Tomorrow, the National Institute of Health will host a symposium discussing sickle cell disease. On display at the gathering will be the original oil painting I produced for the 2004 U.S. Postal Service stamp commemorating the disease.
Today and tomorrow I’ll tell the story of the making of that stamp.
I knew it would not be easy to visualize an incurable hereditary blood disease in a way that would be inviting and interesting. The image that comes readily to mind when people think of sickle cell disease is a microscope slide showing the elongated red blood cells alongside normal round cells.
The credit for the design solution belongs to veteran art director Howard Paine, who suggested portraying the scene in universal human terms. Because the disease or the trait is passed down from parent to child, he proposed showing a parent’s love for her baby. Why not show a mother and a child interacting with love and affection? The message then becomes a positive one, reminding at-risk parents to test early to find out whether they carry the gene.
I sketched up several different design ideas in color. The most successful version shows the mother holding up her year-old child in profile and giving him a kiss. The committee approved the design (sans microscope slide) and gave me the go-ahead.
In part 2, I describe how I went from the roughs to the finished art.
Sickle Cell Conference at the NIH Campus in Bethesda, MD, Nov. 16 and 17
Wikipedia on Sickle Cell Disease