David Lawrence is an established artist whose designs have graced several coins struck by The Royal Mint, including our Britannia releases in 2018 and 2019, coins commemorating the works of Dame Agatha Christie and William Wordsworth, and contributions to our series marking the centenary of the First World War.
For this design, the artist has chosen to portray the tiger ‘face on’ with its Chinese symbol positioned to the right. We caught up with him to find out more about the inspiration and artistic process behind his design celebrating the Year of the Tiger.
“For this particular coin, I initially produced a number of possibilities and variations. I began by looking at previous coins in the series – this new design obviously had to be in keeping with what had gone before – and also traditional Chinese drawings of tigers. Even though the brief stressed the design must be contemporary, I thought it would be wise to keep Chinese traditions in mind. Another key consideration in the brief was the specification that the creature should be strong, welcoming, courageous, confident, brave, charming and not too aggressive.
“Many of the poses I created had the tiger in a dramatic twisting pose. The pose with the tiger ‘face on’, walking towards the viewer, was the last one I created and the one I had least confidence in. ‘Foreshortening’ is a very tricky thing to achieve on coins – animals and faces are rarely executed this way because the limits of bas-relief sculpting used in coin production mean that the difference in height between the highest and lowest point is only a millimetre or so. This makes an accurate and convincing anatomical rendering extremely hard.
“So, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the final sculpt which had been created using an on-screen programme to render the tiger digitally. The faithful and convincing reproduction of the animal’s anatomy was truly impressive. Perhaps it is a design that could only be achieved with the technology that is available nowadays. I think such subtlety would have been much harder to create using traditional plaster-carving techniques.
“The symbol to the right of the animal is the Chinese character for ‘tiger’ and if you look closely you’ll see another symbol on the tiger’s forehead, which represents the pictogram for ‘king’. It is said that the written character for king – ‘王’ – originates from the pattern on the tiger’s head.
“I made several attempts to incorporate the lucky number 8 into the design – at one stage there were 8 daffodils to the left of the tiger – but they made the design look rather cluttered and detracted from the simple elegance of what has become the finished design”.