Interview with brick artist Nathan Sawaya

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It is an honor to present my interview with New York based brick artist Nathan Sawaya. I could not believe my eyes when I first discovered his work. I was intrigued by his use of details, colors,concepts and ever evolving style, all of which was just visually and creatively amazing. With no further ado here is what we talked about. Enjoy!

What is your earliest experience like discovering Lego and when did your interest in becoming lego artist start?

I had LEGO bricks growing up.  When I was about ten years old, I asked my parents if I could get a pet dog, and when they did not get one for me, I created a life-size dog for myself out of LEGO bricks. It was an early turning point in my art career.

As an adult, I created artwork using more traditional media such as clay and wire.  I had also done a series of sculptures out of candy.  A few years ago I thought about his toy from my childhood and challenged myself to create a large scale sculpture using just LEGO bricks.  It was well received got a strong reaction from friends and family.  
I continued working with bricks as a medium, and it has led to my current career as the brick artist.



How was your learning experience when you first started and how have you evolved from then and now.

One important part was learning how to glue bricks together. I had found that although the bricks snap together just fine, I needed to glue them together in order for the sculptures to be shipped and arrive in one piece.  Museums get grumpy when they open up a crate and just fine a pile of loose LEGO bricks (some assembly required). I had to figure out how to use glue without taking away too much from the look of the bricks. It took a while to master gluing the sculptures together.

Besides the beauty and creativity surrounding Lego, what do you think is the essence of Lego.

Possibilities. There are many reasons why I use LEGO, but the foremost reason is that LEGO bricks let me create anything I can imagine.

I wanted to elevate this simple childhood toy to a place it has never been before: into the fine art galleries and museums. I appreciate the cleanliness of the LEGO brick.  The right angles.  The distinct lines.  
As so often in life, it is a matter of perspective.  Up close, the shape of the brick is distinctive.  But from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines change to curves.  That is what drew me to the brick.


Your works are very detail orientated. What is the creation process like and what is the average time you spend on a project.

Essentially there is a similar process for each sculpture.  It starts with inspiration and an idea.
  
Inspiration comes from everywhere.  Many of my works center on the phenomena of how everyday life, people and raw emotion are intertwined.  Often my art is a reenactment -of my personal feelings. 
I am inspired by my own experiences, emotions and the journeys I am taking. I also try and express my emotions through my art.

Once I am inspired I draw out my idea.  I am always carrying my sketch pad so that I can draw out my ideas as they come to me.  Before I start building, I try and plan out as much as possible.  I want to envision in my mind what the finished sculpture will look like before I put down that first brick.  

As I start building, I actually glue the bricks together as I go.  This involves painting a little bit of glue on each and every brick.  If I make a mistake, well, I'm good with a hammer and chisel.

Once the sculpture looks the way I had envisioned it, I know that I'm done.

The timing of this process is different for every sculpture. A typical life-size human figure can take up to 2-3 weeks to create.


What has been your most challenging project so far.

Every project has its own challenges.  Any time I am doing a human form, I struggle with making it look correct. 
It can be challenging to use these small rectangular bricks to form the curves of a human body.It is a step by step process to make sure the sculpture looks right.  

One of the most challenging sculptures was a human form sculpture titled "Pushing Against". The figure needed to stretch over 8 feet tall so that when sitting on the floor it's hands we're pressed against the ceiling.

One of my more ambitious projects was creating an entire billboard that hung in Hollywood, California.  
It measured over fifty-three feet long and fifteen feet high.  I used over 500,000 individual LEGO pieces to make it.

One of my biggest sculptures is a skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  It measures over 20 feet long and took me an entire summer to build.  It is currently on tour in Australia as part of my exhibition, The Art of the Brick(R).

What is the most important factor to you when working on a project.

Color.  It is importantly to use the right color.

What do you try to communicate through your art.

I want to captivate people for as long as I can keep their attention. Certain works may have different messages. 
The message of my artwork depends on the particular piece. Each piece has a different story.  
For instance my sculpture, The Courage Within, is about the transitions one can go through in life.  Specifically, the metamorphosis I went through in my transitions from attorney to artist. 
The fact that the sculpture is built out of a construction toy and the store behind the sculpture is about re-building oneself is additive to the interpretation.  


What else are you passionate about besides Lego art.

Cooking.  I like to cook.  If I wasn't an artist, I would probably be a chef.

Favorite spot in New York.

Clearly, my art studio.

What is the perfect working mode like when working on a project.

I go into a trance-like state when I am working. I don't know if it is perfect, or even healthy, but so far it works for me for making art.

In your opinion how will you define creativity.

It is all creativity. Everything is creativity.  You can find it with almost very action.

What do you like most about what you do.

Watching people viewing my artwork for the first time. I enjoy seeing people’s reactions to artwork created from something with which they are familiar.  Everyone can relate to it since it is a toy that many children have at home.





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