If you ever watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, you probably thought that things like flying bison sounded cool. Because bison are cool, and things that fly are even cooler, right? Or perhaps you loved Fantasia 2000, with the flying humpback whales. Whales don’t fly, but wouldn’t it be neat if they did? Perhaps that was the inspiration Tim Schwalfenberg had, as he created this delightful build of one of the great flying whales of the Eastern Cloud Sea, carrying a passenger who could well be from The Last Airbender based on his looks. Rolled up cloth and vinyl elements make for a nice detail on the back, and I always love seeing barrels made from two half-barrels joined together. Add in a spectacular harness, and you have a creation ready to soar above some lands, gallivanting through some airwaves.
Ahead of Brickvention this year, LEGO Certified Professional Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught, challenged his team of builders to build whatever they wanted. Team member Mark jumped at the opportunity and built this magnificent scene dominated by a giant dragon. And while the dragon is the first thing you’ll notice, this creation really presents the story of a knight, Sir Warick. Or at least the final chapter in his story. I promise you he’s there, just look at the end of the beautiful spout of fiery dragon breath.
This next LEGO render is brought to you by a builder who goes by the controversial name of Hanwasyellowfirst. I know what you’re thinking; thems fightin’ words! But before you go on a righteous rampage it is important to know that there are very fine people on both sides. Now that I’ve squelched that potential disaster let’s take a look at this awesome creation. Based solely on this image, I can imagine this structure atop a craggy mountain in an exotic bygone world. I’m loving the rustic wood finishes and the ramshackle roofs. Brown owls used as gargoyles here are an inspired touch and increased availability of these elements make for some excellent uses. This is a brilliant piece but alas does not come in green yet. (Ahem…LEGO, are you reading this?) In my opinion, the most exciting aspect of this creation is it rests atop a rather small footprint.
A rearview reveals that the rooms within this mountain windmill are just as fun and just as haphazard as I had imagined. I can get lost for hours marveling at all the interesting and fanciful details this creation beholds. How about you?
LEGO is an art form. It requires precision placement of elements, meticulous thought, endless creativity, and a bold sense of the possibilities. Sure, you can build like a four-year-old, placing stuff willy-nilly and using any old color you please. You can also color on walls like a four-year-old, but that doesn’t take away from the frescoes of Raphael or Michelangelo. A build like this one by Marcel V. illustrates my point. There is a balance of composition, the cohesion of form, careful use of colors, and especially crisp photography. This is no child’s toy anymore.
This is not the first time I have written about a treehouse by Marcel, but this one has glorious limbs and even more glorious little rooms. The cheese slope roof looks great, and if you look close, every potted plant is constructed and attached differently. Don’t miss the book as a little roof over the door, too. My favorite detail might be the small table at the base of the tree, built of a combination of sorcery and twigs. The little pebbles arranged so carefully, stalks of grass, and even the soldiers posed loose give the build a much larger feel while still exhibiting a mastery of brick composition. After all, LEGO is an art form.
Most adult builders looked at the little goblin figures from LEGO’s Elves theme with some distaste. I suspect this was due to the bright colors and limited elements that make them up. I know I felt that way. They are difficult to fit into a build, even a fantasy one, because they are too cartoonish to be taken seriously. Given the right setting, though, perhaps they could be useful. Take, for instance, this build by John Snyder. Bright colors, like lime green grass and a purple wagon roof, tie the goblins and their garish hues into the overall build. The layout itself is unique, with large brick-built tomes bookending the multi-level scene. Plus, as always with a Snyder build, there are play functions. The small dwarf-elf (or dwelf, as the cover implies) is in trouble, about to fall through a trapdoor into the subterranean lair of the goblins. Could anything be worse than being captured by those almost-useless rainbow-colored creatures?
I’m a firm believer in the tried and true mantra, “good things come to those who wait.” While we didn’t know it, we had to wait a full year for this formidable looking fire gorgon built by Andrew Steele; that’s how long it took him to build the beast! It’s no wonder either, because at 1.4 m (4.6 ft) in length the fire gorgon is as big as some children! Building big allows for more detailing, and the sculpting of this creature’s body is phenomenal.
For folks like me, building people and other bipedal figures can be a bit difficult. I’d build them fine enough, but even the slightest shift in weight could result in a fragile creation toppling over, so often it’s just easier to build them with both feet planted firmly on steady ground. The end result is a little stiff but at least we’re not cleaning up a toppled LEGO mess. But Letranger Absurde has built plenty of human figures. Even his own humbler beginnings were admittedly a little rigid, but we are witnessing a great builder evolving into a greater one, as evidenced by this Red Sonja creation. Her proportions and fluidity of motion are suitable enough to grace a Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo fantasy illustration. The builder tells us that this is indeed his most difficult creation to date but the end result is absolutely worth the effort.
Here is another recent creation that illustrates how well this builder is evolving.
When I think of castles, I usually think of a grey structure, especially when the castle is built from LEGO bricks. There are only so many LEGO colors that look like stone, after all. Perhaps something tan would work, or black if the castle is for bad guys. And then comes Anthony Wilson, building a castle out of red and dark red. Those aren’t stone colors! What could he be thinking? It is called outside the box, I believe, and sometimes it even works. Given the Ninjago figures with multi-tailed canines and the transparent blue crystals, the red creates a beautiful fantasy atmosphere.
