Skip to content

SONSI’s 2013 Presentation Day

September 19, 2013

Click poster to enlarge

I’ll be participating in this event next month; you’re invited! Visit for more details.

My first philatelic illustrations

September 10, 2013

Earlier this year I was invited by the United Nations Postal Administration to illustrate a set of four stamps for their Endangered Species series. Recently, they sent me this image showing how my illustrations will appear in the set:

Illustrations by Emily S. Damstra, © United Nations Postal Administration   (click image to enlarge)

Illustrations by Emily S. Damstra, © United Nations Postal Administration (click image to enlarge)

The theme for this set is nocturnal animals. Clockwise from top left: Banded Civet (Hemigalus derbyanus), Pharoah Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus), Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus sp.), and Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang).

I decided on a format of showing each animal’s head in full color and in the background the whole animal in its habitat at night. I created these illustrations using graphite with digital color.

Evidently the UN is the only organization in the world that is neither a country nor a territory that is permitted to issue postage stamps. It is also the only entity to issue stamps in three different currencies – US dollars, Swiss francs, and Euros. The stamps can only be used for postage if mailed from UN Headquarters in New York City, Geneva, or Vienna (depending upon the currency). More information about the UNPA is here at their website.

This set of stamps will be available (according the UNPA website) in October 2013. Try this link in October to find them.


*Update Oct. 11, 2013*

The stamps are now available and may be ordered here.

Icebergs are Awe-inspiring and Troublesome subjects

August 9, 2013
$20 for $20 Fine Silver Coin - Iceberg and Whale (2013) designed by Emily S. Damstra

$20 for $20 Fine Silver Coin – Iceberg and Whale (2013) designed by Emily S. Damstra

The photo above shows my most recent coin design for the Royal Canadian Mint – Two humpback whales (mother and calf) swimming near a large iceberg. While doing research for this illustration, I realized that Newfoundland’s and Labrador’s Iceberg Alley is a place I am very interested in visiting. I admired many photographs of beautiful icebergs in all shapes and sizes, but I’m sure seeing them in person would inspire an even deeper awe.

Another thing I realized while working on this illustration is that I find it very difficult to draw objects that don’t have a symmetry of some sort. Present me with a scaly fish, a complex flower, or a spiny sea urchin and I will at least know how to begin illustrating it. Ask me to render a pile of dirt, a mass of leaf litter, or in this case an iceberg, and I feel like someone who’s never before put pencil to paper. One might think that representing something irregular like an iceberg would be easy since no two are alike, but I’m quite sure I spent a lot more time fiddling with the shape and textures of the iceberg than I did with the whales.

See a nicer image and the coin’s full specs at the Mint’s website here.

Gold Starfish and Silver Niagara Falls

July 9, 2013
1/25 oz Pure Gold Coin - Starfish - illustrated by Emily S. Damstra

1/25 oz Pure Gold Coin – Starfish – illustrated by Emily S. Damstra

When the Royal Canadian Mint invited me to submit a design for the first coin in a new series of Sea Creatures coins, I was thrilled at the chance to illustrate a sea star. I have a real affinity for invertebrates; indeed my favorite animal group is the one containing the sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, sea lilies, etc. — the Phylum Echinodermata (which means “spiny skin”). The beautiful and intricate forms of the animals in this group really appeal to me. The Class names in this Phylum are just as wonderful as the animals themselves: Ophiuroidea, Holothuroidea, Edrioasteroidea, Blastoidea, and Echinoidea, for example. Fossil echinoderms, especially from the Devonian and Mississippian ages, may be the most beautiful animals that ever lived (in my humble opinion). I could go on, but for now that’s enough of me waxing on about echinoderms.

The Mint released the coin with my starfish illustration this week and I am so pleased with how it turned out. The Mint’s engravers did a superb job capturing the fine details of this sea star, including its minute spots and the individual tube feet that are visible on the undersides of the curved-back tips of the arms. For a 13.92 mm diameter coin, the level of detail is remarkable.

This species – the Leather Star (Dermasterias imbricata) – lives on the west coast of North America. You can find more information about the coin at the Mint’s website here.

1/2 oz Fine Silver Coin - Niagara Falls (2013) - illustrated by Emily S. Damstra

1/2 oz Fine Silver Coin – Niagara Falls (2013) – illustrated by Emily S. Damstra

Along with the sea star, the Mint just released this coin with my illustration of Niagara Falls. Last summer I drove to Niagara Falls for this assignment and did all the touristy things so I could see and photograph the Falls from all different angles. It seemed there were gulls and tourists everywhere so I decided to include both in the design I submitted. This is a view from the base of Horseshoe Falls. You can find the full specs on the coin at the Mint’s website here.

New 1 Kilogram Maple Leaf coin

June 23, 2013
2013 Maple Leaf Forever 1 kilogram coin in hand

2013 Maple Leaf Forever 1 kilogram coin in hand

The Royal Canadian Mint recently released this 102.1 mm diameter Fine Silver coin with selective gold plating featuring my illustration of two maple leaves. On the left is a Douglas Maple leaf and on the right a Sugar Maple leaf. This is the largest coin I’ve designed so far. Click here for full specs at the Mint’s website.

Fine Silver 1 kg coin - Maple Leaf Forever - compared to 11 mm gold cougar coin

Size comparison: 11 mm Gold Cougar coin and 102.1 mm Fine Silver 1 kg coin – Maple Leaf Forever


The good folks at Colonial Acres Coins kindly allowed me to come in and have a look at this coin, as well as take a few photos (and they lent a hand in the process). Priced at over CAD$2,000, I’m sad to say this coin did not come home with me. :(

Dinosaurs roaming around Waterloo!

June 13, 2013

A few years ago I created a simplified vector illustration (not something I often do) of a couple Late Cretaceous dinosaurs for use by the University of Waterloo Earth Sciences Museum. Now, this image can be seen wandering around the streets of Waterloo and beyond on the side of the Museum’s van.

The University of Waterloo's Earth Sciences Museum Van, bearing my dinosaur illustrations

The University of Waterloo’s Earth Sciences Museum Van, bearing my illustration of Albertosaurus and Parasaurolophus

The coloration of the animals in the vehicle decal isn’t quite true to my original; you can see a better color version of the  image at the bottom of the Museum’s website.

By request, my illustration is based upon an original sketch by the Museum’s Curator, Peter Russell. This sketch can still be seen on the the entrance doors to the University’s EIT building, which houses the wonderful little museum.

Coin Convention Presentation

June 1, 2013

This past April I had the honor of being the keynote speaker during the Awards Banquet at the Ontario Numismatic Association’s Annual Convention.

A few members of the Waterloo Coin Society, the club hosting this year’s convention in Kitchener, noticed the article about the 2012 Lucky Loonie (and its designer) in the local paper last summer and subsequently invited me speak at the convention.

During my presentation, I explained the steps I take to create coin designs for the Royal Canadian Mint and I showed many of the sketches and drawings that are part of my process. I also included a few slides of coins by other RCM artists whose work I particularly admire (and I could have showed many more, if not for the time constraint).

I’m very grateful to the Royal Canadian Mint for their support, including their blessing to speak about the coin design process, permission to use their intellectual property throughout my presentation, and an opportunity to meet an RCM Project Manager at the convention.

I also thank the Convention Committee for inviting me to participate in the convention; the experience was rewarding. It was a great pleasure to meet the collectors, a friendly and fun-loving group of people who are passionate and knowledgeable about their collecting specialties.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.