I illustrated this recent offering by the Royal Canadian Mint (pictured above) that shows a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the world’s most widespread bird of prey.
The Peregrine’s primary prey is medium-size birds which it catches in mid-air. The Peregrine does this by searching for a target from high above the ground; once the target is identified, the Peregrine plunges down to the target and hits it just right (about one time out of ten!). This fast flight, called a stoop, is when the peregrine is the fastest animal on the planet (over 325 kph). The Peregrine becomes a streamlined teardrop shape when it performs this dive.
When the Peregrine falcon approaches its target at the end of the stoop, it throws its wings out and back and swings its legs out in front of its body so the feet are far forward. It does this so fast it is really only possible to see it by slowing down a video, and even then it’s tough to see it clearly.
My illustration show a Peregrine that – most likely – is just about to land, though it is possible the bird is in attack mode; the exact position of a Peregrine Falcon’s mid-air attack varies each time and occasionally the Peregrine takes prey from the ground or surface of water.
The Royal Canadian Mint is offering two different coins with this design; the one pictured above, a 38 mm Fine Silver coin with a proof finish, and a silver bullion coin pictured below. Even with my amateur photography you can see that the finishes are quite different.
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.