Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pissing People Off: My Online Rant on LEGO and Art

Well, as anyone who is reading is aware, Alice and I are still playing catch-up on this blog, trying to get all of our old stuff covered. Nevertheless, something quite cool occurred today, so I thought I would post about it.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I have given three talks on LEGO as art, and also written a draft of an article, currently under review at Brickjournal, the magazine for adult LEGO enthusiasts. In addition to all of this, however, I was recently asked by the bloggers at The Brothers-Brick (by far the most popular, and most influential, blog covering the interests and activities of adult LEGO enthusiasts) to write a guest editorial on the topic.

The editorial is located here.

As of this posting, the editorial has only been up a little over an hour, and already it has garnered some strong opinions in the comments. The next few days should be fun!


Monday, August 4, 2008

Aayla Secura

The other notable creation that traveled to DC with us for Brickfest 2006 was Aayla Secura. As mentioned in an earlier post, this was the mosaic I created using my 'pointillist' style - basically, increasing the resolution dramatically by making each pixel consist of the side of a 1 x 1 technic brick with a 1 x 1 round plate (in a different color) attached. This is definitely still my favorite creation of all time. Without further ado, here she is:
Here is a close-up, to give a better idea of the technique:
Just in case you were not sure, Aayla Secura is a green-skinned Twi'Lek Jedi Knight who appears in the more recent Star Wars trilogy. I have had one person mistake this for the Girl with the Pearl Earring, but for the most part people seem to be able to recognize the character.
Well, as a final note I'll just point out that this won Best Mosaic at Brickfest 2006, which was pretty cool.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Toilets within Toilets within Toilets...

The first of our Brickfest 2006 creations worth noting is the Cosmic Loo. The Cosmic Loo is a moonbase module that serves as the public restrooms for the minifig inhabitants of the moonbase.

Moonbases are space station type structures that are built to a certain standard - the 'moonbase standard', appropriately enough. The idea is that any LEGO enthusiast can build a moonbase module, and then (if you follow the standard correctly), they can all be hooked up to make a massive moonbase. The details of the moonbase standard can be found on
Anyway, the idea for the Cosmic Loo came from thinking about science fiction movies too much. It dawned on me that so many of the characters in Sci Fi films are human beings, and thus have the same biological needs as we do - they have to relieve themselves somewhere! I started wondering about what the toilets in the Millenium Falcon looked like, and at the same time I was trying to decide on what sort of moonbase to build for Brickworld. Like a bolt of lightning, the foundation of the Cosmic Loo was born.
The actual moonbase, from the outside, looks like a toilet (one of those modern ones without a huge tank in the back):
The 'seat' can be lifted, however, revealing the interior of the moonbase. In essence, it is a public restroom where minifigs can go to deal with whatever urges might need dealing with. There are three sections, a male restroom, a female restroom, and a droid restroom (where one imagines droids spewing dirty oil and the like). As with almost all public restrooms, there is a line for the women's room!
Here is a close up shot of the interior, showing two fearless space adventurers using the urinals, and some appropriate graffiti on the wall (a greedo minifig is actually in the stall just off the photo, clutching a bottle and lying on the floor in a puddle of transparent green Greedo vomit!)
This is still one of our funniest creations, and one of the most fun to build. It was also the first build that I was seriously involved with in more than an advisory capacity. I am kind of sad that we took it apart, but the moonbase standard seems to be falling out of style. Maybe we will rebuild it someday anyway.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Brickfest 2006

Our next big LEGO event was Brickfest 2006, which was held in the Sheraton Premier conference hotel in Tyson's Corner, Virginia (a suburb of Washington D.C.).

I gave my second talk on "Lego as Art" at this event (the first one was at Brickfest 2005, which I forgot to mention in earlier posts), concentrating on what sorts of characteristics make a LEGO creation an artwork.

In addition, I was asked by the organizer, Joe Meno (who is also publisher of Brickjournal Magazine) to do a mosaic recreating the Fairfax County, Virginia logo. The mosaic was presented to an official from the county who had been extremely helpful in assisting in the organization of the event. The actual logo appears at the top left corner of the Fairfax County website here. Unfortunately, the best photo I could find of the mosaic is this (I didn't get a chance to take photos myself - again, it was a project that was still being built in the wee hours of the morning before we left for the con!):

Yep, that blurry guy on the far right is me. I got paid in trade for this creation - Brickfest covered the cost of our hotel room, which was just about right in terms of covering the cost of the bricks used in the mosaic.

Alice and I took a bunch of creations to this show (we were lucky in that we hitched a ride with Jim Foulds in his parent's van, and as a result didn't have to worry about fitting our creations into suitcases and having them fall apart as a result of airport luggage handlers). The two main creations of note, however, were the Aayla Secura mosaic, and the Cosmic Loo moonbase. The next two posts will detail each of these creations.



Since it was mentioned in the last post, I should probably say a bit more about DelVaLUG.

DelVaLUG is the Delaware Valley LEGO Users Group - a club for adult LEGO enthusiasts living in the Delaware Valley (basically, the area including and surrounding the Philadelphia metropolitan area and the Delaware river, containing a chunk of southeastern Pennsylvania, a chunk of southern New Jersey, and bits of Maryland and Delaware).

