Last year in January, I was contacted by the Royal Canadian Mint and asked to submit a design for a coin commemorating the historic Canadian ship Marco Polo. My design was in competition with other Canadian Marine artists and with good fortunes shining on, not only did my submission win, but I was then offered the opportunity by the Mint to create a series of 4 coins capturing my artwork and the legacy of Tall Ships in Canada.
As the process is confidential I was unable to mention any involvement with this last year. This proved to be a very challenging commission, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The mint selected the particular subjects that then required Cheri and I to research extensively to create the artwork from. We spent a huge amount of time last year contacting museums around the world with many trips to our local Maritime Museum in order to find the information required to create these coins. The process is quite intense, Once the final design is decided upon and the finished drawing is submitted, it is then sent out to experts in that particular field of study to be inspected for accuracy. Everything has to be 100% correct, right down to the tiniest details whether they will be perceptible in the finished coin or not.
The biggest challenge we faced with these ships is that with the exception of the Bluenose, the 3 other subjects(Marco Polo, Amazon, HMS Discovery) have no photographic references to study and are rather obscure, with only scraps of information out there pertaining to the actual ships build. It was also a very enjoyable process for me as it had me spending countless hours drawing design after design using traditional hand drawn methods like shipbuilders of our past. I learned more about tall ships and their rigging through this project than any other before it!
The first coin the Mint has released captures the iconic image of the original Bluenose as has been seen on our Canadian dime for decades. With the design of all 4 coins, I wanted to use unique perspectives compared to what is typically found in a lot of marine art. For the Bluenose I designed two different concepts and the one the mint chose captures the Bluenose at sail as viewed from an elevated position looking down onto the ships deck. I also wanted to echo the circular nature of the coin through the design of the sails. The process began with loosely sketching out multiple design ideas from various angles until I began to see on paper what I envisioned in my mind’s eye. After extensive research and a large number of books signed out from various libraries, I was able to render the details as they are found on the original Bluenose. There are a lot more photographic references out there of the Bluenose 2, but as we soon found out, the Bluenose 2 is not a direct copy of the original. Working with traditional methods using pencil and paper created a lot of work when corrections were required and I really began to notice the reasons behind the move to digital for graphic illustration! Every design ended up having to be completely redrawn multiple times until we finally received final approval on the design. Included are some examples of the sketches as captured during the work in progress as well as the final design.
This project has been a major highlight in my career and I am incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity. The coins are part of the Mint’s Gold Coin Series with each coin priced at $2700 although they can only be purchased as a complete 4 coin subscription. Part of the Royal Canadian Mint’s design criteria also includes the artists’ initials on every coin. The other 3 coins will be released throughout the year and I’ll be sure to share each one as they come out!