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LEGO Portraits

LEGO Portrait: Baby Kristina

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Admiring the Finished Product

Here is Kristina getting a first good look at the hardest LEGO Mosaic I’ll ever do. Why the hardest? That’s easy: it was my first. Many are the lessons I learned through the six month process. Six months?! Yes. Tina was a little over six months old when I decided to embark on the journey of me converting some of my creative energy into artwork through one of my life-long favorite artistic mediums: LEGO bricks.

When I first started the project I decided to work from my existing collection of bricks. If you keep in mind the fact that I acquired most of my childhood collection of bricks before the brick separator tool had been invented, you will understand part of why this was a mistake. That, and the fact that, since LEGO went to their new process of producing LEGO bricks a few years ago, there is quite a color difference in several of the colors (particularly grey and brown) — and since those colors were the ones that predominantly made up my mosaic…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Starting with the Photo

The night I decided to make a LEGO Mosaic (yes, it was kind of spontaneous), the boys were in bed, and I think Maria must have been at her ladies Bible Study. So, it was me and Tina and the camera. I  spent several minutes trying to keep Tina happy and snap off a good picture of her. Easier said than done. What I ended up with was picking the best out of a series — one where she was mostly smiling.

This is a very nice picture, but very dark. In the long run I would realize that I needed to have had some better lighting. But the key thing I was aiming for was Tina’s face — so I should have cropped a little closer for the overall mosaic, and had less black around the perimeter.

This leads me to LEGO Mosaic lesson number one: start with a good quality picture. (Even if it means setting up an extensive photo-shoot. On the fly, around-the-house, with poor lighting just doesn’t cut it.)

Messing around in Photoshop

I’m running an ancient version of Photoshop (Elements) that came “free” when I bought a scanner several years ago. At the time, I had not yet learned how to place photos into a pre-sized canvas to get the size I wanted, (and it’s actually a lot more complicated in Elements than it is in Photoshop CS3 — which I get to use at work) so I cropped around for a while until I got the dimensions I was looking for.

Next I created a set of swatches based on current colors available from the LEGO online store, to ensure that the colors I was using in the mosaic were actually currently available.

[Note: I had not yet discovered the wonderful array of free software available for converting images into bricks, such as PicToBrick]

Moving on to LEGO Digital Designer

Digital Designer is a great program freely downloadable from LEGO.com. I decided to take my image I’d created in Photoshop, and set it up in digital designer to use as few bricks as possible, and to get an idea of how much it would cost if I just straight up ordered the parts. This took a couple hours, though I was quite pleased with the prototype I was seeing in designer.

After I finished it and ran the nifty little “Check Price” function, I gasped for a moment, mentalizing the fact that  this is molded plastic we’re talking about — high grade, finely detailed, specialized plastic. Therefore, it must be remembered that to produce great art from great materials will be at great cost.

[Aside: Somewhere in here, though illogically in the chronology I’ve presented is LEGO mosaic lesson number two: Know your software and try to stick to one program. Of course  when you’re just starting out, it’s helpful to mess around with a number of methods until you find one that’s suitable to you. That’s what I was doing through this process, and the wonderful little life lessons I share with you are the things I say in hindsight.]

That’s when I decided to start with my existing collection.

Long story short: I ended up shelling out the money to create the whole piece from new brick, since the mixture of my highly played-with, partially chewed, etc., original collection stood out like a sore thumb alongside the new brick which I’d used.

At the end of the project, despite a number of things that could have been better (as mentioned above), I felt that the project was a great experience, though I’ll admit that I dismantled it and returned the bricks to their respective bins as fodder for my next mosaics.