He Engraved a Portrait of Carl Sagan on Black Granite

I’m always impressed by people who can create art because I’m so inept at it. Peter Ist just engraved an amazing portrait of Carl Sagan on black granite and his video below shows how he did it — simply remarkable:

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • the moother

    That must have taken billions and billions of nanoseconds to make…

    • Tom W

      As Sagan said in his book, the very first line in fact of “Billions and Billions”(1997), “I never said it”. Billions and Billions. He never said it.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I’m certain a machine could do this. I appreciate his ability, but it seems impractical. I expect personal satisfaction is an important part of what he does.

    • Tainda

      I would much rather have something handmade than made by a machine any day

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        Would you still prefer something hand-made if a machine can make it as well, or better, and at lower cost? Just curious.

        • Artor

          Yes, I will be buying meaningful artworks from humans, not robots, thank you. Machines are fine at mass-production, but that’s not art. Do you not get the distinction?

          • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

            I think the meaning of art is applied by people, so the distinction between things made by humans and machines is unclear to me.

            Your idea of art seems to exclude mass production and the (exclusive) use of machines. Thanks for sharing. It’s interesting.

        • badgerchild

          Machines don’t make ideas. People make ideas, and produce them using machines. What’s the big deal? Would people prefer it if he had eschewed the use of tools in favor of his natural fingernails? Is finger painting superior to the use of brushes and palette knives and airbrushing? That’s about what everyone sounds like here.

          • Eli

            I think there are two different concepts being discussed here. One is enjoying art as the finished product, and of course, machine-produced art can be fully appreciated in that context. I personally think this is a valid way to appreciate things.

            But the other concept, which I think is what’s being argued here, and which I also think is valid, is appreciating the work, skill, and talent that went into the production, along with having a beautiful end result. Using tools doesn’t really diminish that because it was still human effort that went into every surface…every highlight and shadow had to be consciously placed by someone who knows exactly how to control the tool to get the desired result. Most people can’t do that, and so it’s appreciated. It also means the artist, consciously or not, leaves their own stylistic details that aren’t going to be exactly the same each time they make something. A machine that’s basically just copying an image with little human influence over every aspect doesn’t have the same emotional impact for many people.

            Basically, some people enjoy art primarily for the process and feel an emotional connection to the artist through their perception of the art, and some people enjoy art primarily for the beauty of the finished product.

            • badgerchild

              I’m a graphic artist who designs training modules for IT. Would my work really be more valuable if it was handwritten on paper, inked in with Japanese brushes and watercolor, and hand-bound into books given to each of the 500+ worldwide participants? Some of you would argue that my art is less valuable because it isn’t tangible, or doesn’t have as much work in it, or didn’t take as much time and effort. I think my work is valuable because it gets the intended message across optimally to the greatest number of people in a form that they can access and manipulate. But, you may whine, “that’s not art”. So you say.

            • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

              This is very much what I’ve been thinking about. It seems that some people value art based on the skill and/or effort involved in creating it. If it’s cheap, easy, and abundant, it becomes less desirable.

              The example in the post could be a presentation of Carl Sagan’s words and likeness, and nothing more. Or it could be all of that and an example of human skill / artistic talent. Maybe this is where a line can be drawn — what a person wants a thing to be.

        • Tainda

          I’m not talking about common things.

          I prefer handmade blankets, art, food, etc. I would much rather have my mom’s lasagna than the shit out of a box. See what I mean?

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

        So are you implying that machines are somehow inferior to humans?

      • Anymouse

        Down with weaving looms! More power to the Luddites! Down with light bulbs! ;-)

        • Tainda

          You know what I mean, smart ass lol

    • beau_quilter

      You are right that a machine could be devised that could etch a more “perfect” copy of a photograph into granite. You could call it “art” if you liked, I suppose, though it would be more akin to what a copier or a fax machine produces.

      When an artist creates a freehand rendering of something that he sees (either present or in a photograph), the artist is not simply making a “copy”. He or she (I’ll stick with “he” since the artist above is a “he”) subtly accentuates the qualities of the subject that move him at a personal, emotional level. The rendering is a subjectively different entity than the subject rendered, though the rendering is often intended to honor the subject (as in this case).

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        I understand the value of human-made things, and the character given to them during the creation process.

        To your point about subtleties: If a person was able to precisely duplicate something without adding personal character to the duplication, would it then lose some value to you? I realize this is an unlikely hypothetical situation, but I’m still curious.

        • beau_quilter

          I’m not sure that it would “lose value”, but I do think that the process would become less about creating art and more about making an exact copy. The design of a new car, for example, may be considered a work of art; but each individual copy of the car, coming off the assembly line is not an individual work of art, but the same work of art as the original. The artist is the original designer, not the assembly line workers. (Though the assembly line workers may be remarkable craftsmen, an honorable vocation in itself).

          • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

            It seems, in the example you give, that the determination of something being art is depends on, not what was made, but how. This is why I described it as a loss of value, though someone with such a perspective might insist that a copy of art never had value to lose. I certainly don’t know, or understand, which is why I’ve been asking. Thanks for your responses.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I like that the speckles in the granite look like stars!

  • jimmyt

    Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works – Hail Sagan

  • Spuddie

    Is it me or is there a kinda manga’ish quality to the image of Sagan?

  • edb3803

    Now *that’s* an atheist monument! Just brilliant!