An Interview with Nathan Sawaya: Lego Master Builder!
During this San Diego Comic Con I had a lot of different things going on. One of them was the opportunity to watch this cool new film called A Lego Brickumentary: which opens July 31st in select theatres and is also available On Demand and in the Itunes store! This film highlights everything cool about Legos and talks about the whole process from idea to full blown sculptures. View the trailer below:
Nathan Sawaya is a real life Master Builder. He can take almost anything you can imagine and turn it into a Lego masterpiece. Some of his work has included replicas of Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces and even the Statue of David. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about his love of Legos, his works of art, and what’s to come.
Three if By Space: How many conventions have you been going to? Is this your first San Diego?
Nathan Sawaya: I’ve been to San Diego sevral times, I do New York as well, so yeah.
TiBS: How long have you been playing with Legos?
NS: Ah, well I suppose I got my first Lego set when I was five years old, so several years!
TiBS: What set was it?
NS: It was a universal set, I think it was universal, maybe 794? It had a bunch of tires, doors, windows, and then a bunch of loose bricks.
TiBS: Nice, so you just made anything you could think of?
TiBS: What was your first creation with Legos?
NS: I built a house! I built that first thing, right out of the box. In fact when I got that box I tore into it and that was my focus. Right then and there I was hooked!
TiBS: What so far has been your favorite set that you’ve built?
NS: Well, you know over the years I’ve done a lot of different work and it’s hard to pick a favorite. When I was 10 years old I wanted to get a dog and my parents said, ‘You’re not getting a dog’ so I built myself a life size dog and at the time it was really an ‘aha’ moment that it doesn’t have to be what’s on the front of the box. You could build anything with this toy, anything you wanted to imagine! So if I wanted to pretend to be an astronaut I could pretend to build a rocket ship or if I want to pretend to be a rockstar I’ll build myself a guitar. There were no limits! And then that theme would really extend into my art later in life where I really would just try to use Lego as an art medium to create something the world’s never seen before.
TiBS: What is the most amount of bricks that you’ve used?
NS: The most amount of bricks in one piece? Hm, I’ve done some large pieces over the years, I did a billboard in Hollywood that was 53 feet long and that used over a half a million pieces. That took some time!
TiBS: How long did it take?
NS: It took about a month of constant building.
TiBS: Wow! Did you build it on the billboard itself?
NS: No I built it at the studio and then installed it.
TiBS: What was the most daunting one that you’ve done? Was the billboard the most daunting one?
NS: No that wasn’t because it was 2 dimensional, I think when you start doing 3 dimensional sculptures out of Lego that can be daunting. In fact in the Brickumetary film there’s some shots of some of the work that I’ve done where I took on replicating some very famous works of art from history and that can be daunting, in an interesting way, because they’re so iconic! Everyone knows what these look like, these are the masters of art and how are they going to play out of a Lego medium? Will it work, will people really get it, so those were daunting in an interesting way.
TiBS: What was the hardest part of translating?
NS: Accuracy was a big part of it and color! When you’re using Lego bricks you can’t blend colors like you can with paint, so to capture that you’re limited to the hues of Lego. Now Lego has a great pallet of colors, but you are limited to how they blend together because it’s plastic bricks! You can’t just put a yellow one and a blue one together and expect green, but you can put them next to each other and you might have a tone of green, so it was playing with that.
TiBS: Have you ever painted the bricks to make it work?
NS: No, because I want to use bricks that, for the most part, that are available to kids or adults in stores so that if they see my work and are inspired I want them to be able to go buy the very same brick at a toy store so they can go home and create and for that reason I don’t have specialty pieces made I don’t have any specialty colors made I just use the regular Lego bricks.
TiBS: How many Legos do you have?
NS: Right now I have about four and a half million bricks in my studio. We get shipments of a few hundred thousand every few weeks so it’s always fluctuating. I want to keep a big inventory so that when I’m working on something I’m not thinking about ordering bricks I’m thinking about ‘okay the bricks are right here, I can just grab them off the shelf and keep working’.
TiBS: What is the one thing you want to make that you haven’t yet?
NS: Oh, wow! You’re going to have to wait and see on that one. When I’m working on projects I don’t talk about it much because people get an idea in their head about what it might look like and so I wait to actually show them. There are some big projects I’d like to work on some aggressive, we’ll say, projects, but it’s finding the time to do it so we’ll see! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram! @NathanSawaya to see what I’m up to!
To see more of Nathan’s work visit his Facebook page!
Stay tuned for an interview with A Lego Brickumentary co-directors Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson!
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