Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Curious Question

Looking back at some of nnenn's older models on Flickr, I came across a commenter who asked:

"So, what do you do after you build a model with painted parts?" The commenter made a couple of snide suggestions of what can be done with a part after it's been defiled (my word, since that was really what he was saying).

The quick answer is that you use the parts again later in future models. Duh!

What do you do when Lego releases a popular part in a new color? You use it to death.

The real question should have been:

"What do you do with your painted parts if Lego later releases their own version?"

Again, the quick answer. You save money by not buying the Lego version since you already have one that works.

Purists are funny.

Pressing Forward

With the grieving mostly behind me (we have the luxury of short mourning periods that widows and children cannot posses) I am looking to move on. I have my an idea or two for building a tribute for nnenn, but since I do not like doing what everyone else doing (most of the time) I will be doing something a little different. Probably not better than anyone else, just different.

Then, I have a long-term project I would like to get cracking on. It could take months to complete and I may have to pause it from time to time to build something else to keep my photostream fresh and somewhat active. I'm pretty excited about it. It is certainly something I can do, I just have to stay motivated. It is not a difficult project, just long-term. It may require some focus (shiver).

And after that? Well, if worse comes to worse, I have plenty of sketches to work from if I have to.

He's Gone (Part Two)

The closest person to me to have died was my Grandmother when I was very young. I remember her being on breathing machines but we would take long walks anyway. I remember her in the hospital, just shortly before she died, lots more machines were attached to her and she was very unhappy. She died shortly after. There was no funeral that I know of. I've never been to her grave, if there even is one.

To this day I have not experienced death of anyone close or even been to a funeral. I've never seen a dead body.

nnenn was the closest thing to a friend I've had in a long while. I do have other close friends but we have grown apart as jobs have changed and the miles between have grown. I doubt that nnenn thought of me as a friend. I had nothing to offer him, I only took. But as my teacher, of sorts, I latched onto him very quickly and refused to let go.

I did not like everything nnenn built and shared with us. I did not understand or agree with everything he said or believed. But he taught me a lot none the less and I wanted more. A part of me wanted to impress him.

Now that the initial shock of his death has passed, I find myself somewhat lighter than I was before. He is not here for me to impress or to be motivated by. I have to do it all for myself again. I have no style of my own, no clever techniques (well, maybe a few, but they are not very impressive), and no direction.

Just build and hope it is enough to get me to the next model.

I do not enjoy the building process as much as other people seem to. I enjoy the finished product. The process just gets in the way of end. nnenn's simple builds were a godsend for me. By building like he does, I was able to build more in a single month than I had built in ten years. I did not like everything that I did, but some of them were actually really good.

Because of nnenn, I was able to build them. Because of nnenn, I will be able to build many more models in the future and some of them will be great.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On the Trail of nnenn

A long time ago, their was a builder on Classic Space Forums who "broke onto the scene" with a rather large quantity of micro-scale MOCs. I was not impressed by micro-scale at that time, but the designs and colors were great. That builder only left four posts before before vanishing.


The link he posted there is long dead, unfortunately. We have no record of the micro ships that he shared. They might be in his Brickshelf folder, but we may never know if he transferred them over or just deleted them. He was photoshopping some of the colors back then, so who knows?

When I came back from my lengthy hiatus a couple years ago, I tried to track down this natenielson and found an artist's site by the same name.

nnenn's art

I sent out an email to an address I found on the site, hoping it might be the same person. I wanted to apologize for my rudeness in his CSF thread and invited him back into the community. I never received a reply and nnenn never let on that he either received my apology nor that it was, indeed the same person.

It is funny that all along, his identity was right there. People keep saying he broke out in 2006, but that CSF posting was in 2005, and he was already wowing people even then.

I've got more to say, but this hard for me.

He's Gone (Part One)


I have Flickrmail pages of discussions that nnenn and I carried on. He convinced me to share my topics with the general Lego community on Flickr. Not because he did not enjoy our discussions, but because he feared that the topics were just too big for two people.

