Kid Reporters

Brick by Brick

TFK talks to Lego artist Nathan Sawaya about his exhibition, The Art of the Brick
November 29, 2013
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Nathan Sawaya's Art of the Brick exhibition is currently on display at Discovery Times Square, in New York City, through January 5.

World-renowned LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya makes magnified and life-size objects out of LEGO bricks. His work is now being featured at Discovery Times Square in an exhibition called The Art of the Brick, in New York City through January 5, 2014. The show includes more than 100 sculptures inspired by people, architecture, art, and everyday objects. They are nothing short of amazing!

TFK Kid Reporter Grace Clark visited Discovery Times Square on November 20 to see the unveiling of Sawaya’s newest addition to the exhibit. The artist wanted to make something that paid tribute to New York City. He had a contest where fans could submit ideas for his new piece. The winning idea resulted in a sculpture of the new One World Trade Center that promises to resonate with New Yorkers and visitors from around the world. “I wanted to do something that captured the spirit of New York City, and this was the submission that caught my eye,” he told TFK. Watch Grace’s interview with Sawaya in the video below (or view it here), or scroll down to read more.

TFK:

How old were you when you started building with LEGO bricks?

NATHAN SAWAYA:

I got my first LEGO set when I was five years old, so I was pretty young. but I came back to it as an adult to take it from being a toy to being an art medium.

TFK:

When did you realize that building with LEGO bricks was more of a life passion than a hobby?

Nathan Sawaya poses with his latest creation for The Art of the Brick, a replica of One World Trade Center, at Discovery Times Square.
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Nathan Sawaya poses with his latest creation for The Art of the Brick, a replica of One World Trade Center, at Discovery Times Square.

SAWAYA:

I was an attorney, working full days at a law firm, and I would come home at night and need a creative outlet. So I sculpted out of different media. One day, I thought, “What about LEGO toys? Could I use those to create large-scale sculptures?” I started doing that, really found I was enjoying that, and made it my full-time career.

TFK:

What was your very first “masterpiece”?

SAWAYA:

Besides that house that I built when I was five years old, I think as an adult, my first masterpiece might have been my first big large-scale sculpture, which was really just a self portrait. I wanted to do something where I had a subject matter that was easily accessible. Fortunately, I could just look in the mirror.

TFK:

Could you explain the process of building a sculpture?

SAWAYA:

The idea is the most important part. Fortunately, I get to travel all over the world having exhibitions. While I'm traveling, I carry a sketchbook with me so I can jot down ideas as they come to me. Once I have the idea, I really want to envision the final sculpture in my mind before I put down that first brick, so I sketch it out more thoroughly on graph paper. As I'm building, I actually glue each brick together, so I paint a little bit of glue on every individual brick to make sure the whole sculpture stays together when it’s done.

TFK:

How long does it typically take to make a sculpture?

SAWAYA:

For a typical sculpture, let's say for a life-size human, probably about two to three weeks. It's a full process. I spend full days in my art studio—eight [to] twelve hours a day—just working with the bricks. A life-size human form is going to use about 20,000 bricks.

TFK:

Your work ranges from people to animals and art. How do you decide what to make?

SAWAYA:

Kid Reporter
Grace Clark

It's hard to decide what to make. Sometimes, I’ll have an idea, and I just want to create it right then. Sometimes, I'll have something in the back of my head that just sits there for months, and I’ll just play around with it. Really, I just focus on what's going to make me happiest.

TFK:

How did your work start getting noticed and seen by the public?

SAWAYA:

It's funny, when I started creating art out of LEGO bricks, nobody was really doing it. When I went to [art] galleries, they kind of laughed at me. Fortunately, things have changed since then. When I just started out, I put together a website, brickartist.com, so it became my virtual gallery where people could go online and see what I built. I think it was when my website crashed from too many hits, I realized it's time to focus on being an artist full time.

TFK:

Which masterpiece has been the most challenging?

Sawaya says one of his most challenging LEGO sculptures to make was this Tyrannosaurus Rex.
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Sawaya says one of his most challenging LEGO sculptures to make was this Tyrannosaurus Rex.

SAWAYA:

Each one has a different challenge to it. Some have challenges just trying to get the details of the subject matter. Others have challenges on size or scale. One of the most challenging pieces was the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton I did. It's a giant piece. It measures over 20 feet long, and it took an entire summer to build. So it was a long process, and I had fun with it, even though it was challenging.

TFK:

How did the Discovery Times Square exhibition happen?

SAWAYA:

I've had multiple exhibitions that have been touring around the globe. We've been in Australia, in Singapore, Taiwan, China, South Africa. We were contacted and we were able to do the largest solo LEGO art exhibition ever here at Discovery Times Square and put together a bunch of new pieces to create this entire exhibition.

TFK:

What do you want people to feel when they see your work?

SAWAYA:

This is one of many large sculptures by Sawaya featured in The Art of the Brick.
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This is one of many large sculptures by Sawaya featured in The Art of the Brick.

I hope when people see my art they are inspired. I want folks to go home and create on their own. I think creating art makes you a happier person, that's the most important thing. It also makes you a smarter person. Kids who are exposed to art do better in school. So if creating art makes you happier and smarter, it's not a bad thing, so let's all create a little more art in our lives.

TFK:

Are you always working on new pieces?

SAWAYA:

I'm always working on new pieces up here [points to head]. I always have new ideas.. If you go to my art studio, where I have four million LEGO bricks, there are always multiple projects going on.

TFK:

After Discovery Times Square, what is next for you?

SAWAYA:

Well, the best way to figure out what's next is probably just to follow me on Twitter or go on my website, brickartist.com, and see what I’m working on next. I don't reveal my projects until they are ready to be shown, so you will have to wait and see.


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