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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:

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.

Exhibit of the Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators

January 20, 2013

SONSI_Poster_web_correct _address

This year’s SONSI exhibit takes place at the Richview Public Library in Toronto. I will have five works in this exhibit, including the black crappie featured in the publicity image above. The reception is open to the public – so consider this your invitation!
Once the exhibit opens, an online catalog will be available at

5 oz Silver 50 Dollar Beaver Family coin

December 3, 2012

The Royal Canadian Mint released a 65 mm diameter fine silver coin last month featuring a beaver family that I illustrated:

My photo of the 65 mm silver coin with a beaver family I illustrated

To date, this is the largest coin I’ve illustrated and it’s neat to see my drawing engraved in such detail. If you click on the photo you can see a larger image; note the texture of the tail and bite marks on the tree. The booklet that comes with the coin describes the scene as “a portrait of a beaver family, its members immersed in the work of felling trees for their dam, lodge, and food cache.” That’s certainly true about the beaver on the left side of the coin. To be precise, the yearling and the kit on the right side of the coin are feeding, not helping with the household chores. The other parent is in the background. Below is a photo with slightly different lighting that more clearly shows the fourth beaver swimming in front of the lodge in the background.

My close-up photo of the beaver family coin showing the swimming adult in front of the lodge. Click on the photo to see a larger image.

Beavers are fascinating animals and I was happy to have the opportunity to learn more about them as preparation for this illustration. You can see this 2.5 inch diameter coin at the Mint’s website here.

At the time of this writing, the website does not reflect the fact that the low mintage coin is sold out.

Painting of an Ontario Birdstone

November 25, 2012

I recently completed this painting of an artifact, done with gouache paint on hot press watercolor paper:

Birdstone illustration © Emily S. Damstra

The birdstone was found in a farmer’s field in Southern Ontario during an archaeological survey earlier this year. It is an incredible sculpture, painstakingly carved from brown and black banded slate long before the existence of power tools (circa 900-700 BC). You can see that the sculptor used the contours of the banding to emphasize the features of the bird in a remarkable way. Notice how the eye bulges right where the bands form a circle, and how the edges of the bird closely follow the edges of the bands. (The opposite side of the birdstone is equally amazing). Drilled into the bottom of the bird are two places where one could thread a cord to attach the bird to something; you can see one of the holes at the front of the birdstone, right next to the copyright watermark. I can’t help but wonder about who carved it and how he or she used this beautiful stone sculpture.

Additional interpretive signs at the Huron Natural Area

November 4, 2012

A couple of the interpretive signs at the entrance to Kitchener’s Huron Natural Area.

Pictured above and below is another interpretive sign that I illustrated at the Huron Natural Area. It’s the same illustration as the one installed on the Forest Trail earlier this year, but this one doesn’t have an answer key to all of the animals and plants one can find in the illustration.

My photo of the interpretive sign with my illustration of a local forest.

Also recently installed at the Huron Natural Area is this interpretive sign with my illustrations of a meadow and some meadow life.

The meadow sign at Huron Natural Area

Like the forest illustration, the meadow scenery is based on the landscape at the Huron Natural Area, and in this case you can see the actual landscape right behind the sign (though it’s in a different season now).

As with all of the interpretive sign illustrations I’ve created for the City of Kitchener, these were done with graphite and digital color, and the City did the layout and typography.

My illustrations of a meadow and some meadow life.




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