Meet the maker – Glyn Davies on creating the FIRST King Charles III British Isles portrait

The first official British Isles King Charles III effigy has just been revealed, and we had the privilege of meeting the designer. Jonathan sat down with renowned coin designer, Glyn Davies, via video call to talk about his King Charles III portrait for British Isles coinage, which features on the brand new Discovery of Tutankhamun 50ps.

Watch the interview

Meet the designer

Jonathan:
Welcome to the Westminster Collection. We are honoured today to be joined by Glyn Davies and Glyn Davies is an artist, and he has had the privilege of designing the first official British Isles King Charles III portrait for all the British Isles coins. So welcome, Glyn. It’s great to have you with us.

Glyn:
Thank you very much. Nice to join you.

Jonathan:
It’s great, I don’t often get to speak to the people or the person behind some of these portraits and images so it’s a real privilege for me, I’m really honoured to meet you. I’ve got to ask you just a few questions about this, because it really is intriguing to me and lots of our collectors. The first one is obviously, you’ve designed this brand new image of the King. How did that situation come about?

Glyn:
Well, you’ve got to keep abreast of current events and possible eventualities. So I sort of started to think about this in around about 2021, 2022 and then there was plenty of time to put a lot of thought into it. And it’s always been at the back of my mind anyway, you know, you’re always thinking about it, just like maybe Prince William is now, it’s always there.

And it was a few little sketches, a few ideas over the years, but it was nice to eventually get a brief and put something solid down.

Jonathan:
How much time did you have once you’ve got the actual brief and put something solid down?

Glyn:
Well, because things move pretty quickly, not as long as you would like, even though it’s been there at the back of your mind and you suddenly think, ‘Oh, right, I’ve got to get on with this’, this needs to be done pretty sharply’. But it’s good to have that time to think about it and to analyse what you’ve got to do.

Jonathan:
What were those things that you would analyse? What bits or what parts were really important?

Glyn:
Well, I tend to look at anatomy a lot for reference. I had a chat with Raphael (Raphael David Maklouf designed the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II used on the coins of many Commonwealth nations from 1985 to 1997) to make sure I was going down the right path. He’s got a lot of knowledge, a very talented man and I just wish I had an ounce of his talent. He’ll tell you straight whether you’re not doing it right, which is always good. And then just going back to the anatomy and looking at how Charles has aged.

An encounter with the King

Glyn:
There have actually been a few occasions where I’ve been able to see him (King Charles III) in real life as well, but purely by accident. He attended my nephew’s passing out parade for the RAF so I had a good look then and I managed to get a few photos close up. I was thinking ‘I hope he turns to the side so I can get the right profile’.

Jonathan:
And did you get the photo you wanted?

Glyn:
I did. From a few hundred yards. But when I got close up, it’s just impossible. I mean, it was entertaining trying though.

Jonathan:
I love that story. And so that was the accidental meeting at your nephew’s passing out parade.

Glyn:
And then he was in my hometown a few months ago as well, he popped up out of the blue and I was like, ‘Oh another chance!’ But again, it’s hard whenever you try to take a photo, It’s like the photos my mum used to take of us as children. You know, the heads missing.

Jonathan:
And that’s the vital part for the portrait! I love this Glyn, I love these more personal stories about how you’ve designed this.

The process of creating a Royal effigy

Jonathan:
So how long did the whole process take? Obviously you had a lot of time to think about it but once you were given the brief, how long did the process take for your to come up with this incredible portrait for British Isles coinage?

Glyn:
It took about 3 to 6 months, let me say six months really to do the initial sketches, draw concept sketches, having Raphael check them and getting some feedback. And then doing some clay sketches and working out proportions, getting the composition right, making sure I’m doing the right side of his head as well.

Jonathan:
Of course, because he faces the other way to his mum, obviously.

Glyn:
And then deciding whether to do traditional clay and plaster or digital.

Jonathan:
Which way did you go?

Glyn:
I went digital. I’ve got a clay one here which I’ve had a few goes at, it just wasn’t quite getting there. But the digital one was working, so I went with that.

Jonathan:
I actually find that very interesting, so you had a go with the clay but the digital one was the one you chose.

Glyn:
There’s more than one iteration of the digital one as well, because you know, you’re never truly happy.

Back to the beginning

Jonathan:
Have you been an artist all your life?

Glyn:
Yeah. The only thing I passed my O-levels in.

Jonathan:
Oh, really? Because that was a passion of yours?

Glyn:
I don’t think it was. Rugby was my passion. But you couldn’t do O-level in that.

Jonathan:
That is true. So obviously you passed O-levels, but then what else have you gone on to do before you got into what you’re doing now?