I was on hiatus from building for about three years (or more) and when I came back I was largely directionless. When I "discovered" nnenn's work, I decided very quickly that I was going to build like him. I did not want to build what he builds, I just wanted to figure out how he got the smooth shapes and great colors and, more importantly, how he was coming up with all of those unique designs.

nnenn was an awesome help. I tried not to be too clingy, but he was like a big brother to me.

Yeah, a 35 yr. old adult in need of a big brother. Hey, I've got some issues. An only child, only one person in "real life" that I consider a friend, not many people around me who can carry on an intelligent discussion with me...I found some sort of kinship with nnenn and I wanted to milk it for all I could...hopefully without choking the poor guy.

His community starfighter cockpit box was my opportunity to build simple things with some semblance of a plan. He did not steer me toward my month long build challenge, but he certainly had everything to do with it. With quips like these:

"The more you build, the better you get."

"The more often you build, the faster you get."

Better and faster? And all I had to do was copy his cockpit design once a day and add some wings and guns to it? I could do that...couldn't I?

And so I did it. And everything about design, Lego construction, and techniques changed for me almost overnight.

I'm still sloppy, but thanks to nnenn, I can only get better.

And now he's gone.

He'll never see the fruits of his labors bloom in the sun. His children will never know the effect he had on me. His wife will never understand why I shook and cried when I began reading through the announcement on The Brothers Brick.

There are precious few people in this world who have had a lasting influence on me: my grand mother who taught me to put puzzles together and took me on walks through the woods almongst ferns that were too tall for me to see over, my highschool English teacher (who was also my teacher for modern mythology and creative writing and also the head of the school magazine that I was a part of) who taught me to see details and to write what I know, and my youth pastor who was a father figure that taught me how to forgive and to accept people in spite of all their faults, and now nnenn, who taught me to disregard the acceptable rules in art and design, to produce as much garbage as you can as quickly as possible so that you can find the gems...

But, he's not here anymore.

I love ya, man, and I'm gonna miss ya.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Time for Something New

March 6 was my last model posted on Flickr at this time. It has been well over a month. I have a couple of new WIPs in progress, but that does not help get something new posted.

I know that a lot of builders are all about quality over quantity, but there is something to be said about simple builds that help a person stay in shape, so to speak. You can spend months or years tweaking and refining a design and not get any other works done. That is not very fun. I would rather let a few WIPs sit around and collect dust and eventually get cannibalized than not build anything at all. Letting an entire month go at a time is kind of a bummer.

I have a very intensive project in mind, but it will require that I build other stuff along the way if I want to keep my photostream fresh. Simple stuff. Fun stuff. I like a nice, solid, and detailed model as well as anyone but the more effort that goes into the build, the more work it becomes. Work is not fun.

Lego as Art

This post is inspired by an ongoing discussion on Flickr regarding what is art. This is actually a tangent of a different topic that started the whole discussion off, but it is at least more interesting to me in this incarnation.

Two interesting phrases have come up:

"I don't get this whole Lego as art thing."

"If the Mona Lisa were done with Fruit Loops, it would have a different meaning."

Both phrases miss the point. Lego is a medium for art. Whether you like the results or not is your own opinion, but art is art, no matter what was used to make it. Changing the medium of a sculpture or painting does not change the meaning (most of the time, some very clever artists can do that if they want to), only its value from one person to another.

I understand that this is one of those arguments that can not be "won". People have their opinions on what art is as well as what good art is. Still, it does not hurt to share opinions on the topic from time to time.

Vanity Pics

So, I finally sorted some more parts again and we managed to move some furniture around which allowed me to set up a photo shoot of my collection.


Not much to say about it really. It is a modest sized collection compared to many of the other long-standing builders. However, I certainly have a huge collection compared to most of the younger/newer builders.

I am happy to sit in the middle ground with my mediocrity.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Taste the Rainbow

Lego is full of color.

