October 28, 2021

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Lego Masters: Artist Nathan Sawaya on Bricks and Constructing

7 min read

With the enduring level of popularity of Lego bricks, it’s no shock that the Fox competition series Lego Masters received a warm welcome when the collection premiered in February 2020 and introduced groups of clever Lego builders alongside one another to compete for the title of Lego Learn.

Hosted by The Lego Batman Movie star Will Arnett, the collection asks beginner Lego builders to craft complex, entertaining creations primarily based on various challenges posed by Arnett along with Lego style managers Amy Corbett and Jamie Berard, who provide as judges on the collection. Aiding in both equally the improvement of these worries and the brightly colored, Lego-fueled style and design of the show’s set is artist Nathan Sawaya, a consulting producer on the clearly show and the only human being in the entire world to keep the Lego-endorsed titles of Lego Qualified Specialist and Lego Grasp Builder.

With season 2 of Lego Masters returning from its Olympic hiatus on August 10, Electronic Tendencies spoke to Sawaya about his work on the series, as properly as his earth-renowned exhibit The Art of the Brick and whether he finds stepping on Legos as unpleasant as anyone else does.

Electronic Traits: In addition to creating awesome artwork, you’re a consulting producer on Lego Masters. I’m instructed you enjoy a function in producing the worries for the demonstrate, but what else does that place entail?

Nathan Sawaya: Nicely, it’s a ton of setting up, actually. When the contestants need to develop off of a little something in a obstacle, we have to create that base for them. For case in point, in the initial episode of season 2, there was a parade of Lego floats that the contestants constructed. But you can’t have that parade just any where, suitable? You need to have a full Lego city for the parade to go by.

So my workforce and I designed an full Lego town — and when I say “my team” and I, that is just me and just one other person, Brandon Griffith. It’s just the two of us. That’s 1 component of it, and then making established pieces, also. The digicam doesn’t often emphasis on the background, so a whole lot of people today don’t recognize that most factors on the established are developed out of Lego. All of the signage is designed out of Legos, for illustration.

Very well, in advance of I get to what I guarantee you are more thoughtful questions, I have to question: Do your fingers hurt as considerably as mine do throughout prolonged Lego creating sessions? 

[Laughs] Perfectly, they’re applied to it, but there are a few calluses created up, way too. My fingers have been doing this for pretty much 20 a long time now, so they are utilised to it.

A parade scene made out of Lego from the season 2 premiere of Lego Masters.

Excellent to know! So how does your strategy to building features for the series vary from your approach to producing art on your personal?

It’s a diverse strategy on the show because I have a manager. Very well, it’s not actually a “boss,” but I have producers that occur up with tips that have to have to be designed in Lego for the clearly show. Whilst when I’m creating art, it is frequently just for me. Of course, I do function for consumers from time to time, but it’s extra of a resourceful course of action in that surroundings. With the demonstrate, it is more of, “We want this in this sum of time.” It’s that deadline that will make it so significantly distinct.

Functioning in television is quite diverse than doing the job on your possess time, mainly because when you perform on your very own, you can make a miscalculation and chisel it apart if it does not glance right. On the exhibit, it’s nonstop. And this yr was extra complicated, too. Period 1 was shot in Los Angeles, where by my art studio is located. It was just a couple minutes to generate from the set to my studio and back again. But Year 2 was shot in Atlanta. My artwork studio stayed in Los Angeles, so … a significantly extended push.

The difficulties in Lego Masters are normally so clever in the way they blend artwork and engineering. Can you get rid of some light-weight on what goes on driving the scenes when new worries are getting created?

There are challenge producers who appear up with the suggestions and we have a screening team as nicely. The problem producers come up with a strategy, and then it goes to the tests group to see if we can pull it off. And then there is a meeting to determine out how much time we should really give the contestants for that particular obstacle. We want them to be underneath strain, but we also want it to search cool. So it’s this delicate stability that can be tricky to retain sometimes, mainly because the contestants construct at diverse premiums and we want everyone to have something that’s visually awesome to glance at when they’re completed. But we simply cannot give them much too substantially time, because then there is no strain — no dramatic aspect.

That is a stability I consult with a large amount on. I do the math in my head of what it would consider to establish anything to match the problem and then cut down it by a handful of hrs to place that pressure on them.

Nathan Sawaya working on his art exhibit The Art of the Brick.

Making with Lego bricks is clearly your passion, but it’s also your career. How does that shape your technique to the get the job done you do and the art you build? 

There is some compartmentalization that goes on, for certain. I suggest, I never have any Lego in my residence.

Wait, what? You are saying I have additional Lego in my home than you — the most well known Lego artist in the globe — have in your residence?

Yeah! It is real! It is not that I really don’t construct Lego sets for enjoyable. I still build sets from time to time. People today nonetheless present me sets. Each birthday, I get some Lego from my dad and mom. I carry them to the studio.

When I’m making a set for fun, it is nice, though. It is therapeutic in that I really do not have to imagine, and I can just abide by a person else’s recommendations. But when it will come to my residence, I never preserve a lot Lego there. So yeah, I do individual it a minimal bit. All my Lego is here at the studio.

When I’m making with my young children, we every single have our preferred sorts of points to make with Lego. I like spaceships and aircraft and this sort of, and my daughter loves setting up scenes from reveals and flicks, for case in point. Is there a distinct sort of construct you seriously appreciate working on? 

I suppose so. I’ve been bouncing all around a little currently. Lego has this Lego Ideas line, and they are just really phenomenal tasks. They had a miniature grand piano, and it was a wonderful set to establish. But I do are inclined to lean on my roots as a youngster. So the Star Wars sets are often exciting. It’s no matter what catches my eye, truly. They did a bouquet of flowers recently, which I believed was a really good set, so I constructed it.

It’s also fantastic for me to see how they are applying distinct things and tactics, for the reason that they’re generally coming up with new components. When I was a child, it was just primarily rectangular bricks, but these times, there are so a lot of distinctive features you can use.

On that note, what is your favorite Lego ingredient to use? What’s the block you could not do what you do without the need of?

Almost certainly a 1-by-two jumper.

Which is a block that’s two studs lengthy, but with just a single stud centered on the leading, ideal?

Specifically. It lets you get a ton far more element in builds. If you are striving to create a stair-step curve, for case in point, you can get so a lot more element by heading a fifty percent-stud at a time as an alternative of a complete stud as you produce the condition you are heading for.

Effectively, one extra really essential problem for you: The rest of the world lives in worry of stepping on Legos without the need of footwear on, but is that even a concern for you? Have you evolved previous that distinct fear?

Well, it is unquestionably a matter to stress about, but I have stepped on so several bricks, I never even really feel it any longer. When I retain the services of an assistant, while, I make them wander barefoot through a carpet of loose Lego bricks to see how they do. [Laughs] No, I don’t truly do that. But seriously, I’ve experienced so many bricks under my ft, I truly really don’t really feel it any more.

So, in addition to Lego Masters on Fox, in which can we see your work? 

Alongside with Lego Masters, I have The Art of the Brick, which is on exhibition appropriate now at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. It will be there via the end of the year. And you can often go to Instagram to see some of my newest parts.

Season 2 of Lego Masters returns Tuesday, August 10, on Fox. 

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