For Brick Expo in Canberra this year, I wanted to make a MOC (My Own Creation) that tested out a range of new techniques and styles. Within one display I wanted to try to blend some of these styles together so that they complemented each other to create as realistic a looking a scene as possible.
For many of my builds I have wanted to make it look lifelike. LEGO lets you create large scale scenes quite easily (and cost effectively) but giving scenery texture to look realistic requires a bit more subtly and a lot more pieces. If you take a simple grassy area in the real world, you rarely find it to all be exactly the same shade of green. Real life has more depth and variety in the colours as well as more physical depth to the items. Very few items are actually flat, most have bubbles or bumps or scratches, or growths of moss or weeds. These are the sort of details I wanted to capture.
I felt that a scene set in medieval to early renaissance times would be the best era to experiment in. Most scenes from now or the future are too clean cut, where as something a bit older gives room for experimentation and creativity.
The scene measures 80cm by 40cm., which translates to 80 studs wide 48 deep. The scenes sit on baseplates, before rising up onto 16x16 plates to give a sturdy foundation for the model.
The story shows a medieval market beside a dock, all sitting in the shadow of a castle wall. The dock and market are busy with activity, and the King and Queen meet a visitor from far away infront of the castle gates. The scene features two large buildings, one a tavern by the dock and the other a house near the castle gate, which is offset from the normal brick axis. With the hope that it gives some visual interest and distinction
There is a great variety of height in the display, starting with the water, rising to the dock level, rising again to the market either through a staircase or along a wide path running against the Castle wall. The buildings are both two stories tall, and a tree pokes out from the back corner of the scene, behind the house.
The baseplate is framed by a simple brown wall, perhaps reminiscent of a picture frame, surrounding the greater image. All up, there are atleast 10,000 pieces in this display. Probably many more than that!
The design is not a recreation of anything in particular, but is slightly adapted from a CounterStrike map named Italy. I loosely mirrored the placement of the ramp, wall, stairs and house after this map although it would probably take a dedicated fan to agree with me.
After having come up with a rough design in my head, I used LEGO Digital Designer to estimate the scale and size, as well as some of the pieces needed. Some of the building techniques were improvised during design so I had no real way of knowing how many pieces I needed (or are in the final model). I estimated more than 5000 for the house alone, plus more than 2000 for the water.
I have spent the last year studying different techniques for building walls. One of the most interesting is an technique sometimes called Greebling.
This is where texture and features of the wall reach out in a number of ways. This is most common throughout my model with walls being made up of lots of pieces of similar tones or shades. Instead of using 10 pieces of one colour to create a wall, I use more than 100 of four different colours, with a few other colours popping in to give effect. On the house and castle walls this meant having patches of colours, giving an effect of worn paint or damage. Some times I would use jumper plates to inset a section of the wall, or brick to build sideways. Some areas have slopes instead of bricks, allowing for you to see beyond the first wall into an inner layer. Other bricks also allow for small sections of bricks coming out sideways, again creating a worn or damaged look.
Some of the walls also include plants grown into or out of them, again a look that I hope captures a more realistic feel. For the Tavern I used tan bricks set inside brown coloured bricks and palisades to create a sort of tudor house style walls.
The castle wall also features a top few levels using Brick Bricks, trying to show an area that is more carefully cared for than the rest of the castle wall. Perhaps a tad unrealistically.
You can see some of the inspirations I used in my Pinterest album.
The majority of the scene features cobblestone pavers.
I used a variety of different plates and tiles, some round, some large some small and more or less randomly placed them across the scene. Mostly these use tan and grays, with a few drops of dark red or orange and a couple of green studs for moss.
The floor isn’t flat or smooth like most LEGO scenes, with the underlying tan plate overlaid with various colours and depths, sometimes hiding it totally from view. I also needed to ensure that the final texture allowed minifigs to stand or sit on them. A few areas I have given priority to some colours over others and to give a different tone for the area.
I took a lot of inspiration from a few displays (I am sorry I can't remember the names of them!) which were at BrickVention in Melbourne this year, both in the technique of layering blue and transparent blue to give a good water effect but also in how water crashes against some rocks or other surfaces. I used Transparent Blue tiles in a definite pattern to give the illusion of waves or flowing water. A few waves ride up above the remainder of the water, again hopefully giving it a more realistic appearance
The water features two boats, one docked and the other in motion. The pattern of the tiles behind the moving boat fans out like a wake, and to further the effect I used different colour blue pieces spotted around under the water so that it stands out.
There are two different roof techniques used, one using 1x1 slopes (cheese wedges), the other using 1x1 round bricks.
The bricks are built into the walls in a technique I copied from the Palace Cinema set. They are held in place with bricks at the top, in a kind of hinged effect. I probably tried 10 different ways to build the roof and the top of the walls on the tavern, a few versions are shown below.
The roof itself also went through a few ways of being attached, but the final design was the most sturdy of the ones I went through so I built the walls up to support the roof. The roof is mostly dark red with a few brown ones thrown in to give some texture.
The wall is also not the same on both sides, with one side cutting in half way along, this also presented a challenge to work around. There is also a chimney also pokes out of the back of the roof. This was a late addition to the design but I realised that some additional vertical variety would help.
The cheese wedge roof is very sturdy, as the slopes sit on baseplates underneath the wedges. The underlying plates are mostly black, which I think helps with the look as a few black spoots peek through the roof. The wedges are mostly orange, but a number of different colours are used in small patches.
A few wedges also sit higher or lower than the ones around them, also giving a bit more variety to the look of the scene.
In my real world I am aspiring to be an interior designer, and when designing the space and laying out minifigs I tried to create different *zones*. This included the market area, the castle gate, the dock and the inside of the tavern. I was fortunate to have a large number of minifigs in the right colours and themes, but if you look closely there are a few sneaky pieces from different themes. Jedi robes work well as peasant clothing too.
The king and his guards are LEGO Castle sets and the Queen is from the Minifigures Series 15.
I also tried to build a few narratives across the scene. You can vaguely see a story of an ambassador arriving to meet the King and Queen, bringing with them a prisoner and riches from their land. However assassins lurk around the corner ready to strike. At the King, the queen, the ambassador or the prisoner? I’m not sure which.
My previous displays for exhibitions have been designed for portability. And it wasn’t until a week before the exhibition that I realised I didn’t even slightly cater to that in this display.
Fortunately, the base structure is so solid that I could easily carry it with two hands. And despite its size it isn’t heavy. I could remove the more delicate items and carry the rest in one go. The house is also held in place by only two studs, allowing for a modular-esq design.
The total model consumed my tan, dark tan, grey, dark grey and brown plate stocks. As well as most of my black bricks holding the frame together. Part of me needs to pull it apart to reuse the pieces. Part of me wants to keep it built, but I do hope to bring it to a few future exhibitions so perhaps the model will live for now, and I will force myself to replenish my depleted stocks. Whoops.
I have also given myself a base to build from. The model could be extended in almost any direction in a modular fashion. One way into the castle proper, another towards the ocean and perhaps a docked shop, another to the market and another to maybe a residential street.
Here is a link to the full photo gallery, and if you have any specific questions about the techniques I used I am more than happy to provide more information and photos.