Why LEGO? It is a medium that offers instant gratification. No matter how large a project is, at the end of the day, I can look at the section I've built in its finished state. LEGO is a one-step process; there’s no gluey mess, sanding, or painting to worry about. I just build. This gives me the opportunity, after each session, to assess visually how the piece is working as a whole.
LEGO offers a vast palette to work with. There are thousands of different LEGO elements, each available in an array of colors. With all the variety, I can create innumerable types of textures, which give each of my pieces a unique look. I can use elements to mimic bark, rotting wood, grass, weeds, roots, snow, mud, building ornamentation, endless varieties of rocks and boulders, and on and on. All this can be done using only black, white, and two grays.
While the bank of elements to choose from is vast, LEGO is still a finite system with its own set of rules engineered into each piece. Additionally, the rigid plastic generally does not bend. This stiff, prefab, one-step system comes at the cost of the precise detailing that an artist expects from wood, metal, or clay. However, what I enjoy about that constraint is the puzzle-like thinking that is needed to work out new solutions for detailing. It is enjoyable to coax and manipulate pieces together by using clever combinations. Other people are shocked to see well-combined elements come together in ways that do not seem possible, given the system’s boundaries.
For me, this means transforming hard, plastic, mechanical forms into objects that seem impossibly organic and natural. I seek out the relatively few pieces that bend and use them to round out and give a flow to the elements with hard forms. In this way, my works tend to reach new realms of expression. For example, in Victorian on Mud Heap, I connected long, bendable hoses to the base and let them curve up toward the house, connecting at the porch. These hoses then served as the skeleton that I built “mud” on top of. While the mud looked like it was made with a large pile of LEGO elements haphazardly spilled on each other, in reality, it was a thin layer of connecting LEGO elements propped up on hose scaffolding.
I enjoy turning this simple, familiar toy into expressive works of art. There is a shock of seeing this toy, so familiar to most, executed on such a serious level. The puzzle-like challenge of overcoming a strict, rule-based system to create works of beauty and meaning is especially attractive to me and always keeps me coming back for more.
While Doyle's subjects tend to be fictional, Smolny Cathedral (2012) © by Heath Flor is based on the actual Smolny Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia.
Two Story with Basement (2010) © Mike Doyle
Contact 1: The Millennial Celebration of the Eternal Choir at Ka’al Yne, Odan (2013) © Mike Doyle
Reproduced from Beautiful LEGO, with the permission of No Starch Press. © 2013 by Mike Doyle. Beautiful LEGO is available from Amazon.