The Graceful Envelope Contest 2018 | Whatever the Weather

CONTEST STIPULATIONS | The envelope must actually go through the USPS system without a protective sleeve, without anything in it, with the correct address incorporated into the design or beautifully lettered, and with the correct postage (preferably incorporated into the design, as well). It must not exceed 9x7 inches (which, they don't mention, is a slightly different set of dimensions than those the USPS actually goes by when calculating postage and mail-ability). It must use artwork, stamps, and lettering in a cohesive and creative manner to fit the year's theme - this time "Whatever the Weather." It must be postmarked by March 26th. It must be done by hand; no computer graphics, lettering, or rubber stamps! Other years' themes, since I began participating, have been:

  • World of Change
  • The Superlative Letter S
  • There's No Place Like Home
  • Pushing the Envelope

I actually got my entry sent off a whole week early this year (after several years of working right up until the date by which it had to be post-marked). After several sketches (see below),

I settled on a barn as the backdrop for my lettering and a severe mid-western storm brewing in the distance. What I did not foresee was playing off the advertisement often painted on barns in PA and surrounding states:


Chew MAIL POUCH Tobacco | Treat Yourself to the Best


That was happenstance as I looked at barns and ads to figure out my layout. A tornado seemed like the easiest way to depict "weather," the old CLOUDSCAPE stamps provided further examples of weather and could be pasted up on the silo, and the scene began to come together...envelope-like barn doors for the contest address, golden fields, a ubiquitous John Deere tractor in the foreground, and a SWEET CORN forever stamp to finish off the barn wall. Will the judges see the weather vane and understand the significance? I always hope minute details like that will influence their decision (for the good).


MATERIALS | Fabriano Artistico Cold Press 140 lb paper and Elmers glue; white Conté crayon; graphite; salt; white, black, and silver ink; white and yellow gouache, Mission watercolor, and Derwent watercolor pencils

SKETCHES | As you can see, no. 1-2 and no. 6-10 are all on the same storm/barn theme, though the wording, word and stamp placement, barn structure, and landscape changed as I went along. I still like the barns in some of the drafts, but text placement kept tripping me up (and the fact that I couldn't do much perspective and still use square stamps on the barn walls). No. 5 with its swirling list of meteorological terms was a vaguely good idea but terrible rough draft. No. 3 was likely my next option after a barn scene; the image on the left would have been a brightly colored storm system adapted from a hurricane tracking radar, and the sidebars on the right would have been stamps showing weather predictions/systems elsewhere in the U.S. No. 4 was to be a weather report screen for a particular day (using average statistics for the date the envelopes were due in D.C.) instead of the upcoming week; each panel would have given the forecast or current weather conditions in a different part of the country with an appropriate stamp for the image. Peter suggested I illustrate postal carriers in their various seasonal uniforms, and that would have filled the panels nicely; but I really didn't want to get into drawing people and clothing. Oops! I'm just realizing that almost all my barn drawings have a window in the space between the peak of the roof and the first line of lettering! I most certainly meant to add that to my final draft; you can see the space I left for it! So much for the aforementioned minute details and painstaking attempts at making my artwork as authentic as possible...


UPDATE | Selected for the fifth year as one of the top eleven entries!

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Comments: 3
  • #1

    Eva (Wednesday, 28 March 2018 02:45)

    Very cool! Hope you are named a winner for the 5th year is a row!

  • #2

    Franci Hoyt (Wednesday, 28 March 2018 06:04)

    I love it! I really like the colors of the sky, and the cute detail in the weathervane. Those cloud stamps are great, too. Where do you find the stamps you use?
    I hope you do really well!

  • #3

    Hannah (Wednesday, 28 March 2018 12:48)

    In this case, I found the Cloudscape stamps on eBay, since the USPS was no longer selling them. We still had the garden veggie forever stamps from whenever they were issued. Other years, I've ordered stamps from (if my local PO didn't have something suitable), or settled for what I or the local PO had on hand.