Ryan Feerer, the son of Keith and Joyce Feerer in Pampa, discovered a passion for drawing and art at a young age in the church pews listening to a sermon he had heard his father rehearse multiple times throughout the week.
“I would go with my dad to church every day when I was a kid before kindergarten,” Feerer said. “I didn’t go to daycare, so I would be around him when he was doing his sermons and stuff so by the time Sunday came, I had already heard what he was working on all week.
“So I needed to keep myself entertained, so I would just draw. Well to justify me drawing (during service), she (his mom) would tell me to draw pictures from the Bible or what my dad was talking about.”
Feerer graduated from Terrell High School in Terrell, Texas, had a brief stint at the Art Institute of Dallas before graduating from Abilene Christian University in 2005, followed by graduate school at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
But if you told that little boy in the church pew that his artwork would later be displayed in stamps on envelopes going across the nation, he probably wouldn’t have believed you.
Now an associate professor of design at Abilene Christian University, Feerer first stumbled on the opportunity in 2018.
“I had received an e-mail from one of the four United States Postal Services art directors that reaches out to find talent various stamp themes they have throughout the year,” Feerer said. “He (Greg Breeding) reached out to me and I replied within seconds. He asked if I would be interested in working on a book of stamps for the USPS. I replied within seconds because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.”
A professor from the School of Visual Arts in NYC was on the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (made up of various professionals) knew Feerer and had suggested Feerer to Breeding.
Feerer is no stranger to graphic design, having designed gift cards for Target, Academy Sports and Outdoors and many others. Feerer also worked at an interactive graphic design firm called Funny Garbage, specializing in entertainment and education brands and Milton Glaser, who designed the “I love (with a heart symbol) New York” logo and is considered the godfather of graphic design.
“I’ve been practicing since 2005,” Feerer said. “I’ve been teaching at Abilene Christian since 2010. I’ve probably put hundreds of thousands of hours into honing into my craft. This opportunity came up and I jumped on it and made sure I did the best I could. It was a great, exciting and fun process for me.”
Breeding let Feerer take the reins on the project and didn’t force Feerer to do much outside of the western wear theme.
“This is such a massive job and not every one has the opportunity to design stamps,” Feerer said. “I wanted it to be as perfect as possible and be true to western wear on the look and feel of the stamps. But Greg was cautious not to give me too much direction, including on the apparel for the chosen.”
The stamps feature a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, a belt buckle and a pearl-snap shirt. All of which Feerer felt were staples to western wear.
“Each of those western wear items are centered fairly large on each stamp,” Feerer said. “And there are western elements framing the apparel items. It was the west, not just Texas. So I was researching trying to find trees and plants native to the west that could help frame the apparel items.
“I would hide the tiny illustrations around the border, almost like Easter eggs. Like a little puzzle you could view and if you studied it you would find these little illustrations you may not notice just by looking at it.”
The design style also left a neat grit on the stamps that can be felt by holding them.
The line of communication between the art directors, primarily with Breeding, was on a monthly basis and filled with some feedback.
The stamps were approved after about six or seven months of work, followed by several steps of jumping through legal and copyright hurdles.
“They had to make sure all of the artwork I’m producing was original artwork,” Feerer said. “They told me a lot of stuff in the front-end and I didn’t want to be heavily-influenced by what was already out there in the world.
“Growing up in the west, I didn’t need too many resources. I can draw boots, I can draw cowboy hats and I have things in the house, as well.”
The stamps were released at the post offices in the Abilene area Friday and will soon be more readily available nationwide. They can be pre-ordered here: https://store.usps.com/store/product/buy-stamps/western-wear-S_683304
Feerer is married to his wife, Cassie, and the pair have a daughter, Rose, a son, Oliver, and a younger daughter, Sunnie.
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