Floral paintings from Franklin artist make their way
to US Postal Service specialty stamps
BY JOHN MCBRYDE
Through her many still life paintings, illustrations for magazines and greeting cards, and even a children’s picture book inspired by her Boston Terrier, Elizabeth Brandon has earned her place in the art world.
But the Franklin resident is now most recognized for artwork she created that are the size of a postage stamp.
In fact, Brandon’s paintings of four bouquets of flowers are, indeed, postage stamps. Titled “Flowers from the Garden,” they’re among the most recent releases of specialty stamps from the U.S. Postal Service. With more than 600 million printed, the Forever Stamps were introduced in August at a first-day-of-issue ceremony in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Three months later, Brandon is still pinching herself.
“It was kind of surreal,” Brandon said of the whole experience of learning her paintings were chosen to become stamps. “I thought, ‘Really, stamps of my art?’ because it’s not something I really went after or even thought possible.
“There’s no doubt the art will last because those stamps are now a part of history,” she added. “It’s very humbling to think that many people will actually see your art all over the world.”
How Brandon’s paintings went from canvas to a self-adhesive stamp is “a little bit of a mystery,” she said recently from the studio at her Grassland area home. She received an unexpected email about two years ago from someone with the U.S. Postal Service, expressing interest in the four floral paintings she had displayed on her website.
She asked her husband, Joseph Sulkowski, for his opinion on the validity of the message. “I thought right away it sounded bogus,” said Sulkowski, also a prolific artist who has had two books published of his sporting life paintings.
But the couple soon learned it was legitimate, and eventually the process was underway.
“As time went by and they contacted me about more information, they wanted to know about everything, every vase I used, how I chose it, how I chose the flowers; they wanted to know every little detail. … It was very interesting, (their wanting to know) the thoroughness of my process and my vision and how I painted it. … It was really wonderful to work with the U.S. Post Office.”
Simon Storey, U.S. Postal Service Employee Resource Management vice president, said in a press release that Brandon’s images were just what the organization was seeking for its series of Forever Stamps.
“The Postal Service has a long tradition of showcasing flowers and floral artwork on stamps,” he said. “Flowers have been a perennial favorite, with hundreds of floral stamps released over the years. Each of these stamps is a small masterpiece, or as we say in the Postal Service, miniature works of art.”
Brandon grew up in Nashville and majored in interior design at the University of Georgia. She had an interest in art as a child and in high school, but her eureka moment didn’t come until right after college. She attended a summer workshop in Connecticut under world-renowned American artist Robert Brackman, best known for large figural works, portraits and still lifes, and it was there where Brandon awakened her passion.
From that experience, Brandon continued learning under the country’s best teachers and by visiting art museums throughout the world. She later studied painting and drawing for five years at the Art Students League of New York.
Meanwhile, Brandon had an affinity for flowers that came from her childhood and visiting her grandmother’s garden. She observed the intricacies of a bouquet, discerning the differences between those fully bloomed and those that are wilting.
“Often it’s not about the prettiest, perfect bouquet of flowers,” Brandon said, “it’s about creating emotion, light and movement — there’s a beauty in each of those phases of the flower. It’s more fun for me to go out and pick the flowers. You get an intimacy with that flower, very much when you’re painting.
“I would spend a lot of time setting up the arrangement. On the still life table, you create the shadow box. You’re creating where you want the light to come in from the north light (shining in from the ceiling in her studio). It’s sort of like creating a scene in a movie — how do I want this to look? When it happens and you say, Wow, that’s beautiful’, that’s when I stop and set up my painting.”
Beyond flowers and other still life subjects such as fruits and vegetables, Brandon has taken her longtime practice of yoga and begun to paint “symbolically the knowledge of our interior body and how that influences our mind, body and spirit,” she says on her website. She is also at work writing and illustrating a second book in her series of “Sadie Bug” children books, based on the life of her Boston Terrier, Sadie.
The original paintings of Brandon’s four florals that inspired the Forever Stamps are on display at the Nashville Downtown Library through Nov. 25.
More information on these paintings and her other artwork can be found on her website at www.elizabethbrandon.com. Visit www.store.usps.com to purchase the stamps.
Elizabeth Brandon stands along prints of three of her four flower paintings inside her studio. The fourth print was donated to the Heritage Ball for its silent auction.
More than 600 million Forever Stamps displaying Elizabeth Brandon’s flower paintings have been printed. The original paintings are on display at the Nashville Downtown Library through Nov. 25.
A first-day-of-issue ceremony was held in August in Sioux Falls, S.D., where Elizabeth Brandon stood as her four paintings were introduced as part of the U.S. Postal Service’s series of Forever Stamps.