We recently had the chance to sit down with Johan Alexanderson (LegoJalex) to discuss his building style and approach to the hobby. A part-time web developer, as well as a free-lance illustrator and comic book artist, Johan is 35 years old and lives in Sweden. Come with us as we explore the mind of a builder!
TBB: So how did you get into LEGO building?
LegoJalex: I started building about 5 years ago, after a “dark age” of about 15 years. I had a stressful time then and I really needed something to relax with, so naturally I started to build again. Building with LEGO has so many great memories for me and I really like the creativity involved. I think there are similarities with my interest in drawing and illustrating, where in both you have to think in a creative and artistic way.
TBB: I can see the similarities and it is a great stress relief. Looking through your photostream, one sees such wide variety of builds, concepts and techniques. How would you describe your style? What makes something a LegoJalex build?
LegoJalex: I would describe my builds as colourful, detailed and with a touch of retro and nostalgia. I also have a few themes that I usually build in.
One are builds that show some kind of environment where I include both background and foreground into a composition that covers the whole photo I then take. I try to make it look as realistic as possible, but I also try to keep it at a size that makes it possible to include interesting building techniques. The inspiration for these creations often comes from some kind of nostalgic feeling I get, and I try to somehow show that feeling in my build. The source of inspiration could be an older commercial from 70s or 80s that I see a video or a photo of, or a memory I have from a place when I was younger.
Another theme that I often come back to are MOCs of buildings that look abandoned (mostly from my own home town), which I try to build with a lot of details. An abandoned building I think is interesting since it can tell a story of something that has happened in the past, that you do not know of, but that you can imagine what it is about.
A third kind of MOCs are based on characters, mostly cartoon characters. Some of them I build simple, but in some of them I try to involve some kind of technique (like E.T. and Star Wars Bobbleheads).
TBB: Which of your builds has become the most popular and why do you think that is?
LegoJalex: Three of my most popular builds are “Kids room from the 80s”, “Classroom” and “Breakfast”. Personally these are the MOCs I am most satisfied also. Perhaps they got the most popular because of the composition, colours and design, which I think work well, but also because of the amount of details and building techniques. They also got an environment that I think many people can relate to.
TBB: Those are great builds and I can see the draw. I feel pulled in and immersed in them when I look at those builds. Personally though, I love your E.T. and the detailed scenes and backgrounds you’ve built for him. What were the biggest challenges in building the character and the scenes that go with him?
LegoJalex: For building the character one of the bigger challenges was to get the mechanics (elongating of the neck and the light in his chest) to fit inside the model without ruining the design. Another problem that came along with that was to make the model stable enough. E.T.’s head is quite big and heavy so because of that I had to make a design that didn’t make him fall.
The biggest challenge when building the scenes was to make it look like he was in a real living room. For example since the model of E.T. is quite big I had to build the environment in the right size and at the right distance.
TBB: Well, you did a great job. I also really like your style of photography. So many of your builds feel immersive, as I said before, like the viewer has been magically shrunk down and it actually there in the build. Can you talk about why you take photos of your builds that way and what some of the challenges of that may be?
LegoJalex: While I enjoy building separate models, I often feel that a whole scene built in LEGO can express much more. I want to make the impression of looking at a photo taken of a world made out of LEGO but which also look realistic. Some of the challenges are to get the composition of the scene the way I want it, which involves having the different built parts of the scenes at the right distance and position. It might look good from where I sit and build it, but when going down and actually taking a photo of it, it usually look completely different. After I have taken a photo that I am satisfied with there is also a lot of work in Photoshop to adjust the lighting and colours to give the photo the right atmosphere.
TBB: You do a great job. What are your thoughts about the LEGO fan community?
LegoJalex: I think the LEGO fan community is awesome. It is great to be able to share my creations to other and see what other fans are building. I haven’t been to many conventions, but I am active in the Swedish LUG Swebrick.
TBB: Outside of the LEGO hobby, what sorts of things are you interested in? What other hobbies or activities fill your time?
LegoJalex: I have an interest in painting and illustrating (mostly humorous illustrations with a lot of details), and have recently drawn and written a comic book for children (The Treasure on the Troll Island) that will be released in April. I also like to program web games. Apart from that I enjoy doing improvisational theatre and playing billiards.
TBB: I’m a billiards fan myself. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. What is coming up next for you?
LegoJalex: I recently finished building a 10 studs wide model of a Swedish Volvo car from the ’70s, and next I will be making some models based on my new comic book. Another project I have right now is programming a 2D platform web game that is based in the LEGO world. It will hopefully be finished in a few months.
TBB: Can’t wait to see it!