Plaque City

all images, Kevin Sprouls

I’ve been involved in quite a few projects lately involving the use of my portraiture, sometimes referred to as the Wall Street Journal “hedcut” style, on engraved plaques. It’s gratifying to see my efforts on paper committed to permanence in etched metal.

The first time I considered the conversion of a portrait into a plaque occurred a long time ago. It was like this:
I was fresh out of art school and cutting my teeth, and had the good fortune to work under an Art Director named Dick Martell. The man was a wizard of wit, let alone graphic design. Dow jones & Co. was lucky enough to grab him, temporarily, for the Marketing Dept. during their 1977 to 1978 season.
The Marketing Department back then were always trying to get out the message that it was truly worthwhile to advertise in the Company’s publications: The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Asian Wall Street Journal, etc. When corporate folks would then spend big bucks advertising in one of our publications, they might be rewarded with premiums, as a kind of “Thank You”.
One of the premiums was a strange, carved, bas-relief, full-color representation of a V.I.P of the client’s choosing, on wood. We saw a few of these float through the office, on their way from Giapetto’s workshop to the proud recipients. Dick remarked that he’d love to get one of these produced to use as the seat of a chair!
One of Dick’s memorable stories concerned his direction of a team tasked to create a graphic identity for the New York City Sanitation Department’s collection vehicles, aka garbage trucks. He gave us proteges (my colleague, Kevin Harrington and me) a detailed account of months and months of diverse design concepts, and the considerable sweat exuded over logotypes and color treatments. “What is the Quintessential Color appropriate for a New York City Sanitation truck?” … In the end, after many trials in the fevered-brow, Pantone universe, it was decided that White was the appropriate color for an NYC trash hauler. The signage was to be in the color Black, Helvetica Regular.
Our last day under Dick’s tutelage witnessed great, 3-foot-long, card-stock airplanes being hurled from our communal cubicle into the outside, managerial realm. Aside from being an Art Director of superior intellect and discrimination, Mr. Martell was a pioneering force of iconoclastic mirth.

But, I digress…


Recently, I was tapped to provide 35 portraits for an architectural installation at the headquarters of The World Food Prize. This organization is roughly equivalent to the Nobel prize, only for contributions to the alleviation of hunger and poverty. Gensler, in Chicago, designed the new space. (Elevation plan, above.)
Here is one of the 35 illustrations in engraved form, ready for mounting. This is the first portrait I produced for the series.

Another project I’ve been involved with is an honor wall dedicated to members of a Native American tribe in California.

Nicely executed by Designer Jim Guerard in Los Angeles.

One of the illustrations for the Wall of Honor.

Lastly, I was tapped by Pentagram in New York for this one:

Here is a rather lengthy, yet concise, description of the project (from the Client):
“The Koch Institute Public Galleries serve to connect the public to the work of the new Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. Within the Galleries, visitors can explore current cancer research projects, examine striking biomedical images, hear first-person reflections on cancer and cancer research, and explore the geographical and scientific contexts out of which the Koch Institute emerged.
A prominent section of the Galleries is the Philip Alden Russell (1914) East Gallery. Mr. Russell was a beloved friend and mentor to Charles B. Johnson, who, with his wife Ann, has given generous support to MIT and the Koch Institute. Their gift is a tribute to this friendship and this remarkable man. An engraved stainless steel panel in the Galleries recognizes the support of Charles and Ann Johnson and displays a portrait of Mr. Russell created by Kevin Sprouls.”

This describes one of the two images I produced for Koch Instiute (detail above).

I know that was a rather longhanded installment. Thanks for your interest in my continuing pursuits!

3 thoughts on “Plaque City

  1. You HAVE been busy and all for good causes and you get paid too! You know how awesome and talented I think you are, so that doesn’t need to be said again, does it? Love the avatar too 🙂

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