When Baltimore artist Richard Waldrep created a series of Olympic stamps for the U.S. Postal Service, he chose to explore those anticipatory moments such as when a soccer player's body becomes a contortion to block the ball or a swimmer soars mid-air above the pool. They are views that reveal all the muscles of concentration and the taut lines of discipline.
And they could add a classy dimension to millions of bill payments.
The U.S. Postal Service will introduce five stamps commemorating the 1992 Summer Olympics at 7:30 tonight at the Olympic Trials for Gymnastics in the Baltimore Arena. The 29-cent stamps, depicting the sports of volleyball, gymnastics, boxing, soccer and swimming, will be available in post offices across the nation tomorrow.
Mr. Waldrep, 49, runs Eucalyptus Tree Studio on Morton Street with Jerry Dadds,the artist who designed the presidential series of stamps for the postal service a few years ago.
When he received the invitation last year to design the Olympic stamps, Mr. Waldrep leafed through files of magazine photographs and combed libraries for the most compelling images. The biggest challenge, he says, was to make sports movement -- which is essentially vertical -- work well on the horizontal plane of the stamp.
The postal service provided the sports categories. Stamp design coordinator Howard Paine told Mr. Waldrep the art should be monumental -- a scale close to the plane of the stamp -- so the figure would spring out at the viewer.
Some of the illustrator's other images already decorate many Baltimore homes. Mr. Waldrep created the tropical rain forest mural for the National Aquarium -- the image was later turned into a poster -- as well as the state's "Blue Heron, Chesapeake Bay" poster and the 1988 poster "The Fleets in Maryland's Ports." His 1990 re-election campaign poster for William Donald Schaefer, a nostalgic composition reminiscent of vintage magazine illustrations, provides one of the most flattering portraits of the governor in recent times.
Mr. Waldrep has illustrated material for the National Wildlife Federation and drawn covers for record albums in the Time-Life series. He created a series of Happy Meal boxes for McDonald's. At the moment, he is working on a 1993 calendar for Westinghouse that features prominent scientists.
A native of Atlanta, the illustrator received his master's degree in graphics design at the University of Georgia before moving to Baltimore in the late 1970s. He lives in Sparks with his wife, Catherine, a graphics designer, and their 1-year-old daughter, Madeline.
He says the Postal Service proved to be an amiable client; he made only two changes in his original design.
"I had to add a shirt and head gear on the boxer because that's what they wear in competition. The postal service was concerned that everything be historically accurate, to be exactly the way it is in the Games."
The Summer Olympic stamps, along with the Winter Olympic Stamps introduced in January, mark the Postal Service's 60th anniversary of producing themed stamps. The first stamp, which showed a ski jumper, was introduced in 1932. It cost 2 cents and commemorated the Third Olympic Winter Games, which were held at Lake Placid.