Queen's head: Artist whose initials are on new £1 coin

By Lucy Ballinger
BBC News

media captionThe man whose initials are on every new coin minted

His initials are on every British coin minted since 2015, but who is the Jiu Jitsu enthusiast who designed the Queen's head, despite never having met her?

He is an artist whose most famous portrait has been reproduced billions of times, and you probably have one in your pocket right now.

But chances are you never will have heard of Jody Clark.

Pull out any British coin minted since 2015 and look carefully enough and there are his initials - beneath the Queen's head.

The quietly-spoken designer's portrait of the Queen was chosen from scores of designs to appear on British coins.

It is only the fifth since she first took to the throne in 1952 and, with the phasing out of the old round pound coin, will soon be the only effigy on £1 coins.

But, as he sits down and swings gently on his office chair at the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, clasping his hands and looking nervous, it is difficult to believe Mr Clark, from Cardiff, is behind the portrait.

image captionOne of Mr Clark's first pencil and paper drawings of the Queen for the coin design, in which she is wearing a necklace
image captionIn the final design the necklace was removed, but Mr Clark's initials were included beneath the Queen's head

The 36-year-old's background in art is a far cry from the classically trained sculptors who have previously modelled the Queen's head for coins.

While his predecessor, Ian Rank-Broadley, trained at the famous Slade School of Fine Art, Mr Clark designed DVD boxes and other packaging after graduating from the University of Central Lancashire.

And rather than focusing on more traditional subjects, Mr Clark, originally from Bowness on Windermere, in the Lake District, has a passion for Jiu Jitsu, which he explores through art.

He has drawn pictures of samurai and people in martial art holds, as well as dragons.

But Mr Clark says his past experience of working with packaging and his "obsession" with Jiu Jitsu have helped inspire his coins designs.

He added: "Designing packaging involved embossing - which meant taking account [of] using different thicknesses of material, so in that way it was similar to designing a coin."

image copyrightJody Clark
image copyrightJody Clark

Mr Clark landed a job at the Royal Mint in 2014, and the following year the competition - open to sculptors and coin designers - to make the Queen's head came up - for the first time in 17 years.

But instead of having an official sitting with the Queen like some of his predecessors, Mr Clark worked solely from photographs.

"Everyone that entered the competition got supplied with the same reference imagery, they are photos taken for sculptural purposes, so the lighting is done in ways to get the form across," said Mr Clark.

"Then there are constraints specified too - the Queen had to face a certain way, generally in profile because that works best.

"I also looked online to find pictures of her in a more natural setting. I wanted to add just a little bit of warmth to her expression, not quite smiling, but just a subtle upturn of the lips."

Mr Clark also had to decide what jewellery the Queen would wear in the picture.

"I got to dress her up in what I thought would work best," he said. "So, I researched what she wears and when she wears it and decided to go for the crown she generally wears to state openings and state visits, as I thought that was quite appropriate.

"It took me about a week to sketch the design and put it on the computer, and another week and a bit for the 3D model."

image captionMr Clark fine-tunes his designs on the computer, while other designers still work in plaster before scanning the design
image captionTweaks were suggested to Mr Clark for the characters around the edge of the coin by the Royal Mint's expert on lettering

This went to the Royal Mint Advisory committee, a panel of experts from sculpture, architecture, history and art, who choose the design.

They picked Mr Clark's - making him the youngest designer of the Queen's effigy - but suggested some changes, which included removing the necklace and spacing the lettering differently.

He said: "I agreed with taking the necklace off - it makes for a neater design, and I had the option to add my initials, so I said yes, I wanted that."

The design then went to the Chancellor and the Queen for approval.

image copyrightRoyal Mint
image captionThe dragon of Wales is one of three commemorative coins in the Queen's Beasts series - which Jody Clark designed both sides of

Coin facts

  • 2,733,140,001 coins were minted with Jody Clark's design up until May 2017
  • A £2 coin is 2.5mm thick, while a 1p coin is 1.52mm thick - and the Queen's head design has to work on both, so the design is altered for each coin to have different depths
  • Mr Clark has designed both sides of the Queen's Beasts commemorative coin series, based on heraldic animals
  • The previous Queen's effigy, by Ian Rank-Broadley, was used for 17 years
  • After October 15 the old pound coin will no longer be legal tender, with just the 12-sided £1 accepted - so all £1 coins will have the Jody Clark portrait on them
  • The Royal Mint designs and makes circulating coin for countries across the world, as well as the UK's currency
image copyrightJody Clark

Mr Clark said: "I got an email through from the Royal Office which just said 'Design H has been approved', so I think that means she liked it.

"But after that I didn't realise what a big thing it was going to be," said Mr Clark.

"I returned from paternity leave the day before the design was unveiled in London, so it was pretty intense coming back to that.

"To this day, I don't introduce myself as the man who designed the Queen's head, although my friends or family normally jump in and say it now to embarrass me."

He said he still gets a buzz from seeing people use coins with the effigy on.

"It is a nice feeling to see my design out there in the world, being used by everyone in the UK. It is going to be quite hard to top," he said.

"My son Joel is now two, so he has the same initials as me. One day I hope he'll be able to say to his mates 'my dad designed that' and be proud."

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