The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently issued a new Kwanzaa stamp, designed by a Los Angeles-based artist who’s been creating bright, bold, colorful illustrations that have become her trademark and signature.
Now Synthia Saint James, who created the original Kwanzaa stamp in 1997, sold her first painting at the age of 20, and gained international recognition for her design of the cover for Terri McMillan’s novel “Waiting to Exhale,” discusses her career which has spanned close to 50 years.
Washington Informer: As this is your second project for USPS, what changes did you employ and why?
Saint James: I was commissioned to create the painting for the USPS “First Commemorative” Kwanzaa Stamp for the Kwanzaa holiday in 1966, which was released on October 22, 1997. Last year I was commissioned to create a new painting celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Kwanzaa holiday which was released (First Day of Issue) on October 1, 2016. Kwanzaa is an official holiday and in 1997 the stamp was released with two other new holiday stamps: Hanukkah, and Cinco de Mayo. It’s a holiday stamp not a Black Heritage Stamp.
WI: A lot of your work has centered on illustrating or authoring projects for children’s books. Is that your niche?
Saint James: I have written and or illustrated 17 children’s books between 1994 and 2000 but that wasn’t, and isn’t, my primary focus. I sold my first painting in 1969, which was a commissioned painting. So my career to this day has included commissioned paintings for individuals, corporations, non-profit organizations and colleges and universities. I’m also an educator and for the past six years, I’ve booked my College and University Tour, which includes many HBCUs.
My art also graces the covers of over 75 books and includes authors such as Terry McMillan, Iyanla Vanzant (“Acts of Faith”) and Alice Walker (“Trilogy” – a book containing three of her novels). I’m also an author and I’ve just released two new books: “Honey Suckle Kisses: Love’s Refreshment” and “I AM Edmonia Lewis and I AM Wildfire: A Monologue.”
WI: Your biography says you’ve always wanted to be an artist. Is that accurate and who has inspired you along the way?
Saint James: I’ve known that I wanted to be an artist since I was five. At that time there wasn’t an inspiration but a desire that turned into my passion. In my early teens I fell in love with the French Impressionists. I’m a self-taught artist. Life is magnificent! Accept, release, relax and enjoy it.
For more about Synthia Saint James, go to synthiasaintjames.com.