Saturday, August 2, 2008

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!

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