Last month, the Royal Canadian Mint announced this Olympic year’s Lucky Loonie coin design, and to my great surprise it is the same design they chose for 2012 – the loon that I illustrated with wings spread in a territorial display. As in 2012, the Mint released both a circulating version of the coin as well as a Fine Silver collector edition which also includes trees in the background.
Below is a photo of the new 2014 collector edition Fine Silver Lucky Loonie, which – aside from the date – is the same as the 2012 collector version except for the finish.
This 2014 coin has a “reverse proof” finish, meaning the subject has a highly reflective “brilliant” sheen and the background has a frosted or matte finish. By contrast, the 2012 collector version has a “proof” finish, with the relief frosted and the background field brilliant.
My 2012 post about the Lucky Loonie includes a photograph of the circulating coin; the 2014 circulating Lucky Loonie is the same except for the date on the obverse side of the coin. Five million of these coins entered circulation on January 20.
The Royal Canadian Mint recently released two silver collector coins engraved with my illustration of a bouquet of maple leaves and of a swimming beaver.
The former, which shows a hand holding leaves of three species of maple in autumn color, is part of the Mint’s 2013 O Canada series and is the only colored coin in that series:
The swimming beaver coin is the Mint’s second 5 oz. beaver coin; you can see the first here. I like designing for such a large coin (65 mm) because it allows me to tell a more detailed story about the subject. In this case, I chose to illustrate an aspect of the beaver’s life that I find especially interesting: The beaver is bringing an aspen branch down to the bottom of its pond to store it in advance of winter. The reason a beaver constructs dams is to create a pond deep enough that it won’t completely freeze in the winter, allowing the beaver safe and easy access to food the animal has cached.
I really like how the Mint used different finishes on this coin to make the foreground elements contrast with the background (though it’s a bit hard to tell from my mediocre photograph of the coin).
This is my 5th numismatic design that includes a water line with elements of the illustration above and below water. (The others are the Memphré, Mishepishu, a Polar Bear, and an Iceberg with whales). I didn’t plan to create a body of work with that element in common – it just happened that way! I suppose I find the water line to be a useful device for telling a story, creating an interesting composition, and showing a unique perspective.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to paint a variety of animals for interpretive signs at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Below is my most recent illustration for that client: An Eastern Bumblebee worker.
Fortuitously, the Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) is a local species and my client gave me this assignment during a season (August) when I would be able to easily find some specimens. Though I’m certainly no bee expert, it wasn’t difficult to figure out how to distinguish the Eastern Bumblebee from other local species. A bit of research also informed me that I could easily spot a worker bee (as opposed to a male or a queen) by looking for the balls of pollen the workers store in the “baskets” on their hind legs. I netted a few, put them in the freezer, and then carefully mounted them in relatively life-like positions using pins to hold each leg in place while the bees dried. With the help of a macro lens and a microscope, I was able to see the bees in great detail. After I finished the illustration, I properly labeled the specimens and they now reside in my small insect collection.
I used gouache to paint this bee.
This very small (11 mm) gold coin featuring my illustration of a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is now available at the Royal Canadian Mint’s website. This design is the third in the series. The first was the snarling cougar that I designed a couple years ago, and the second is a lovely hummingbird.
Also available is the larger, more expensive platinum version shown below, though it is a very limited mintage. (Click here to see it at the Mint’s website). It’s much easier to see the details of the fur and horn texture here.
Sincere thanks to Colonial Acres Coins, who once again kindly allowed me to photograph their merchandise.
I’ll be participating in this event next month; you’re invited! Visit sonsi.ca for more details.
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:
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.
*Update Oct. 11, 2013*
The stamps are now available and may be ordered here.
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.