The recent release of the 501st battlepack has taken LEGO Star Wars fans by storm. Many bought multiple sets containing the fan-favourite clone troopers for collecting, army building, and for use in their builds. While many built scenes starring the 501st troopers, landscape artist First Order Lego already completed their most iconic and memorable battle. The Battle of Umbara is regarded as the best four-episode story arc of The Clone Wars and is enough to elevate the whole series to Star Wars fans’ favour. In these episodes, the 501st struggle against the natives, the landscape, and even their own in a brutal war story. They showcase that the Republic are not the good guys, the soldiers are disposable, and that the war is pointless and harmful. Thus, people frequently compare them to the real-world inspiration: the United States invasion of Vietnam.
The 501st, led by Anakin Skywalker, advance through trenches and carnivorous plants on this elaborate against the Umbaran natives. The dark terrain and the eerie flora is visually striking, providing good contrast against the white armour of the clone troopers. First Order Lego uses many rubber tires to give a smooth and rounded look to the large spiky plants. Many bladed elements make up smaller plants, and even a few construction parts provide roughness to the landscape. In addition, various transparent parts dot the terrain, providing light and giving Umbara its signature “evil” look. While on the far side, the neon-lit road is a welcome change from the rough black wilderness.
First Order Lego also provides a time-lapse video of this battle scene coming together:
Most builders love a good challenge, but everyone loves free LEGO. Such was my reaction when my LEGO user group, Brickish, selected me to represent them in a build challenge. In this friendly competition amongst UK and Ireland-based LUGs, the task was to build anything using the parts provided in 100 LEGO Star Wars magazine foil packs. These were provided by Fairy Bricks charity, and contained 10 each of 10 small sets. I (Mansur “Waffles” Soeleman) challenged myself to take these small Star Wars models and… not build anything Star Wars related. There weren’t much of the usual grey bits anyway. So I had my next favourite thing in mind: microscale architecture.
I had no plan going into this build challenge. But the parts provided were surprisingly good – lots of small bits that I use in my building style. I knew I was going to surprised myself with the finished results, and I did, for such is the nature of any challenge. It definitely produced a beautiful build I am most proud of: The Voyage to Cirrus Palace.
Ah, nature. It feels great to get out of the house and stretch the legs, hiking strenuously over hill and dale to find the perfect vista by a babbling brook to soothe the troubled soul. Or, you could save yourself the strenuous part and just look at this beautiful waterfall built by Grant Davis, like me. From the smooth rock, comprised of larger elements not often seen in LEGO cliffs, and the hint of greenery at the top, all the way down to the sparkling blue pool and perfectly captured foam, it is a satisfying blend of the complexity of technique and simplification of texture and hue. While I do not envy the folks in that unfortunate boat at the top of the falls, I can at least reassure them that they are just falling into a pile of flowers.
If you love builds of waterfalls, check out the TBB archives of waterfall builds. Or if you just can’t get enough of Grant (and who can?), here are some more of his builds.
I generally don’t broadcast my vacation whereabouts to potentially millions of readers but since I’m back I can say I’ve just spent a week in a tiny home similar to this one. With nothing but my own amusing self to keep me company, I have a new appreciation for living minimally. Daniel Barwegen may know what I mean as evidenced by this LEGO shack. Multidirectional bricks, plates, and slopes make for some neat textures here. I really enjoy the barren trees here and the all-around rustic feel. In my tiny rental, I fancied myself as a rugged old hermit (gray beard and all) just like the minifigure here. He’s doing it right with solar panels. And just when I started to smell like a guy who lived in a shack in the woods, it was time to come back to civilization, car payments, Zoom-room meetings, mortgage, and all that. But would I do it again? Totally! In a heartbeat.
Most artists I know are usually intimidated by a blank canvas. That doesn’t seem to bother this painter adding color to an otherwise monochrome landscape, by Carter Witz. By choosing to make most of the landscape unpainted, Carter is able to use some great LEGO parts that come in limited colors, like teeth, claws, and horns, and even a few skeleton arms. Plus, as a bonus, the green frog serves as a large paint blob spilling out of the bucket. It’s a happy accident that Bob Ross would be proud of.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part was a fun and amusing romp that reunited us with our friends Emmet, Lucy, and LEGO Batman. More importantly, though it released a few sets that featured a new color; coral. It’s a pretty color but limited and potentially difficult in its use. But builders like Simon Hundsbichler step up to the challenge and do it with amazing results. There are only three colors in this creation: Dark Tan, Light Royal Blue, and the aforementioned Vibrant Coral. A mix of plates and tiles adds intricate texture to the ground while a variety of coral bricks makes for a vibrant splash of color. Simon has proven to be a master of the LEGO medium, even with a limited palette. We’ve been smitten with Simon’s build techniques and color choices before.
