Merivale High School’s Grade 11 Graphic Design class often tackles current event projects that require quick solutions, as it is good practice for students who plan on careers in the communication and design field and must be able to arrive at illustrations in a timely fashion for Internet news feeds and websites.

The class responded to a call for images celebrating Queen Elizabeth as England’s and the British Commonwealth’s longest reigning monarch by creating a set of eclectic postage stamp illustrations to mark the occasion. While some teachers battle cell phone use, graphic design students at Merivale use their smartphones in class to search for information, take compositional photos for reference and to find relevant images that can be used as source files.

Students were asked to render Canada’s queen in a strong vertical portrait format on an 8.5 x 11 piece of cardstock suitable for wet and dry media, in their choice of traditional media. They were free to use any combination of ink, Prismacolor pencil crayon, watercolour or acrylic paint that could be easily scanned for Internet use. This approach would also serve to set their illustrations in direct contrast to the stock photos readily available to the media via popular image banks.

Students were encouraged to use their own drawing styles and not to worry about making their efforts photographically real. The class looked at several of the more famous portraits of the queen over the years. One of the stylistic differences that was quite apparent was that the pictures of the young monarch in 1953 have almost a religious quality to them—with royal vestments and flattering lighting once reserved for religious canvasses. Current popular images of Elizabeth II are more secular and tend to portray her at one with her people, often wearing a fashionable hat rather than an imperial crown.

The class was very responsive to the project and enjoyed reviewing the variety of images during a critique session. All designs were inserted into a postage stamp template created in Quark XPress that conformed to the norms of British postage, and provided the necessary illustrative context to mark the happy occasion.

Send her victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us, God Save the Queen.


Queen Elizabeth Postage Stamp


  • The student will arrive at a suitable illustration of Queen Elizabeth II for media use.
  • The student will demonstrate creative use of cellular technology in creating his/her image.
  • The student will complete the image in his/her personal drawing style in a timely fashion, according to the design parameters established for the project.

Materials Needed

  • cell phone or Internet use to source images
  • ink, Prismacolor pencil crayon, watercolour or acrylic paint
  • 8.5 x 11 cover stock suitable for wet and dry media
  • computer (Photoshop, Quark XPress or InDesign)
  • scanner
  • printer (optional if doing the project with virtual objectives)


Irv Osterer
Irv Osterer is the Department Head of the Fine Arts Program, and Coordinator of the Communication and Design FOCUSProgram at Merivale High School in Ottawa.

This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2016 issue.

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