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Postage stamps create a collaged portrait

The pictured work of art is “The Postman”. I also created a similar portrait of a Marine called “First Class Private”. Both of these portraits are made from recycled, cancelled postage stamps. To make a similar work of art you will need:

Find an example of a uniform, such as this picture of Private William H. Knoderer Jr.  Draw the portrait using simple shapes on a sheet of thin plywood.
Paula Hrbacek
Cancelled postage stamps were used to make a collage portrait "The Mailman".
Paula Hrbacek
  • Thin plywood, particle board, Masonite, or a background that will not warp such as a stretched canvas
  • Pencil
  • Water color paint and brush
  • Mod Podge
  • Cancelled stamps that have been soaked off of the envelope
  • Scissors
  • Pictures of a uniform

Find a picture of a uniform. I found military portraits on the Arlington National Cemetery web site. I chose a Marine because there are more blue stamps than green ones.

Begin by sketching a portrait using large, simple shapes. Soak the stamps off of the envelopes, and let dry face down. Sort the stamps into colors. Squint your eyes to see which color is the dominant one.

Save the most interesting stamps for last. Begin with the most common stamps and the largest areas. Glue the stamps to the background with Mod Podge or another decoupage medium. If a stamp has two main colors on it, position the stamp so that the colors work with the portrait. In the pictured portrait, stamps that have flags are used for the eyes. The blue field was positioned over the pupil of the eye, and the red and white area was positioned over the eye brow area. Use the darker shades of a color, or stamps with a heavy cancellation mark, in the areas that need shadows, such as under the chin or along the nose.

Use the most interesting stamps last to cover up gaps between the first stamps. In “First Class Private” I retained a stamp with the Purple Heart medal, and glued it to the Marine’s hat where the metal insignia would be because it added interest to the work. I also used bulk mail stamps that had a blue area and two red stripes to make the red stripes on a Marine uniform. I used Christmas stamps that had a gold edge to make the metallic band on the postman’s hat. I used stamps that were red and white only to cover up the blue field on stamps of a flag in the area of the face so that the person didn’t look like they had a black eye.

Keep layering until the background is covered. Apply a final coat of Mod Podge over the entire work.

Using watercolors, add a wash of blue to the uniform, a wash of pink to the face, and outlines around each area in black. A wash helps define the area because it stains the white edges of the stamps to the appropriate color. Use the wash to create shadows and highlights by making the color more or less intense. Let dry.

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