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Polar Bear Fatness Index

February 26, 2016

Last year I had the opportunity to produce some illustrations for Polar Bears International, an organization devoted to conserving polar bears through research and education. My illustrations of polar bears in various states of fitness became part of a scorecard used to assess body condition. It helps people who observe a bear to visually determine its body condition in the most standardized way possible. Below are three of the ten illustrations. Happy International Polar Bear Day (Feb. 27)!

Polar bear illustrations © Emily S. Damstra

Polar bear illustrations © Emily S. Damstra


An Arctic hare at full speed, in silver

February 19, 2016

Last year I received an invitation from the Royal Canadian Mint last year to submit a coin design featuring a Canadian hare in action. I thought it would be interesting to show an arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) running at full speed, a behavior employed when a predator is in pursuit.

The 34 mm silver coin has just been released:

$50 for $50 Fine Silver Coin - Hare (2016) designed by Emily Damstra

$50 for $50 Fine Silver Coin – Hare (2016) designed by Emily Damstra

I illustrated a ground-level view of an adult hare sprinting across rocky tundra as it attempts to outrun or outmaneuver the pursuing arctic wolf. The significant distance between the wolf and hare adds to the uncertainty about how the chase concludes. Arctic hares are an important food source for arctic wolves, which are the only predators that would typically hunt adult hares. Even so, the outcome of the pursuit is just as likely to be that the wolf gives up, unable to catch the speedy and evasive hare. I think it’s a dignified way to show the hare because running fast is something that it’s well-adapted to do; if it didn’t have a chance against the wolf then arctic hares would have become extinct long ago.

The certificate that comes with the coin shows my original drawing:

Arctic hare coin illustration by Emily damstra

Arctic hare coin illustration by Emily Damstra

Interpretive sign illustration at Royal Botanical Gardens

November 23, 2015
Illustration of Princess Point settlement © Emily S. Damstra

Illustration of Princess Point settlement © Emily S. Damstra

A few years ago I created this illustration showing the first people to introduce corn to Southern Ontario around AD 500 – 1000. This culture was first identified (or at least, described) at Princess Point, part of the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington, Ontario. Now, the illustration is part of an interpretive sign at the RBG:

Photograph c/o Tÿs Theÿsmeÿer, Royal Botanical Gardens

Photograph c/o Tÿs Theÿsmeÿer, Royal Botanical Gardens

The photo shows a view of Cootes Paradise, with the T. B. McQuesten Memorial Bridge in the background. The interpretive sign was prepared under the direction of Barbara McKean, RBG’s Head of Education, who also wrote the copy. The right-hand panel on the sign depicts part of a Princess Point Complex pot; the photo was kindly provided by Dr. David Smith at University of Toronto – Mississauga. The layout was prepared by Irene Feddema of IFdesign Inc. in Burlington.

2016 Coin of the Year awards

November 17, 2015

Last week I was happy to learn that one of my coin designs received a 2016 Coin of the Year Award. It’s this colored silver coin showing an autumn view into the canopies of three tall silver maples:

1 oz Fine Silver coin - Maple Canopy: Autumn Allure - designed by Emily s. Damstra

1 oz Fine Silver coin – Maple Canopy: Autumn Allure – designed by Emily S. Damstra

See my original post about the coin here.

The Coin of the Year Award is a worldwide competition created and organized by the publisher Krause Publications. An international panel of judges chooses the award recipients. You can see all of the 2016 category winners from around the world, including the maple canopy, here. The 2016 competition is for coins minted in 2014.

We’ll find out in January which coin wins the overall Coin of the Year Award.

Krause Publications is known for its catalogs and guides to coins and currency, among other subjects. In fact, one of their recent offerings is a book showcasing all of the Coin of the Year Award winners from the contest’s inception in 1984 through the 2015 Awards. Coin of the Year: Celebrating Three Decades of the Best in Coin Design and Craftsmanship is a real visual treat. It contains superb photographs of every award winning coin and text by coin expert Donald Scarinci. Scarinci is a lawyer and numismatic enthusiast with a collection of coins that includes nearly all of those photographed for his book. He serves on the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (which makes recommendations for United States coins) and is a nominating judge for the Coin of the Year Award.

Speaking as someone who cares about artists’ rights and has occasionally had to stand up for hers, I was disappointed to see that the book identifies only a small percentage of the artists and engravers whose works fill the pages. Perhaps this omission can be remedied in a future edition, at least as far as that is possible. Even so, I found the book to be an inspiring compilation of coin designs that had me wondering what type of direction each artist received and the thought process that led to his/her final design.


People’s Choice Awards from recent SONSI exhibit

November 13, 2015

The recent SONSI exhibit of nature and science illustrations has come to an end, at least for one location. During the exhibit, people who visited the Giants Rib Discovery Centre had the opportunity to vote for their favorite works of art by filling out a People’s Choice ballot. SONSI doesn’t typically offer prizes to the winners except bragging rights; this year, however, at least some of the winning entries will be published in the Spring 2016 issue of Niagara Escarpment Views magazine.

I’m happy to report that two of my works were among the winners. First place went to this beautiful painting by Kathryn Chorney. There was a three-way tie for second place, including another of Kathryn’s pieces and the following two of mine:

Trillium erectum

Red Trillium – watercolor and gouache painting © Emily S. Damstra


Illustration of Davisville, a settlement of First Nations peoples along Ontario's Grand River in about 1825.

Illustration of Davisville, a settlement of First Nations peoples along Ontario’s Grand River in about 1825 © Emily S. Damstra

We’re planning to move the exhibit to Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, but haven’t yet settled on dates.

Red, orange, yellow, GOLD

October 8, 2015

Like many people, I’m delighted by the colorful leaves autumn brings.

maple leaf illustration © Emily S. Damstra

maple leaf in colored pencils © Emily S. Damstra

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to develop a coin design that immersed me in autumn well before the season began. The Royal Canadian Mint just released this 2 oz. gold coin featuring the colored maple canopy that I designed. At the low, low price of CAD$4,889.95, it could be yours.😉

Great Horned Owl bullion coin

September 23, 2015
My photo of the Great Horned Owl bullion coin I designed.

My photo of the Great Horned Owl bullion coin

Late this summer, the Royal Canadian Mint released the final bullion coin in a series of four Birds of Prey. It’s the Great Horned Owl.

You can see my initials ‘ED’ on the coin; yep, I designed this one! The skilled engravers at the RCM excel at showing fine details of their subject’s texture and color; this bird is no exception.