How did The Queen’s Beasts series come about?
The Queen’s Beasts series came about as any coin design would; it started with an RMAC (Royal Mint Advisory Committee) coin design competition – that was a while ago now. For the competition, we had to design two beasts in the series at first – the griffin and the lion. My design was shortlisted along with a few other artists’ work. Having been shortlisted, we had to model the designs ourselves and then, having reviewed that, they chose my designs.
How did you begin to design The Queen’s Beasts series?
I always start by just hitting the internet and reading books, taking a day for reading and gathering reference imagery and inspiration, and looking at what has been done before. Anything from just typing words linked to it into a search engine and seeing what comes up – anything to get my mind going basically. Then, I normally get it all out, have a look through it and then just start sketching. I like to create a little template of about 12 mini coins and just fill them up with loads of ideas. I like to limit myself and then get sketching. I think you can spend all day doing research – it’s never ending – but something will come out of those 12 ideas that will make you think it might work well for your design.
In that research, was there anything in particular that you were looking for?
There are two approaches, the royal and the heraldic, or the fantastical approach. I wanted my designs to be somewhere in the middle of the two really; something that looked like a real beast rather than just a graphic heraldic image. We had to include the crest of each beast within our design, so the shield had to be in there. I wanted the beast to be a bit more realistic, but something that you could still tell was a heraldic beast, to sort of play off the graphic image of the shield. I wanted it to look a bit more dynamic with a big of movement in it. You get the sense that you’re looking up at the lion and I wanted to carry that perspective along the series.
Was there any one thing that was the driving inspiration behind the bold designs?
I wanted it to look strong. I think heraldry comes from battles, your arms in battle – to see who’s on your side, so I wanted it to look aggressive and strong. That’s the only clear direction I was trying to follow.
Once you’ve got the idea that you want to proceed with at thumbnail size, where next?
Once I’ve decided on the direction from the tiny thumbnail sketch, I then start trying to figure it all out in my head. Once I’m happy with that then I scan it into the computer and use Adobe® Photoshop® to draw my final image – it’s just like drawing with a pencil but you have more control and you can ‘undo’ a lot easier, rather than rubbing out constantly. Once on the computer, I was also able to try the text around it – positioning the text is a lot easier on the computer. When I am happy with that I then submitted it to the competition. After being shortlisted, there were a few amendments that the RMAC suggested.