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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 19, May 11, 2008, Article 11

DICK JOHNSON'S COMMENTS ON COMPUTER SCULPTING PROGRAMS

[Daniel Carr's response in the previous item prompted Dick
Johnson to follow up with a new set of comments on computer
sculpting programs. -Editor]

(1)  Calling mint artists "engravers" or even "sculptor-engravers"
does indeed seem out of place with modern technology. Perhaps
a new term should  be created to cover more accurately their
creative position, something better than my first thought:
"coin progenitor."

(2)  You mentioned engraving machines run by nonartists.
When the medal firm in Milan Italy, Stefano Johnson, first
placed their Janvier in production they had so much respect
for the technician that they placed his name on a medal for
the Columbian Exposition with the designer of the medal and
the artist that created the model.  Three names!  That is
the only recognition I know of that gave credit to the
reducing machine operator.

(3)  You are amazingly insightful to recognize why major
mints have not successfully utilized computer engraving for
portraits. I still observed recent examples similar to items
made by the old manual Gorton tracer-controlled technology
as "stiff, frozen, lifeless."

Your portrait of Aaron Russo, on the other hand, prepared
on your proprietary program, is exceedingly lifelike. There
is a real person staring back at the viewer. It is realistic
in how you treated the fullness of the cheeks and the
prominence of the jowls. I observe you opened the eyes slightly,
and reduced the prominence of the teeth -- both good choices.
(An open mouth is difficult to keep from having the teeth
dominate the portrait. Most medallic artists won't even
attempt such portraits for that reason.)

The texture of the subject's clothing is excellent for the
contrast with the smoothness of the skin and  background.
Your treatment of the hair is in good style. Can you do
texture easily on your program?

(4) The reverse of this medal exhibits excellent design.
Here again, the texture of the document is similar to the
clothing on the obverse. That is a mark of an excellent
designer to tie the two sides together with the artistic
device of repetition. The treatment of the globe is one
of the best I have seen with the relief for Alaska and
the United States.

I like the three lines of lettering with uniform arc base
lines. The subsidiary device of the sun and rays may be a
tad too large, however, it is extremely effective. [The
obverse could have used a small subsidiary device as well
to add interest. What would you have done with the sun or
rays or such on the obverse for that concept of repetition
again to tie the two sides together?]  Sorry, I didn't
mean to do a critique, but your design is so exceptional
it was an inspiration!

(5)  Your proprietary computer sculpting program sounds
incredible. It should be marketed.  If the best software the
U.S. Mint has costs $30,000 you should price yours at $50,000.
[Government officials are only impressed by big numbers.] Then
have someone suggest the Mint needs your program. Stress the
medallic portrait feature of your software description.

(6)  There is often a discrepancy between drawing and the
ultimate model. In fact, some medallists are terrible
draftsmen whose drawings are horrible, but whose models are
outstanding. In one case Joseph Di Lorenzo was weak in
drawing. However he was one of the best modelers in the post
WWII era. He was frequently paired with Paul Calle, a top
artist whose designs and drawings were outstanding. The
combination of the two created some stunning medals!

(7)  I like your idea of a challenge for a hand engraver
to pit his handiwork up against your computer generated
portrait. That would certainly be enlightening!

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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