First class way for Sidmouth illustrator to finish career

Michael Heslop final project as an illustrator was to design eight collectable stamps for Royal Mail

Michael Heslop final project as an illustrator was to design eight collectable stamps for Royal Mail. - Credit: Archant

A retired illustrator from Sidmouth who ‘reinvented’ himself as an equestrian and golf artist has released a series of collectable stamps for Royal Mail.

Michael Heslop with sketches of the stamp.

Michael Heslop with sketches of the stamp. - Credit: Archant

Michael Heslop was commissioned by the company to produce eight stamps of racehorse legends including Frankel, Red Rum and Kauto Star.

The 78-year-old said the 18-month project marked the end of a five decade career after the pack went on sale before Saturday’s Grand National.

Michael, of Fortfield Place, said: “I’m retiring - this was my last illustration job.

“I find it too stressful now to do it to deadlines. I’m proud that I could call it my living for 50 years.”


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Michael’s first major job was for Royal Mail in the 1960s when he designed posters about the history of mail transport.

The former art lecturer said: “As a freelance illustrator, you had to go and find work. You did not know what you were going to be doing in six months’ time and it just wasn’t going to come to you.”

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The father-of-one has illustrated hundreds of book covers, including Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, but moved into painting after publishers began using computer illustrations.

He said: “A lot of publishing illustrations, advertising illustrations, were taken over by computers. The artists that work on the computers are some of the most talented people.

“My agent in New York said to me, ‘it’s over, what you can do in six weeks, we can now do in three days and that’s the way forward’.

“I had to reinvent myself. I was always sport mad, so the first thing was the golf.”

Following a series of successful galleries of his golf and horse paintings, Michael was recommended to Royal Mail by an agency. He said: “I was competing with a lot of artists and was chosen to do it through this agency.”

The stamps, which also feature Desert Orchid, Brigadier Gerard, Shergar, Arkle and Estimate are now on sale.

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