Malta 1

Malta – 25th Anniversary Apollo 11


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I believe there are two ways in which we tend to look at history. On one hand there are those who, oblivious of what is really happening around them, never realise that their own actions and attitudes are continuously affecting the course of everyday life. The other kind manage to live their life so conscious of every little change that they treasure each moment, each event whether it happens around them or far away.

Since I firmly believe to belong to the second category, that momentous night when man first set foot on the moon was to remain firmly imprinted in me for ever. Then in my early twenties – my mind overflowing with what, at the time, seemed like impossible dreams – we witnessed history unfolding in front of our very eyes, there in our own living room. The world waited with bated breath for man’s first step on the moon, notwithstanding the fact that some romantics were frustrated with such an intrusion of our satellite’s glamour which had inspired lovers over the centuries.

With my penchant for the exotic and esoteric in any-thing mechanical which could defeat, earth’s gravity, space travel held a special niche in my interests for many years after that event. Later in life, however, this had to wane in favour of specialisation as an aviation artist and author. For years T prepared hundreds of colour illustrations and accurate scale drawings for publication in England, Italy, USA and Malta. This activity was complemented by general graphic design work which was commissioned locally and abroad; however, having a very limited knowledge of philately I never expected to be called to stamp design.

The seven-stamp airmail set which the Maltese GPO commissioned me in 1978 was awarded more on the strength of my reputation as an aviation artist, than any-thing else. Thanks to a lot of guidance by the staff at the GPO and their printers I managed to present a decent first effort in the highly specialised field of philatelic design. I was immediately hooked onto stamp design and just had to have an “encore”. Within a short, time I won a national competition for the design of a two-stamp set commemorating World Food Day. In between direct commissions and competition winnings I have designed 44 stamps for the Malta GPO so far.

The latest of these is, in fact, that commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the first manned moon landing. How-ever this was not my first venture in space stamps as in 1991 I was commissioned to produce a two-stamp set. for the “Europa” series with the theme “Europe in Space”. The first (10c denomination) shown Eurostar, one of the latest generation of spacecraft built by British Aerospace and Matra Espace. Planned for an orbit life of 60 years, Eurostar is a communications satellite and is shown in space together with its planned use on Earth, that is all forms of telecommunications.

The second (35c denomination) shows two different forms of space vehicles of European design and construction. One of these is Ariane 4, the highly successful French space launcher of most European Satellites. The other is HOTOL. (Horizontal Take-off and Landing), a reusable vehicle which is Britain’s contribution of space research.

Late last year (October 1993) the Postmaster General commissioned me to prepare an ‘aviation’ set of four stamps which had to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Malta International Air Rally, the establishment of the Malta International Air Show, and two stamps for the 50th anniversary of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. A few months after work had begun on this set I was requested to add a fifth, the moon commemoration. I felt tins to be rather awkward as the format and colours which I had chosen for the aviation themes could not be easily adapted for such a subject. So I requested the GPO to consider issuing this stamp on its own, preferably on the date of the anniversary, rather than as part of the aviation set, where, I argued, it did not fit anyway.

This request was granted, I got on the task of finding enough reliable material to form an original concept for an event which is so well known, and which has been widely covered since 1969. Two people came to my rescue, Paul Xuereb and Karm Bonavia from Zabbar, the former an ex-pert in space exploratory history with a vast library, the latter a keen philatelist. Bonavia first showed me what other countries had so far issued or were about to issue on the subject. This complicated matters somewhat as all the ideas I had in mind for my stamp seemed to coincide with those of others! However, Paul Xuereb’s material proved inexhaustible, and eventually he pointed out that flags of several countries, including Malta’s, had been taken on that trip.

This gave me the inspiration to portray the well- known “Spaceman and US flag” theme with a difference, by showing the flags of other countries, with Malta’s getting special prominence, fanning out into space. His idea was gladly accepted by the GPO and its Stamp Advisory Board and we were well on our way with the design.

It might be of interest to know that this stamp was completely prepared on a computer screen, with no artwork as such ever existing. This is a new technique which I pioneered and which I first used for an exciting and highly successful set in 1993 commemorating the Games of Small Nations held in Malta.

Apart from the advantages of accuracy in colour rendering and cleanliness of design, there is a great saving in production time. Normally the accepted hand-prepared artwork goes to the scanners for the colour separation process. Then the films are remounted in the darkroom (up to six times, passing from negative to positive) to include all the lettering, in the right place and in the right colours, taking great care in the process to retain perfect registration of colours.

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