By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumbeerland
The work of Northumberland artist Tim Zeltner will be seen throughout the entire country and beyond this holiday season – after all, he is the artist who created the art Canada Post chose for this year’s Christmas stamps.
A special holiday issue is a Canada Post tradition dating back to 1964 and, for 2023, they chose three Zeltner designs to grace their domestic-rate, US-rate and international-rate stamps.
Recalling the process, Zeltner is amazed at how long the road was from concept to issue, largely because it is a competitive process that began with designer Jocelyne Saulnier of Joce Creative in New Brunswick back in 2021 – Canada Post works a couple of years in advance on these designs, involving design agencies across the country, he explained.
Zeltner and Saulnier have worked together before, and she submitted two concepts to Canada Post for consideration. She got the go-ahead to pursue one of the concepts, which she’d had in mind for Zeltner – a series of three stamps depicting wintry Canadian landscapes in the west, in the east and in central Canada.
Canada Post was sufficiently impressed that they requested black-and-white sketches of the concept, and then colour sketches in a form he called “80-to-90-per cent finished.”
Fortunately, he works in acrylics, a medium that is good for changes and tinkering. He put the sketches in Saulnier’s hands and, in due time, got an e-mail from her that said she had good news.
This is the point where Canada Post tweaks the work for final production but in this case, he was happy to say, they made no substantial changes.
Working with Saulnier, they had refined the design so that, when the three stamps are lined up west to east, the horizons and hills align and it’s almost like a triptych depicting a continuous scene (with slight changes in colour to differentiate – for example, the sky shading from deep blue to teal to blue-green as you go west-to-east).
The western stamp, in Canadian rates, is a mountain skiing scene. The central stamp, in US rates, shows a frozen-pond scene with ice skaters and nearby sledders. The eastern stamp, in international rates, shows a lighthouse on a rugged snowy hill by the sea. All are executed in Zeltner’s trademark joyous, exuberant style.
And that’s not the end of the story. Stamp collectors also like to acquire souvenir sheets, “where the stamps are all stuck down together like a postcard,” he explained. For this, he provided a background design of snowdrifts and snowflakes in a minty colour.
Then there were the touches Canada Post had to figure out, such as the packaging and the pearl-ink overprint to enhance the snow and give it dimension.
It was totally a team effort, he said, but the results were finally released in early November. And as for his compensation, there’s another partner – his agent rep i2i art in Toronto.
Toronto is where Zeltner and his wife Jackie started out. They both graduated from Sheridan College and found that Toronto is where it was at for both of them (his wife being an art director).
About a dozen years ago, however, they found themselves becoming more serious about relocating to a quieter life in the country. They scoured the real-estate ads and made contact with a local realtor who spent a lot of weekends with them scouting out possibilities. But he never forgot their first trip to Northumberland, leaving Highway 401 at the Welcome exit and travelling north on County Road 10.
“Right away I loved the area – loved the hills and the fields and the trees,” he said.
And about 10 years ago, they found their perfect place in Vernonville.
“I like the whole area,” he said.
“It’s close enough to Lake Ontario, but also close enough to the hills north of us – close enough to the towns like Colborne and Cobourg, for shopping,” he added, though he still misses the Colborne Foodland that was lost to a fire seven months ago.
Many local residents will have enjoyed Zeltner’s art without even knowing it. His work is frequently featured in Watershed magazine, including in the current issue alongside a story he illustrated. He has to turn down the occasional request from the popular magazine, however, when he has a deadline on other work like children’s books or the Canada Post project.
A look at his portfolio would include work for United Airlines, posters for the New York City Transit Authority and the US Ski Patrol, literature for William and Mary College in Virginia, map illustrations in Canadian Geographic magazine, not to mention a slew of magazine and book covers, and packaging and Christmas-card designs.
And then there’s a piece of which he’s especially proud – a lovingly crafted painting of the old Vernonville Church in his new home community.