Lego is largely marketed to boys.

Lego is just barely touching the iceberg of their potential.

For the past few years Lego has had a license with Ferrari and this past year Lamborghini. The sets are nice enough, though somewhat plane.

The Lego Racers line has been a strong force on the shelves, but I suspect it is losing steam.

Other random cars show up in the creator line and the city line, but they are often safe models with obvious colors and features.

What Lego could do is put the full force of their color pallet to use in a line of fairly detailed/accurate minifig-scale cars and trucks (and planes and helicopters...whatever). The Hot Wheels brand is not afraid to take chances with its die cast car line. The line is certainly marketed to boys but you will find pink cars, purple cars, pink or purple windshields, any number of colors mixed and matched, so long as it is "cool".

The Lego mini racers are close. But it is time for Lego to really cut loose on their cars. A single new line of automobiles to appeal to all ages and tastes. Bring the full power of the Lego rainbow to bear down on it. Black cars with purple highlights and trans-purple windshields, white cars with pink highlights and pink windows, engines sticking out every which way, exhaust pipes all over the place, and mini figures with matching prints and helmets.

Just look to Hot Wheels, take out a license even! Whatever it takes to really go crazy!

Personal Design Improvement

For a long time I've had some works in progress sitting around collecting dust. I've mostly been a slow builder from the beginning. For some builders, the slowness is a tactic used to improve and perfect their models, but for me, I am often just slow at finishing the darn things. I also have this strange need to have finished work to add to my catalog so if a project is taking too long to finish I tend to move on. It is very easy for me to acquire several multi-year old WIPs and only actually produce a handful of finished models.

So, when nnenn offered up his starfighter cockpit box frame to the general public to fiddle with in the spirit of the train heads, I took it upon myself to embark on a challenge. See, once you have the box frame done, all you have to do is add some wings, engines, and guns, and BAM! You have a starfighter. The box is small enough that you can easily finish one a day, sometimes more. So I did one a day for a month. By the end of the month, I was a different builder than when I had started.

I have a host of new strategies to finish a model, to decorate a model, to present a model, and most importantly to design a model. Towards the end of that month, I had begun to draw out ideas. This led me to purchase a small spiral-bound drawing pad and I am about half-way through it. I have hundreds of illustrations in that book. Everything has changed for me.

Now, if I could just get motivated and STAY motivated, I could really pump out some half-way decent models on a regular basis.

I would love other builders to go through a similar process. Maybe we could get away from some of the fads that just won't die.

From Fan to Employee

No secrets here, this post is directly inspired by Mark Stafford.

I love him and hate him at the same time.

I knew the name of Mark Stafford from Lugnet, but once I came back from my hiatus I had either forgotten or never knew that he was also Lego Nabii, or just Nabii. I even posted on Classic Space Forums how I had "found this awesome builder on Brickshelf named Nabii, You guys ever heard of him?"

Anyway, imagine this scenario: you are an AFOL of some renown within the community. Your models are very original and detailed. You can build just about anything. You get an offer to work as a designer for Lego. Of course you are going to take it!

Suddenly you are working for two masters.

The one master is your own creativity. The other is the company. For whom do you offer your best work? Yourself or your boss? Can your boss tell if you are holding back for yourself?

If you know anything about design, then you know there is a lot of offerings and a few winners. I don't follow Brick Journal, so I've missed Mark Stafford's incite to the Lego design process, but I imagine there are reams worth of pencil drawings for things that have never been produced. The company owns those images. The designers can not go home and build something they saw in the Lego files or drew out at their desk as part of their assignment.

How hard it must be to design stuff all day long for one master, then go home and find that all of your ideas for the day are gone. Maybe on occasion you can draw something out for yourself, even build it! But you have to be careful to make sure it is not something you will be fired for.

For instance, Mark Stafford has taken some officially released models and "improved" on them after their release. Any fan can do so at any time. But does an employee have to make sure his "improvement" does not challenge Lego's copyrights on file?

