Mike Doyle is a serious LEGO artist who also curates some of the world's most epic LEGO sculptures. But he still got interested in the building blocks the same way most of us do: playing around.
"The idea to work in LEGO came to me five years ago after visiting Legoland in California," Doyle told me. "It occurred to me that LEGO could make a very interesting artistic medium." Once he returned to his hotel, he did a web search and realized that there were artists all over the world working with LEGO bricks.
As for what got Doyle hooked: "I enjoyed clicking those plastic pieces together."
Doyle's interest in LEGO led him to start making his own sculptures as well as promoting the work of others. His book, Beautiful LEGO: Wild, the third in a series, is out today. Not only does it function as a gorgeous coffee table piece, but it showcases the ability of LEGOs to act as an artistic medium.
Doyle searched both online and offline for artists who worked in this unusual form. These LEGO artists are pushing the limits of their materials, and that makes for surprisingly affecting work. These aren't just artworks that are cool because they're made of a bunch of tiny blocks — instead, they're beautiful in their own right.
"Every year works get more and more realistic and intricate," Doyle says. "As designers share techniques and images of their works online, they grow more sophisticated in achieving results that year by year redefine the medium's potential."
Some dizzying works of LEGO art include tens of thousands of blocks, carefully assembled to make a plastic mosaic. It's hard not to imagine these LEGO builders as modern day Seurats, assembling their art one brick at a time.
But Doyle feels LEGO art still has a long way to go. After all, art isn't only about intricate literal representations. That's why some of the more creative approaches to LEGO excite him the most. A cartoonish parrot and samurai monkey are steps forward for the art form because, instead of sticking to elaborate realism, they express something new, however comical it might be.
"The next wave of creations needs to tap into the world of ideas and emotions," Doyle says. "We need to see works that are more thought-provoking or emotive."
In that way, LEGOs have a lot in common with the rest of art. The materials may be different, but the search for new expression and artistic truth is exactly the same — even if it involves little plastic pieces made by a Danish toy company.