The Brickman is a team of skilled LEGO® brick artists and craftspeople led by Ryan McNaught, aka “The Brickman” who never really grew up! Well that’s not quite true, he has twin sons, but for decades he has been playing with those little plastic bricks called LEGO®.
He is a LEGO® certified Professional, one of only 14 in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.
Originally from the corporate world, A Chief Information Officer; Ryan’s creativity was limited and bound by the constraints of his job, however the ability to express and create through a unique medium offered him an amazing opportunity, the ability to create something that both children and adults alike can be inspired by.
Ryan and his team have built some of the worlds most detailed and large LEGO® brick models, and even have the honour of being responsible for building models for LEGO® offices around the globe.
Having produced 4 global touring exhibitions and hundreds of models for museums, galleries and shopping locations around the world, there really isn’t anything that they cannot make out of LEGO® bricks.
Over the years Ryan and his team have won many awards for their works and they maintain a unique style which makes their creations some of the best and most recognisable in the world.
What got Brickman into LEGO® and why?
Ryan’s first LEGO® set was when he was 3 years old, and he really loved the ability to make anything from his imagination. His earliest memory was building a little ship sitting at the feet of his Grandad in his awesome big reclining chair. He loved LEGO as a kid, it’s all he used to ask for at Christmas time. He didn’t have a lot, so the LEGO catalogue was always well worn out with his flicking through the pages!
Was there anyone who influenced Ryan to make various LEGO® related items?
Ryan got inspiration when he was young from all sorts of places; TV shows, books, things that he liked. For example he used to make lots of things from Cartoon shows when he was younger. So it wasn’t anyone in particular that influenced him- it was more the subject matter
The brickman at 8 years old
How long have you been building with LEGO®?
I started when I was 3 and stopped when I was about 14 or 15. I didn’t start playing with it again until I was 35.
How did you come to deal with LEGO® at a professional level?
I was the CIO of a media company and was working on LEGO® Mindstorms (the robotics in schools program) and was intrigued by the combination of LEGO® and technology. I met a few folks who work for LEGO® and then started to collaborate on some projects together.
They had only recently started up the LEGO® Certified Professional program and with no one represented in the Asia-Pacific region, they suggested I put together a business proposal and apply for the program, which I did. That was over 10 years ago now!
What's it like building LEGO® as your career?
Awesome, I’m very lucky, it’s a great career and every day has many new challenges.
How long does it take to build one of your LEGO® sculptures?
It all depends on how big one of the sculptures is, some we can do in a day, some take many, many months of planning and building.
What colours and which kinds of LEGO® bricks do you prefer for your creations?
My favourite LEGO® piece is the classic 2×4 (2 studs wide, by 4 studs long) brick. It’s just so simple, iconic and versatile. Plus it comes in loads of colours which helps! White is by far the most common colour we use- we create a lot of architectural models and vehicles and white is the usual colour. That said, we’ve used just about every colour LEGO® makes at some point in our models. I’ve made a huge orange helicopter, a dark blue TARDIS from Dr Who, two life-sized cars as well as life-size animals using a variety of natural colour and earth tone bricks.
What was your first LEGO® sculpture and how many pieces did you use?
“Sculpture” is a loose term, but one of the first things I built when I got back into LEGO® was a small Flinders street station, which was about 75cm long.
What's your motivation to build with LEGO®?
It’s a creative medium; its not he motivation to use LEGO®, but rather the outcome I get that I look forward to. LEGO® is just the medium which makes what we do cooler. There are also a lot of limitations with LEGO® that make building with it a challenge- which is why its fun!
Do you have a LEGO® collection of sets, if you do what are your favourites?
I don’t really have much of a collection as I much prefer to build my own things, but I do have a few small sets, especially the Modular buildings, Creator Expert cars and Technic sets.
Where do you get your LEGO® pieces from and how many pieces do you think you have?
All of our LEGO® parts come from LEGO directly, as we do a lot of work with the LEGO company, we have access to a lot of bricks. We like to think of ourselves as the best customer LEGO has! It is safe to say that we have the largest LEGO® brick inventory in Australia, at last count it was over 5 million bricks!
Where do you build - do you have a special room?
We have a dedicated workshop where our team all build from. It’s a LEGO® lovers paradise.
How do you store and organise your LEGO® pieces?
With great difficulty! We have our bricks and plates organised by colour first, then type and size. The smaller parts are organised by type and function ( all the clips are together, the SNOT bricks together, etc) into smaller boxes.
Organising LEGO is a task in itself and in fact we have a dedicated Inventory Manager to help keep it well maintained!
Do you glue your LEGO® models together?
Sometimes yes, as we have to think about safety and transport. Our models don’t need glue to stick together, but given their size and scale we have to think about how much they would hurt of they fell on you.
How do you transport your LEGO® models?
We usually have purpose built shipping crates built for each model or sometimes built so that multiple models can be housed together. The have padding and even seat belts to keep the models inside safe!
When doing commissions, how long do they take?
Well that really depends on how large your item is, how detailed it is and what other work is currently underway. I usually have parts in stock for all but the most extreme jobs or jobs which require unusual colours.
How much do your models cost?
Prices vary dramatically based on your requirements, usually mosaics start at around $400 AUD, and go upwards from there. Individual models are based on size and complexity, a good rule of thumb is models up to 30cm in size cost several hundred, items up to a meter in size are in the thousands and items over a meter, well you get the picture.
What is the quality of your work like?
I only use 100% LEGO® in my models, I do not use any other inferior products. Based on your requirements, some models may have internal steel structure and can be glued. Quality is at the forefront of everything I do.
Do you run LEGO® events?
Not myself. I have partnered with companies and museums to create shows and one-off pieces that form part of events. Brickman Exhibitions is a separate business that started to create and run exhibitions of my work. They now have exhibitions of our work touring around Australia, New Zealand and the world, with even more on the way!
Have you won any Awards for your LEGO® creations?
Yes I have been very lucky and won a few, winning the best in show at Brickvention – Australia’s Largest LEGO® show twice, and also finishing in the top 4 at Brickworld, the USA’s largest LEGO® show. In July 2011 I was lucky enough to win best MEGA creation at brickworld in Chicago for my 250,000 piece Love Boat model.
Do you sell LEGO® parts and sets?
No I do not, retail stores & LEGO® shop at home are your best bet for purchasing sets with LEGO® shop at home offering a great Pick-a-brick service.