Regardless of how lenient or tight Lego's restrictions on their designers are, it can not be easy to be a fan and designer at once.

Then we have the marketing.

Mark Stafford is a name we can trust. But as a fan, he might be just as excited as we are to get his hands on the latest and most awesome sets. After all, designers might have access to a few things that the average fan does not, but they still have to wait for official release dates before they can buy the sets they designed, and therefor pad their personal collections with the latest parts and colors. Also, as a fan, a designer will want to tell everyone all that they know as soon as they can. Thus we get what is essentially a marketing blitz from Lego designers who happen to also be fans: they love the product as much as any normal fan, but it doesn't hurt to share "inside" knowledge and boost excitement just a little bit more.

Already, Mark Stafford is promoting the next "big thing" from Lego that he is working on. Sure, it's just the word "secret" in list in the middle of a paragraph, but it's enough to make his (and Lego's) fans salivate over the eventual forthcoming inside scoop. He knows this. Lego knows this. The fans know this. It's a symbiotic relationship.

So, yeah, I love him and hate him. But what can you do right? I can't wait to see what he's been finalizing these past months.

Suspicions for the Coming Year

I think we will be seeing a third release of the new Space Police. It borders on the inevitable. Another season of white. There are so many other color combinations to play with. So many colors in need of expansion. However, I am looking forward to the summer 2010 sets, they have Mark Stafford written all over them. At least the limo and the police ship do, not so sure about the base, but the ground vehicle and the blue dome windows are delicious.

Thankfully we have a couple of nice models in the Power Miners theme. For a long time I could only loath lime. It just seemed hideous. However, it has proven to be a nice color after all. Now if we could get some more parts in that color we will really have something going. Unfortunately, I suspect Power Miners is at its end. On the bright side, maybe we will see a new theme expanding another color that is lacking. Also, who really needs more lime cheese vents right now any way?

I suspect, as many others do, that the Star Wars line will continue. I am not sad about this. I have not purchased a Star Wars set in a long time, but I would have liked to. The prices are often out of my range and sometimes the parts are too common to bother. The beauty of the Star Wars line's success however, lies in the potential new parts molded for it. They eventually appear in other lines/themes, often within the same year and that is only a winning recipe.

Hmm...Creator, Racers, Technic, Town/City, all still going strong. Even Bionicle, though it has now been relaunched as a new franchise with a new story and new characters will likely continue to do well. If only those silvery parts would be produced in solid grays...

Prince of Persia and Toy Story will likely not see new sets next year, but that's a long time from now. Well, not so much really, by August/September we will see leaks of 2011 sets, so not so far off I suppose. Still, you never know. Being a Disney license anything could happen. Would like to see some other Pixar stuff though...

Indiana Jones seems to be on hiatus, supposed to be a fifth movie in the works so we might still see more from this line.

Pirates is one line I won't miss. I was hoping to see some HUGE vessels on the shelves but that really didn't happen. Sure, there were a couple, but not like I was expecting. However, a Pirates of Caribbean knockoff could be interesting...oh boy, conspiracy theory! Lego has a Disney License. What if part of the deal was to nix the Lego Pirates line because other companies hold a license for PotC? Makes sense to me.

Lego Universe...we will see some sets come from this game, mark my words on that. There is no way in God's green Earth that Lego would design an entire digital world full of Lego creations without intentions of putting some of that stuff on the shelf.

So, we are left with Atlantis, I suppose. It is a very nice line. I do not think they could have made it what it is without the input of Mark Stafford. I can't help but to love on the guy. But be sure I have some words that will fly in the face of my apparent infatuation with the Lego fan-turned-employee. I wouldn't be myself if I didn't kill the things I love.

So that's it, I guess. The biggest things to keep an eye out on for the upcoming year is what will be replacing Power Miners and what will be coming out of Lego Universe. I think we are gonna have our socks knocked off.