Illustrating one of the country’s highest single-span, concrete-arch bridges is challenging enough — not to mention knowing that it will ultimately be reproduced on a canvas only 1.085 x 1.420 inches. And how about accomplishing the same for the longest suspension bridge in the entire Western Hemisphere?
Thankfully, award-winning artist Dan Cosgrove is experienced at capturing grandiosity in his work. His colorful designs have appeared on posters, ads and packaging representing a number of clients, including the Super Bowl. Cosgrove’s graphic style not only works well on large pieces, but it has also successfully highlighted impressive U.S. sites on Priority and Express Mail stamps since 2008.
Cosgrove became the new artist for the high-value stamps when Art Director Carl Herrman approached him to work on images of tourist attractions for postal cards. His Mount Rushmore design was so well-liked by CSAC members that they decided to use it for the new Priority Mail stamp — and requests for more designs ensued. View a slideshow of the stamps Cosgrove has illustrated to date.
Mackinac Bridge and Bixby Creek Bridge are the fifth and sixth issuances to feature the Illinois-based artist’s designs. To begin the undertaking of Bixby Creek Bridge, PhotoAssist (USPS’ research firm) provided Cosgrove with a hefty collection of photographs of the iconic California structure. Cosgrove created pencil sketches from these images. The first goal was to determine which perspective of the bridge would work on the small size of a semi-jumbo stamp. Once a direction was approved by Herrman and vetted by a consultant, Cosgrove scanned the final sketch into his computer. He completed the design using Illustrator and Photoshop, adding dramatic color enhanced by a clever use of light.
“Mighty Mac” proved to be a more difficult subject to tackle. “It was definitely tricky,” Cosgrove explains, “because the bridge is so long. Trying to portray the bridge’s height and length took more creativity.”
Cosgrove decided that a bird’s-eye view of the Michigan bridge would best capture its 5-mile span. Since this view was one not commonly photographed, ensuring accuracy of the artwork took a few more steps. In early sketches, suspension cables passed through the top of the bridge towers, rather than being encased by mini-turrets. New reference materials from the Mackinac Bridge Authority helped Cosgrove correct the drawing. A consultant also suggested that Cosgrove adjust the back tower so that it appeared more erect, as in early sketches it appeared to be tipping over.
Cosgrove’s unique utilization of light and perspective accomplishes a visual effect that’s intriguing — while allowing him to remain simplistic in design. “I look at the stamps as little posters,” Cosgrove explains. “I aim to get as much detail as will fit and still show up. So, my work seems to work well whether enlarged or scaled down.”
And his art does work well; it has been successful enough to start a collectible group of Priority and Express Mail stamps, which is a privilege Cosgrove doesn’t take for granted. “I think this is one of the coolest projects I’ve worked on, because it is reproduced in such large numbers and put in front of the public,” he says. “It’s a real honor.”