Canada’s Hundred Days

Original drawing to engraved coin. (Coin image courtesy of The Royal Canadian Mint)

“As we walked through Mons, ten Canadian soldiers lay dead. By mid-morning, every one of them was covered with flowers, while hundreds of civilians passed by with tears in their eyes.”

I read this in the journal of R.H. Rabjohn, a Canadian soldier in WW1. He was also an artist and spent some of his time during the war sketching what he saw around him. His description of the scene in Mons helped me with the direction of this coin for The Royal Canadian Mint that commemorates Canada’s Hundred Days.

August 8th to November 11th 1918 is the span of 100 days that saw the Canadian Corps on their journey through to Mons, Belgium, where they arrived when the Armistice was announced and the end of the war had finally come. In those last hundred days the Canadians were tasked with attacking the Germans in a series of secretive assaults without having to stop and regroup, and break through the German defences. When they neared Mons, the end of the war was only one day away and the Canadians were ordered to liberate the city. They attacked from all sides and by 3am the Canadians broke through, sending the Germans running.

My illustration for this coin depicts two soldiers standing on a pile of rubble after the war. It could be Amiens or Mons or Valenciennes or Mont Houy. I wanted it to represent any place where Canadians fought to liberate these towns and cities in the last hundred days. In the foreground is a soldier’s grave, marked with a wooden cross and covered in flowers, placed there by civilians wishing to pay their respects to the soldier who helped to liberate them. It’s a beautiful tribute and unfathomable to me to imagine what it must have been like to be a solider in this war. Such a mixture of emotions – exhaustion, relief, sadness and jubilation – the soldiers must have felt at the end of the war.

I’ve learned so much about Canadians at war while working on coins for the Royal Canadian Mint and have a much greater understanding and appreciation of their sacrifices. I’m really honoured to have been able to participate in this Battlefront Series. One of the first coins I ever worked on for the Mint was actually the very first coin in this series.

While this series of coins may be complete, I’ve been so fascinated with what I’ve learned thus far that I have started my own research into learning more about both WWI and WWII. I would highly recommend the book A Soldier’s Sketchbook, where I found incredible stories and drawings from R.H. Robjohn.

I hope tomorrow on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice you can find a local service to attend to pay your respects to those who served your country.

My original pencil drawings for this coin.

The final minted coin.

Illustration by R.H. Rabjohn from A Soldier’s Sketchbook

NBA Social Media Stories – ESPN.com

Talk about a fun job! I was approached by ESPN.com near the end of the 2017-2018 NBA season to draw some images depicting some of the biggest, funniest and weirdest social media stories from the year. 

Plein Air Paintings of Ireland

I can’t believe I never posted these paintings I did in Ireland in May. I got all caught up editing photos and getting back to work afterwards that I never shared them here. Well, here they are! We were incredibly lucky with the weather. I recall only a few days of rain in our three weeks over there which was perfect for outdoor painting. The sun was shining and it was hot! That’s not what you usually think of when you think of Ireland – in fact, I wouldn’t have minded some overcast wet days. They would have made for some beautiful moodiness in our photos instead of all that lovely sunshine! (totally not complaining)

We loved Ireland and there is still so much for us to see and do. The people were incredible, friendly and funny and really easy to talk to. We were swarmed a couple times while painting these and it’s always a fun experience to hear where other people are visiting from. We get the occasional questions like “You should do this for a living!” and “Are you art students?” And sometimes people sneak up behind us, stick their hands over our heads with their phones to take a photo, and block out all of the light without realizing it. If I ever appear in your relatives’ photo albums please let me know!

If you’re interested in prints of any of my paintings, check out my Etsy shop. Chantal also made some lovely paintings – you will recognize the subjects!

I enjoyed making little these drawings at restaurants and pubs when I was waiting for my food.

Glendalough

Wreck of the Plassy on Inisheer

Old seaweed bathhouse in Enniscrone

A little Irish cottage

Poulnabrone dolmen in the Burren, County Clare.

An old ruin in a graveyard, Castlegregory

Blarney Castle

St.Stephen’s Green in Dublin

Sketching the Wreck of the Plassy on Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands

Harry & Meghan Coin – Royal Canadian Mint

Not long after my UFO coin was released by the Royal Canadian Mint, the coin I designed for the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was released. I designed the floral and maple leaf border around the official portrait from their engagement shoot, working three Swarovski crystals into the design. Knowing the Royal Family has a huge following in Canada and abroad, it was exciting to design this coin for this occasion.

As with the UFO coin, once it was released it had an incredible response. I was contacted for a few interviews and had a nice feature in the Ottawa Citizen and a television interview on CTV Ottawa. It’s been a fun couple of months doing some press and having people come by the studio to take photographs and video interviews. Unfortunately, I did not get an invitation to the wedding, but I’m hoping the newlyweds get in touch during their rumoured honeymoon in Canada.