Glyn:
I started off with animation, film and TV. I did that for about 15 years.

Jonathan:
Okay. What kind of things?

Glyn:
Mostly children’s TV cartoons, but, you know, lots of drawing and lots of life drawing.

Jonathan:
What was that like?

Glyn:
It was all right. Until it turns into factory work after a while, if you have to draw 12 drawings for every second, it’s not as creative as I thought it was going to be when I first got into it. And because the employment only ever lasted as long as the films were being made, I would find myself being made redundant after 1 or 2 years.

Jonathan:
And then did you move straight into this kind of area or was there another stepping stone?

Glyn:
Oh, I went back to University to do a masters in film and video editing. I specialized in news and propaganda and then there was a few years where I had to look after my mother because she was poorly. Then I ended up doing AV stuff, working on conferences and things like that, editing videos, like videos in the stadium, which is always entertaining. You know when you’ve got a big screen and you have to replay the highlights? Bit of pressure. But it was nice to be in the stadium when Wales won, although it wasn’t too often.

A career in coin design

Jonathan:
So after that, you went back into design work and being an artist?

Glyn:
I really didn’t know anything about coins, I didn’t know you could do that as a living. And when I ended up at the Royal Mint, I didn’t know that was around the corner from where I lived.

Jonathan:
And how did you end up there, if you don’t mind me asking?

Glyn:
Well, the stadium work was drying up and it was less editing and more lugging staging around. So I went back to drawing, back to life drawing, back to my roots, I guess. And then I saw an advert for The Royal Mint and that was how I got into the coin design.

Jonathan:
What was that like, when you first turned up at the Royal Mint?

Glyn:
It was nerve wracking, I couldn’t understand, like most people are naïve, they go, ‘What, you design coins? But surely they’re all the same shape all the time?’

Jonathan:
Yeah, and you’ve designed a few coins for the Royal Mint – The Sapphire Jubilee and some of the Tower of London series.

Untitled design - Meet the maker – Glyn Davies on creating the FIRST King Charles III British Isles portrait
2017 Sapphire Jubilee £5 Coin

Glyn:
Yeah. So many were so long ago as well. The Remembrance coin, that was my favourite.

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2015 Remembrance Day coin designed by Glyn Davies

Jonathan:
That one’s your favourite?

Glyn:
Yeah, well, because I was making it at the same time of year that my mother passed away and I was using the poppies that used to grow in her field to design the coin. So it was quite emotional, I guess.

Jonathan:
I imagine that must be very special for you actually to design that coin in that year.

Glyn:
It was, yeah.

The pressure of perfection

Jonathan:
So what’s the hardest part, do you think, of making a portrait of a new monarch?

Glyn:
The hardest part is just stepping away from it as and saying ‘that’s finished’, you know? Because I could keep pushing and pushing, and I’m trying to learn as well as trying to develop skills at the same time. It’s a lot of pressure to try and get it right as well, as you want to do it justice not just to the King, but to everybody else involved, you don’t want to offend anybody.

Jonathan:
How does that compare to previous pressures, whether it be children’s TV or running a live video in a stadium full of 70 or 80,000 people live?

Glyn:
The live stuff was quite intense. Especially not knowing a lot about football, when I did those games and having to pick and choose what were highlights and play them back within 30 seconds. It’s quite intense, but you get used to it.

Jonathan:
How does this pressure compare?

Glyn:
This is worse, a lot of peer reviews and anything that’s wrong, people can spot it immediately, you know, and yeah, it’s very scary. Putting your artwork out there for people to judge.

Jonathan:
Yeah well I’ll say again that we’ve had lots of positive feedback on this and I think you’ve done a great job. People are excited to get this new coinage from the British Isles, which of course is really collectible with the lower mintage levels, you know, from the smaller islands and the lower edition limits on the more collectible precious metal coins as well. To have the King’s head on, that you’ve designed, what’s it like to know that people are going to have this coin in their pocket? We’re going to have this coin to pass down to generations and it’s got your design on it?

Glyn:
I’m proud, you know, proud and anxious.

Words of wisdom

Jonathan:
What advice would you give someone who might be interested to be the next artist for the next monarch if you were going to be Raphael for someone else, what would you say?

Glyn:
Study, study, study, study. Do as much different sculpting as you can, keep at it. You don’t always get favourable feedback on stuff you’ve done, but that’s not always a negative. You have to take it on the chin. You have to take criticism because if you don’t, you won’t learn from what you’ve done before. When you look back at stuff and you can see valid points that people have made.

Jonathan:
And something you also said, you said about stepping back. And also at some point saying ‘I’m finished’. Almost accepting that even though, you know, you could do more.