Perhaps it has been all this time indoors. Maybe it’s the fact that it has been raining a bunch, and I have small children who cannot be kept out of the mud by anything short of shock collars (which I have not tried, for the record). But when I see this build by why.not?, I get the feels. It’s sad and grey, with only dark and dingy colors, just like an afternoon of re-runs of Clifford the Big Red Dog with toddlers with rain pouring down outside. While I love the rocks made from the huge pieces, and the decrepit shrine is well done, too, it’s the rain that strikes me most with this build. The brick-built sky, with the slanting dark grey raindrops against the light grey clouds, is melancholy enough, but the dark tan water, with tiles inserted at differing depths to simulate raindrops plunking onto the surface, really brings the effect home. Golly. Are those really raindrops, or just my tears?
It’s a common practice to touch up LEGO images with a bit of post-production magic. Sometimes it’s knocking out a background that isn’t quite clean enough, or maybe it’s going the other direction and putting a galaxy behind your spaceship. There’s nothing inherently wrong with extending a build by giving things clarity or context. However, Marcel V. shows us that everything doesn’t always have to be “fixed in post”. Tearing apart is 100% LEGO, from the craggy landscape to the clouds on the horizon. And the photo itself is untouched, free from any editing.
The short focal length gives clarity to the foreground elements like the lone wanderer (and faithful canine companion), and adds an air of mystery to the objects in the distance. Are those vines (constructed from 1×1 round brick and dinosaur tails) responsible for the fractured rock? Are they just taking advantage of another calamity? Just how close is the horizon? Are those storm clouds or an onrushing menace?
A behind the scenes look reveals some of the complexities that went into this creation. It’s interesting to see the different layers of construction that combined so seamlessly in the final image.
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see more photos from these adventurer’s travels. There’s just something special about the practical nature of their world that speaks to me.
LEGO builders will sometimes look for ways to challenge themselves. Sometimes they’ll require that their creation includes a specific “seed part”, usually something that isn’t particularly easy to incorporate. Sometimes they’ll put insane time pressure on things, giving themselves a week, or even a day, to go from loose bricks to completed model. And then, sometimes, you get someone like First Order Lego who will create an entire diorama, based around a battle droid body, in just two hours.
In this scene, a murky river of transparent black elements runs between two peaks. Connecting them is a bridge, made up of those required droid bodies and robot arms. Green spikes combine with 1×1 flower plate to create a touch of vegetation. And there’s even a mountain fortress, rendered in miniature by headlight bricks and cheese slopes. Hard to believe this only took two hours.
You don’t have to take my word on the short time frame, though. Check out this awesome time-lapse of the build and see for yourself!
While not depicting any particular scene I can remember, Mountain Hobbit’sFishing Docks is clearly set in Middle Earth. The colour palette is consistent with the official sets, and Gollum lurking behind one of the trees on the hill is a dead giveaway. Let’s talk about those trees and hill though. The shaping of both is superb. Everything is basically sculpted using slopes and wedges. I really like the heavy use of pieces that are one brick wide on the hillside, giving it the appearance of being quite weathered. The curve on the rightmost tree is particularly well done, as it tells a story about how that tree grew: when it started growing, it wasn’t so close to the edge, but over time, its trunk grew thicker and the hillside eroded. Because of geotropism, the tree grew to point upward though, giving it the curved trunk we see today.
True story; due to an epic storm, nearly 30,000 bath toys were lost at sea, many of them “rubber duckies” (they’re not really made of rubber). While unfortunate, this event lead oceanographers and beachcombers on an odyssey to discover these wayward bath toys around the globe, thus proving that the oceans and currents are truly connected. You may read about it yourself in this book. I wonder if one of these yellow duckies has washed up on Anthony Séjourné’s otherwise serene bridge diorama. The ducky is comically outsized leading me to believe it’ll either destroy that bridge kaiju-style or at the very least cause a massive clog. Either way, it has made my day.
It doesn’t matter how tall are the castle towers or how thick are its walls if the scenery is nowhere near impressive. Keeping this in mind Peter Ilmrud sets his Western Gate by the formidable Zamorah Valley. Thanks to forced perspective the composition of the build really makes it stand out. Although the towers are pretty much identical, differences in the designs of the rocky slopes give the diorama a rather natural look. Make sure to note excellent use of several types of wheels in the designs of the towers; this is something I would love to borrow for my own creations!