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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.

Atlantic Salmon sign

May 7, 2013
Normandale Fish Culture Station sign (and photo of sign) by Digital da Vinci Inc., Brantford, Ontario.

Normandale Fish Culture Station sign (and photo of sign) by Digital da Vinci Inc., Brantford, Ontario.

Folks visiting (or driving by) the Normandale Fish Culture Station in Vittoria, ON, will see my illustration of an atlantic salmon on the new entrance sign.

For some insight into what goes on at this station, check out: www.bringbackthesalmon.ca

It’s finally Spring!

April 22, 2013

 

After much delay, I think Spring has arrived here in Southern Ontario. Yesterday I saw the first butterfly of the year, this Mourning Cloak:

My photo of a Mourning Cloak butterfly

My photo of a Mourning Cloak butterfly

It’s a bit of a thrill for me to spot this butterfly in the woods for the first time each year; it always seems surprising to see them on chilly spring days.

It’s an appropriate season to post one of my most recent illustrations, this Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah), since it’s the time of year here in Ontario when salamanders come out to breed (though this is not a local species):

Illustration of Shenandoah salamander © Emily S. Damstra

Illustration of Shenandoah salamander © Emily S. Damstra

The salamander illustration, done with watercolor and gouache paints, will end up on an interpretive sign at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. I have illustrated over a thousand animals during my career but this is the very first time I’ve illustrated a salamander. I really enjoyed the challenge of painting an animal with smooth, wet, reflective skin (and I relished the absence of fur, feathers, and scales).

Also just in time for spring is the recent release of this coin from the Royal Canadian Mint, the design for which I worked on last summer:

My photo of the 2013 Maple Tree Canopy (Spring) coin

My photo of the 2013 Maple Tree Canopy (Spring) coin that I designed.

A nicer image and more information about the 38 mm silver coin is available at the Mint’s website here. This tree is a sugar maple, one of my favorite tree species. The specimen that inspired this illustration is a local one.

 

Wood Bison on Royal Canadian Mint Silver Bullion Coin

March 8, 2013
Silver bullion coin from the Royal Canadian Mint, featuring my illustration of a wood bison

Silver bullion coin from the Royal Canadian Mint, featuring my illustration of a wood bison

My illustration of a wood bison ended up on the final in a series of six silver bullion wildlife coins. The Royal Canadian Mint released this one last month; it is available globally from bullion distributors. (Locally, you can find it at Colonial Acres Coins). The coin is 38 mm in diameter.

Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) are one of two subspecies of American bison – the other subspecies being the plains bison. This wood bison is shown galloping through snow.

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