Glyn:
Yeah, I look at everything and think ‘That could change. That could be a bit lower. That could be higher’. Because I’ve done a few sculptures and they’ve looked like they’re supposed to and I keep pushing and pushing until eventually you push away from it. And there’s no going back when you’re using clay, you know, unless you start all over again, which I’ve done a few times. But you have to step back sometimes.

Jonathan:
You also referenced the support that Raphael Maklouf gave you. Did he spill any secrets about his sitting with Queen Elizabeth II when he was designing her effigy?

Glyn:
No. But he’s very good at that. You know, those opportunities don’t happen now. It would be lovely to sit there with somebody like King Charles sat in front of you, drawing and sculpting, but I just think life is too busy now for that.

Jonathan:
Well, you managed to do it with a few photos from a few hundred yards away. So well done.

Thank you so much for your time today. I really do appreciate it, I know how busy you are but I’m sure lots of our collectors are going to really enjoy hearing from you about what goes into such an incredible portrait.

Glyn:
Fantastic. No problem. And I hope to speak to you again.

Own the new effigy on the Discovery of Tutankhamun 50p collection

AT Tutankhamun British Isles 50ps Images 8 - Meet the maker – Glyn Davies on creating the FIRST King Charles III British Isles portrait

New 50ps mark the centenary of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb – PLUS, the FIRST coins to feature the new official British Isles Portrait of King Charles III.

November 4th 1922, in Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the greatest treasure in Egyptology. The tomb of ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun.

The excavation was slow and cautious. It wasn’t until 16th February 1923 that the third doorway was opened, revealing the Burial Chamber.

Tutankhamun tomb photographs 4 291 - New 50ps mark the centenary of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb – PLUS, the FIRST coins to feature the new official British Isles Portrait of King Charles III.
Photo credit: Harry Burton
‘There before us lay the sealed door, and with its opening, we were to blot out the centuries and stand in the presence of a king who reigned three thousand years ago.’
  – Howard Carter

The chamber not only contained the perfectly preserved sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, but also remarkable treasures untouched for more than 3,000 years.

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Five Tutankhamun 50ps authorised by the Isle of Man Treasury

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AT Tutankhamun British Isles 50ps Images V2 18 - New 50ps mark the centenary of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb – PLUS, the FIRST coins to feature the new official British Isles Portrait of King Charles III.

Featuring five iconic designs carefully curated by Joe Cummings that represent artefacts and treasures found within King Tutankhamun’s tomb. These include;  the famous death mask of Tutankhamun, Anubis Shrine, the Name Pendant, a corselet, and a model of the torso of Tutankhamun.

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Limited Edition Silver Proof 50p set restricted to JUST 795 Collectors WORLDWIDE

JUST 795 Silver Proof Sets are available worldwide. Considering The Royal Mint’s Silver Proof Tutankhamun £5 has an edition limit of 1922, how long can 795 sets possibly last?

Tutankhamun Silver 50p Set Lifestyle 02 - New 50ps mark the centenary of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb – PLUS, the FIRST coins to feature the new official British Isles Portrait of King Charles III.

Each 50p in this FIVE-coin set has been struck from 925/1000 Silver to a pristine Proof finish. What’s more, with the addition of 24ct Gold-plating, it comes protectively housed in a deluxe presentation box.

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DN 2023 Tutankhamun ultimate colour BU 50p PNC product images 4 - New 50ps mark the centenary of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb – PLUS, the FIRST coins to feature the new official British Isles Portrait of King Charles III.

These covers will be officially postmarked by the Royal Mail on the 16th February 2023 – the 100th anniversary of the Opening of the Tomb.

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This is the smallest edition presentation you’ll find – from a collector’s point of view, the decision is obvious. You can only secure the NEW 50ps with colour and Official Royal Mail Philatelic label in a set like this, and we guarantee you won’t find a smaller edition anywhere else.

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JUST 195 Available Worldwide – The DOUBLE DIAMETER Tutankhamun 50p struck from One Ounce of Pure Silver

Perhaps the most recognisable treasure discovered within Tutankhamun’s tomb was his iconic Death Mask. This mask’s incredible detail features on this BRAND NEW 50p with the brand new portrait of the King.

Tutankhamun 1oz Comparison Image 02 - New 50ps mark the centenary of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb – PLUS, the FIRST coins to feature the new official British Isles Portrait of King Charles III.

This impressive 50p has been struck to a DOUBLE DIAMETER size from 1oz of Pure Silver. That’s twice the size of a standard 50p and almost four times heavier!

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As the FIRST coins to feature the new British Isles King Charles III portrait designed by renowned coin designer, Glyn Davies, these are expected to be extremely popular with knowledgeable collectors.

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