Building your own Creations

Hey everyone, Matt Zwicker here with my first article for NewfoundLUG’s website! Naturally, as a LEGO group, our members all share a passion for the brick. Whether you’re a collector of minifigures or connoisseur of specific themes/sets, chances are you’re passionate about building.

Building with LEGO happens in many ways. The most common way is through buying a retail set, following the instructions, and building the model. However, one of the things that many of us Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL’s) eventually start doing is designing and building our own creations. These creations may come straight from our imagination, and are often based on things we’re interested in. That could literally be anything- existing themes like Star Wars, Superheroes, and City- or creations not covered under LEGO’s sets- scenes from you favorite books, films, video games, and much more. That’s the beauty and power of this hobby in particular- the pieces and bricks we use to build our sets can also be used to make something that’s uniquely ours.

In today’s article, I wanted to touch on some of the tips and methods I use when getting started on building my own creations (MOCs). I’ve picked these things up from other builders, but mainly through my own trial and error. Whether you are a seasoned MOCer or new to designing your own stuff, here are a couple tips to get started:

Build retail sets- This is something I can safely say that all of us do and something that is universally loved by LEGO users. It’s one of the best ways to get ideas and learn techniques that are used in official sets that you can pick up in Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, etc. It’s something I personally still enjoy doing and as a group, we’re always discussing the latest sets and releases by LEGO. It’s something we all love.

Modify retail sets- This is really the first way I started to build my own creations, and I think it’s a natural step for many of us. You might have built a retail set you really liked and you wanted to expand on that set. I remember building a LEGO set of a house and when I finished, I wanted to add to it. So I put a fence around it, then a tree, then a landscape, then a neighboring house, a street to connect them, and so on and so forth. It’s a really fun way to add to the set you have on display and it’s a common way for most people to start building their own creations.

Figure 1- I was inspired to build a hangar for the set 21109 Exo Suit (2014).

Find inspiration from others online- The adult LEGO community is massive around the world and there are a lot of online resources available for the LEGO fan. Just by Googling LEGO creations, you’ll be inundated with pictures of amazing builds that other fans have created. I’ll come back to this later, but this is a way you can pick up techniques and figure out unique ways in which others have designed a creation. There are even a number of great books out there that are dedicated to design techniques.

Key Sites/Platforms to check out: Flickr, Facebook, Intagram, Brickbuilt.

Check out other artwork– Let’s say you’re attempting to build something based off your favorite movie. Checking out concept artwork or screenshots from the film can help inspire you or show you the way something was designed. This can help you visualize the build or plan a layout of the scene you are trying to recreate, especially if accuracy is important in your build.

Organize your bricks– Not everyone does this but I’ve found it to be a really efficient way to build. I like knowing where every piece of a certain color and/or shape is located. And when I’m fortunate enough to get a “creative rush”, having my parts organized can really help capitalize on the idea and get into a groove when it comes to building. Failure to do so may lead to “Builder’s Block” (like Writer’s Block, but with Bricks!). Your time is best spent on designing and constructing your build, not searching through a tub of brick to find the right part you need.

Figure 2- My LEGO Room (2019).

Have a big idea? Start small first!– Sometimes I’ve had a really big idea in my head but realized I don’t have the pieces right now to do this, and sometimes I’ve given up on big ideas because I was having a hard time designing it. The most success I’ve had when building has been to start small- it’s really nice to complete a manageable build and have something to show for your work. It’s also a good way to focus more detail into a build without longing for pieces you don’t have. Detail work tends to suffer the bigger a build you have. It can be more emotionally rewarding to complete a small build to your liking than to have a Work in Process (WIP) sitting idle for months and months.

If you do have a big build in mind, breaking it up into smaller, more manageable sections is also a way to see progress without getting too overwhelmed.

Figure 3- I built this wall in separate sections so I could see some progress and complete each section one at a time (2019).

Use your imagination! – At the end of the day, whether you are looking at artwork or getting techniques from other people, your imagination controls what you design and build. Which leads me to my final point…

No right or wrong way to build a LEGO creation- Ultimately, the creation is yours and yours alone- there’s no right or wrong way to construct it. There will always be someone who builds or designs something that makes you say “Wow, I wish I could do that!” LEGO is all about having fun. The one thing our LUG does really well is remain inclusive- we give positive feedback and encouragement to all members. It’s never about how advanced or detailed a build is- it’s about uniting over a shared passion.

Figure 4- Abraxia Village by Matthew Zwicker

Hope you guys enjoyed the article. Are there any other tips and methods you use when building your MOCs? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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