I was up against photographers,” he said.
“They wanted designs on a blank background and I was able to convince them that painting was the best way to go.”
The 10 butterflies are a Purple Emperor, a Comma, an Orange-tip, a Marsh Fritillary, a Chalkhill Blue, a Red Admiral, a Small Copper, a Brimstone and a Marbled White, all found in Oxfordshire, and a Swallowtail, only found in marshland.
Mr Lewington added: “It is really something — these stamps will have a much wider audience than most of my books.”
After growing up in Abingdon and Didcot, Mr Lewington attended Berkshire College of Art and Design in Maidenhead.
Graduating in 1971, he worked as a freelance wildlife illustrator.
One of his commissions, was for The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland written in 1991 by Jeremy Thomas, professor of Ecology at Oxford.
When it came to designing the stamps, Mr Lewington first drew pencil sketches for each butterfly and submitted them to Royal Mail.
The Mail’s designers then had to say where the Queen’s head and the first class symbol would go.
The final paintings, five times larger than the stamps, are painted in gouache, a paint similar to watercolour, on to watercolour paper.
Mr Lewington is also the president of Abingdon Naturalists’ Society (ANS).
ANS chairman Tony Rayner said: “Richard’s books have transformed public interest in natural history.
“He photographs his subjects and studies them which is what makes his illustrations so life-like.
“People have said that, in his field, he is the best artist who has ever lived in his field, but speak to him and you would never know it.
“He is so modest. He is a terrific guy and we are so lucky to have him.”
Royal Mail’s director of stamps and collectibles Andrew Hammond said: “This is a stunning set of stamps that feature a collection of beautifully illustrated butterflies.”
- The stamps will be available at 102 post offices across Oxfordshire and online at http://royalmail.com/butterflies or by phoning 08457 641 641.
PERSONALITIES BEHIND THE PAINTINGS
- Comma - With distinctively ragged wings and white ‘commas’ beneath, it was once rare but is now common.
- Purple Emperor - The males of this elusive species have an electric purple sheen, which isn’t present in females.
- Orange-tip - Males have bright orange wing tips and wander through the countryside in search of a mate.
- Marsh Fritillary- This attractive, chequered butterfly makes its home amid damp meadows and flowery downland.
- Chalkhill Blue - Groups of milky blue males, right, can often be seen feeding from deep purple flowers in high summer.
- Red Admiral - An immigrant from warmer climes, this dazzling butterfly is drawn to equally colourful flowers.
- Small Copper - Males are surprisingly territorial, while females search for sorrel or dock on which to lay eggs.
- Brimstone - One of the first butterflies of spring, its name is taken from the sulphur yellow of the male’s wings.
- Swallowtail - The UK’s largest species, it is most commonly found fluttering above reed beds and open water.
- Marbled White - This sedentary butterfly is commonly seen in summer, soaking up the sun’s rays.