I’ve always admired builders who can do excellent round towers, and this is no exception. Someday I’ll have enough 1×1 round bricks to play like a big kid, too. The variation in colors is just right, and a 1×2 plate here and there creates a refreshing change in textures from the smooth 1×2 tiles. Don’t miss the stud shooters serving as broken crenelations at the top, or the wheel arch over the window. The slick round black base ties it all together and makes the presentation oh-so-sharp. Almost as sharp as those magical crystals look…Almost.
The only thing worse than your castle being attacked is surely your castle being attacked during the winter. I’m pretty sure Orcs siege engines toss more than snowballs. This enormous LEGO castle layout by Larsvader is a beauty, depicting an island fortress under attack by a terrifying army of Orcs. We’ve seen large castles before, but what elevates this model is the striking atmosphere created by depicting the castle in winter, with patches of snow blanketing the landscape, turrets, and rooftops. Just looking at this thing makes me feel chilly. Larsvader says this scene took 20 months to put together, but the effort involved more than paid off. The castle itself is excellent, with off-grid building creating interesting angles for the walls, and good use of texture and colours to break up what might otherwise be a large grey expanse. And the surrounding landscape is nicely-done, careful thought given to the layout, making the island feel like a natural strategic chokepoint — the obvious position for a stronghold.
The buildings and streets inside the castle are just as detailed as the surrounding walls. Take a look at this close-up image of what the town looks from minifigure eye-level. I love the stonework and wooden structural elements, but it’s the inclusion of mundane background details like the bakery which create the impression of a realistic castle during an extraordinary moment…
When it comes to making superb creatures out of buildable figure parts, no builder is better than Jayfa. From dragons to dinosaurs, monsters to men, Jayfa can build them all and make them look amazing. This latest creation is no exception. Called the Oracle Dragon, it has glow-in-the-dark antlers, spines, and eyes, along with the coolest mustache since Lando Calrissian. It was inspired by a stop-motion puppet, and does a great job of capturing the look. With the posability of the joints, one could feasibly use the LEGO model for stop-motion movies, as well. That’d be cool.
The wing elements from Legends of Chima look great as the tufts on the tail, and I love the translucent pieces on the underbelly of the beast. In fact, the whole color scheme is fantastic, including the splash of red on the back of the head. The antlers make interesting use of minifigure hands and flex tube for their unique shape (but don’t tell the purists, because I think the flex tube has been cut!). The best part of it all, though, is that face. I’m going to have to study the face to copy it for a dragon of my own down the line, because it is incredible, so simple yet so expressive. Curious what the eyes and antlers look like glowing? Here it is:
I love dragons. One glance through my own Flickr stream would show you that. I grew up reading books about dragons, watching movies about dragons, collecting pictures and sculptures of dragons, playing with dragon toys, and even writing stories about dragons. Some dragons are evil, others are good. This dragon by Jessica Farrell looks more like the evil variety, e.g. Smaug from The Hobbit, Fafnir from the legends of Sigurd, or the wyrm from Beowulf. Why do I think so? Well, judging from the picture, it is the type that gathers gold, guards it jealously, and gets attacked by resplendent knights. Plus, it is spiky and red and black, and everyone knows that spiky red and black characters are evil (hello, Darth Maul).
What I love about Jessica’s dragon is the size and setting. This is a large beast, probably fat from eating all those brave knights and the kings who once possessed that gold. The articulation in the tail and neck makes for a very natural pose, despite the hard and mostly rectangular nature of LEGO. The giant columns are also lovely, with the curved slopes making for good round shapes. That glittering golden bed, though, draws the eye like nothing else can. It looks like just about every gold piece, whether that is pearl gold, flat dark gold, metallic gold, or chrome gold, went into this dragon’s hoard (I’m not seeing any pearl light gold or speckle black-gold, but maybe I just missed them). This dragon has stolen crowns, as one might expect, but also satellite parts, the One Ring, and even Aquaman’s buckle! Plus everything else that’s gold. Jessica says that the model consists of precisely 7,416 LEGO elements, and it seems like half of them are gold. The dragon would know for sure how many, since they know down to the smallest coin what their hoard contains.
I’m afraid I missed out on Bionicle almost entirely, as it started getting big right as I faded into my dark ages, and was mostly gone when I came back out of them. It’s a shame, really, since they had some incredible parts and a wide range of colors for those parts. That being said, I have always been a classic LEGO System guy, largely eschewing Technic and the ball-joint-based Constraction style for the old-fashioned stud connections. I usually scroll through photos of LEGO creations and skip past anything Bionicle-related, in fact. But sometimes a creation of that sort is so good, so perfectly balanced and detailed, that I cannot help but admire it. Such is this Toa by Anthony Wilson. The colors pop with the trans-pink in both the crystalline base and the accents of the figure, and the pose as she strides across the base exudes confidence and swagger.
Sweet Mayhem’s starship’s windscreen makes for an excellent shield, ready to deflect any attacks from an enemy. The glinting pink eyes shine out from behind the Matatu mask in a menacing manner that befits her name, Tuyet the Tyrant. The textures of the base, with the spaced-out 2×2 tiles and the greebles beneath, complements the presentation perfectly, but the highlight of the whole build for me is the midriff, so sleekly captured with the shoulder armor piece. It evokes the exposed stomach of so many heroines of nerdy fantasy games and comic books, yet in a way that still says that she’d kill you without a second thought, and easily, too.