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In an Edinburgh field

Fiona Strickland explains how a poppy that she found growing on the outskirts of Edinburgh now commemorates the outbreak of the First World War on a recently issued Royal Mail stamp.

Fiona Strickland

Edinburgh College of Art graduate, Fiona Strickland paints vibrant and detailed botanical images and it was one of these striking watercolours that caught the eye of Gareth Howat from Hat-Trick Design.

Gareth was struck by the image’s emotive content and commissioned Fiona to paint a new poppy for the Royal Mail’s Great War series.

Designing a symbol

As the poppy was to be included in the first issue of stamps commemorating the Great War the brief required the painting to be an interpretation, symbolic of the start of the war; something flame like and expressive which also had an emotive content.

The idea of an explosion was discussed so it helped to use the strong linear content within the poppy whist staying to the botanical elements.

Fiona Strickland
Royal Mail stamp

An explosion of emotion

The nature of the commission also meant that Fiona wasn’t merely translating a design brief, she was personally responding to a devastating conflict that still resonates today.

Because of this she became so much more conscious of the physical and emotional suffering of the individual and, throughout the creative process, remained focused on the immeasurable sacrifices made.

It is hugely important that it commemorates a war that changed the course of history in which so many men and women lost their lives, they must never be forgotten.

Fiona Strickland

No place like home

Botanical painting was not something that particularily interested Fiona whilst at ECA, although she does see a continuation in terms of exploring colour and bringing emotive content into her work.

Despite this, ECA is still very much part of Fiona's life. She met her husband Robert McNeill, who also studied drawing and painting, whilst a student and she returned recently to see her daughter Lyndsay McNeill's fashion degree show.

It provided fantastic opportunity for exchange of ideas, dialogue, exploration and creativity and I immediately feel at 'home' when I return.

Fiona Strickland

First World War stamp set

You can see all six stamp designs that explore the themes of Poppy, Poetry, Portraits, War Art, Memorials and Remembrance and Artefacts by visiting the Royal Mail website.

View the First World War 1914 stamp set