DelVaLUG was founded by Jim Foulds (who later went on to work as the Director of Community Relations for LEGO Universe - a massive multiplayer online game set in a LEGO world. Technically Jim works for NetDevil - a company that is partnering with LEGO for the project, but that doesn't make the job any less cool! He is the first of a number of my friends who have moved from fandom to careers with LEGO).

Other members include myself and Alice, Tim Caffrey, Cale Leiphart, Arthur Stromberg, Jeff Stabile, Phillip Thorne, and Amy Poole (Note that Alice and I still consider ourselves members-in-absentia, and wear our DelVaLUG badges proudly at LEGO events).

With DelVaLUG, Alice and I participated in a number of LEGO exhibits and events, including a display at the 2005 NBC10 Consumer Expo, the previously discussed mountain at the ILTCO @ NMRA 2005 train show, sci-fi themed displays at PhilCon (the Philadelphia science fiction convention) in 2005 and 2006, and WizardWorld Philadelphia in 2007.

Being involved in DelVaLUG was great, both because I got to meet a bunch of really talented and really cool builders in my area and because I got some practical experience in planning and carrying out large scale displays (the WizardWorld process was especially helpful in this regard, since only a tiny handfull of us were available at the time to commit to the project and as a result Phillip and I were sort of 'thrown into the water, either to sink or swim'. Fortunately, we swam - the event was a great success, and that project will get its own post eventually!)

As a final note: Here is the plan for a mosaic of the DelVaLUG logo that I planned and promised to build for DelVaLUG before my departure from Philly, but never got around to completing. Someday, though, I promise!

DelVaLUG was a great experience. Eventually, Alice and I had to move to Minneapolis, where we founded a new group - TwinLUG. But I still miss sitting out on Jim's porch, or my porch, planning crazy LEGO displays with the DelVaLUG guys and gals.


PS: DelVaLUG's seldom updated website is located here. If you want to get in touch with them, you are probably better off signing up for the Yahoo Group, however.

Trains, Trains, and a Couple o' Mosaics!

The next big event Alice and I attended was Brickfest 2005, but we were still 'newbies' to the scene, so there isn't too much to tell about that (and, to be honest, the one creation I took was mediocre enough that I am not gonna post about it here, when I have done so much stuff since then!). So after that we did a big train show at the ILTCO (International LEGO Train Club Organization) diplay at the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) show in July of 2005. Fortunately for us, the show that year was in Philly, and the convention center was only about eight blocks from where we lived, since the projects I planned for it were still being built at 2AM the night before the show!

Anyway, the members of DelVaLUG (Delaware Valley LEGO Users Group) got together a few months beforehand to plan what we would do for the show. Only one of us (Tim Caffrey) was really a big 'train-head', so we decided to concentrate on aspects of building that suited us best. The plan was to build a large LEGO mountain with two train tracks - one at the outer edge, at 'table' level, and another further in, halfway up the mountain.

More interesting (for me, at least) was that the mountain had a 'valley' cut into it on either side, and I constructed two large mosaics depicting more mountains in the distance. I had begun my ongoing experiments with different mosaic techniques at this point, and one of the members of DelVaLUG (Jim Foulds) suggested that I put my money where my mouth was, and build some stunning mosaics that could be the highlight of our layout.

The first of the two mosaics was done with plates stacked up. This creates more resolution that a standard 'studs-out' mosaic, such as the two discussed in earlier posts, but the technique has been done dozens of times before, so it wasn't too earth-shattering technique-wise. Nevertheless, I think it turned out looking pretty good. Here is a shot of the mountain, showing the side with this mosaic (also, that is Alice and myself in the right corner - not the most flattering photo either of us has ever taken):

(Photo taken by Cale Leiphart)

Here is another shot of the first mosaic, a bit closer up, and showing more detail:

(Photo taken by Phillip Thorne)

The second mosaic, however, was the real showpiece, I think. This one was really 'experimental', in a sense. The inspiration for the mosaic was 'pointillist' artworks, where a realistic picture is formed from combining many dots of various colors, which blend into a seamless whole from a distance. For the LEGO-rati: The mosaic consists of stacks of 1 x 1 technic bricks, with half-pins in each whole, and then 1 x 1 round plates attached to the pins. Thus each 'pixel' consists of a small circle of one color with a slightly larger rectangle of another color behind it. As a result, from a distance, the colors blend and a much higher effective resolution is achieved:

(Photo taken by Cale Leiphart)

Another shot. I am not sure whose back this is in the photo, although obviously it is one of the few members of DelVaLUG:

(Photo taken by Philip Thorne)

Both of the mosaics turned out well, I think, but the pointillist one was especially important since it served as a sort of 'proof-of-concept' for the technique in general. One of my next projects was to do a smaller mosaic - a portrait - using this same technique.

All in all, I would say that the ILTCO show was one of the most enjoyable LEGO events I have attended, and also one of the most important for me as a LEGO hobbyist. It was the first such event I attended where I felt like I knew 'what was going on', so to speak, and the first where I had developed enough as a builder not to feel out of place. In addition, of course, I got to meet a lot of people (some of which have since become close friends).


PS: As a bit of trivia, it is also the last big event that Alice did not build something for, (and might actually mark her transition from supportive fan to builder) so she will be participating in posting a good bit more from here on out!