LEGO is a toy, true, but it's also a wonderfully creative medium. We've looked at a review of how people make films with LEGO. In this book, we see how some people do art with LEGO -- in a sensitive, beautiful story. This is a review of Art of the Brick by Nathan Sawaya.
Art of the Brick
Almost as much as I enjoy stop-motion, I enjoy art. Both things are connected, after all. It's no wonder that LEGO is present in both things, as well.
We've talked before, both here and elsewhere, on how LEGO fosters creativity in children and adults alike. Playing with LEGO improves children's creative, mathematical and even communication skills. Whether it is making their own creations or building LEGO-approved sets, there is a world of possibilities to explore. Whether it is a bucket of assorted LEGO pieces or a specific set, it gives endless possibilities.
As someone fond of LEGO, arts and books alike (and, of course, a writer), this book was an interesting choice to review.
Art of the Brick was written by and tells the story of one Nathan Sawaya. For those who don't know him, Nathan Sawaya is an American artist best known for his extremely detailed (and extremely beautiful) LEGO brick statues (although that is not all he does).
Sawaya isn't an employee of LEGO, however, the company acknowledges him as both a Master Builder and Certified Professional. A lawyer, he left the profession to work exclusively on his art and is acknowledged as one of the best LEGO builders in the world.
An Artist's Life
There is, of course, quite a bit more about him than just the bare facts, though. This is what Art of the Brick brings to us. This book is both art and autobiography, as it runs through the major events of Sawaya's life, interconnected with his artwork and the inspiration for the pieces shown in the book.
And what a story it is. It's a story of passion, of love, and of art, all intertwined. There is no doubt that Nathan Sawaya has immense skill in LEGO building; even the LEGO Group acknowledges this (though, in one of the early chapters, Sawaya explains how their first contact wasn't so friendly).
But there is more to it than just building, and this is what Nathan Sawaya explores in Art of the Brick. How life shapes us, and how the events of his life shaped his art. It's a story every artist knows. Whether they paint with oils, or write words on a typewriter, or build the vivid images in their heads with colourful plastic bricks.
All sorts of impressions
It's hard to review an autobiography, but this? This is definitely a good one. This book isn't about the technical aspects of the art, or how Sawaya uses his bricks. We do have some pictures of him in the process of building, but that isn't the point or the goal of the book. It showcases his work, but that isn't all it is, either.
This is a book about a man who risked quite a lot to become what he is: a world-renowned artist. A book about a man who left a cushy career as a lawyer to risk on the uncertain world of art. A man with interesting life-experiences (such as building skeletons for a natural museum), challenges (such as depression) and much, much more.
It's a beautiful book, both visually and in the words written in it. The images of the artworks are, of course, amazing. The art itself is gorgeous to look at. It's what made Nathan Sawaya famous, after all. But the words aren't very far behind. The simple style shows a much deeper man behind the artwork. Beautiful, inside and out. Honest, like only art can be.
This book is a walk through this one artist's life, from his house in Veneta, Oregon, to his art installations and artwork such as the Hugman spread around the world (now a LEGO Ideas project). From his relationship with Courtney, his wife, to the TV show appearances. The rejection and the rewards. The collabs and the commissions.
As mentioned above, it covers a rich life, with rich experiences, and even richer artwork, all from LEGO bricks. I greatly enjoyed the read (which I finished in a single afternoon). If you're a lover of art or a lover of LEGO bricks, and in special, if you love both, do check this book out.
It was a great joy to read it and to write this review as well. You can visit Nathan's website here: brickartist.com