Robert Ralph Carmichael. Artist & Coin Designer remembered

Robert-Ralph (Bob) Carmichael

Robert Ralph Carmichael, an internationally known artist, who resided in Sylvan Valley near Echo Bay, Ontario passed away on Saturday, July 16th, 2016 at the age of 79 years. Robert Carmichael was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

‘Bob’ as he was known to his family and friends was an artist, teacher, and mentor who exhibited throughout Canada including the National Gallery in Ottawa, the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton, Glenbow Institute in Calgary, and the Tom Thomson Gallery in Owen Sound, The Art Gallery of Algoma and the Temiskaming Art Gallery.

20160719_141600His work can be found in private and corporate collections around the world, as well as public institutions including the University of Calgary, the Province of Ontario (Queen’s Park), and the City of Sault Ste Marie. He was a graduate of the Ontario College of Art (Toronto) and Carleton University (Ottawa), and received an honorary doctorate from Algoma/Laurentian University. He also taught art at Sault College.

Bob started his education at Collegiate High school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

“Charlie Carrington, an art teacher at Collegiate High school was influential in Bob’s decision to pursue art.” shared Andrew Carmichael, Robert’s brother, in an interview with saultonline. “After high school he attended the Ontario School of Art, which would have been in the late 1950’s.”

“After graduation from Ontario School of Art, he taught at the Pickering School for Boys. From there he went to Carleton University where he received his B.A. He moved to Montreal after Carleton U, where he taught art at a Jewish school. In the 1980’s, Bob taught at Sault College.”

20160719_142344“Bob  lived in Edmonton for some time, where he taught at the university there as well.” said Andrew Carmichael.

Eventually, Robert Carmichael moved to Sylvan Valley where he continued to paint and design coins. He lived with his wife Gwen at their Sylvan Valley sanctuary until his death.

“Bob primarily painted landscapes.” shared Robert Carmichael.

LoonieEchoBayPerhaps most famously, Robert-Ralph Carmichael is known as the artist who created the Loon Coin. There is a monument to this accomplishment in Echo Bay, Ontario.

“The Loon Coin was only one of several designs Bob submitted over the years. When the original Canoe dollar Coin stamps were lost in the mail, (on their way to the mint in Winnipeg, Manitoba), the Canadian Mint went looking for another design, and chose Bob’s Loon.” said Andrew Carmichael.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

A statement released on July 18, 2016, from The Royal Canadian Mint, reads, ‘The Royal Canadian Mint is saddened to learn of the passing of Robert-Ralph Carmichael ‎on Saturday, July 16 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Mr. Carmichael was the artist who designed Canada’s celebrated one-dollar coin. In 1987, one-dollar banknotes in Canada were replaced by the new one-dollar coin. The coin was instantly dubbed the Loonie after the solitary loon that graces the coin’s reverse side; the nickname caught on and Canadians have embraced it ever since.  Mr. Carmichael’s Loonie design has stood the test of time due to its simplicity in depicting an icon of Canadian wildlife.

20160719_141723The introduction of the one-dollar coin in 1987 was the most significant change to Canada’s coinage system in over 50 years.   Since that time, Mr. Carmichael’s design has appeared on over 1 billion one-dollar coins. We thank him for his remarkable contribution in creating what has become a true Canadian symbol. We express our sincere condolences to Mr. Carmichael’s wife Gwen Keatley, and to his family and friends.’

Among those who were close friends with Robert Carmichael, is Rose Sundaram, Rose’s Art Gallery in Sault Ste. Marie. Her Art Gallery houses several of Robert Carmichaels paintings, where they are for sale.

“When I opened the Art Gallery 15 years ago, Bob accepted my invitation to sell some of his paintings here.” shared Rose at her Gallery in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. “He was a gifted and gentle soul. I am going to miss him very much.”

Reflecting on his paintings, Rose shared, “He was very methodical in his approach. He was a perfectionist, and every stroke was applied for a reason.”

“Bob did a complete drawing first, and then did a monotone painting primarily using sepia, which have brown tones. He used distilled water when he mixed paints. And then he used a translucent paint, to begin building colour. In ‘Dieters Superior’, he used a translucent red to begin the process. It’s a very tedious and time consuming process.”20160719_142218

“The painting, ‘The Red Road’, is a scene from along the highway (638) where he lived. The larger paintings, like ‘Dieter’s Superior’ would have taken well over a year and a half to complete.” she said.

“Bob also made all of his own frames. He loves the black frames; the frames lead you into the painting. Each frame is unique, and designed specifically for the painting.”

To see Robert Ralph Carmichael’s paintings, visit Roses Art Gallery on Bruce Street in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  The Gallery is right at the top of Bruce Hill, 348 Bruce St.  Phone: (705) 946-4440.




  1. Excellent site you’ve got here.. It’s hard to find high-quality
    writing like yours these days. I honestly
    appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  2. Great to see a move back to doing retrospective stories of some of the notable Sault and area citizens who’ve left us. Well done article.

Comments are closed.