Escaping the “Brick Blahs” with Birgitte

Understanding Categories and Insight Into the Creative Process

Have you ever wondered how some artists display such amazing creativity? Builder Birgitte Jonsgard took the time to share a few secrets and an interesting visual trick.

JD: Birgitte, how do you escape the “blah” to find creative inspiration?

Birgitte: Creativity is not the easiest topic to say something sensible about. It is such an abstract topic, but the theme is too interesting not to give it a try. Well, here we go…

Categories of Creativity

I find it useful to see creativity in Lego building as three different disciplines. Technical creativity – ways of putting the elements together, visual creativity – the style or look, and conceptual creativity – the idea or theme of the build.

Technical Creativity

Here are some examples of what I mean with the categories.  A common type of models are Lego versions of scenes, items or figures from movies, computer games, cartoons etc.  These require technical creativity, but as this is a common thing to do and the aim is to make it look like the original there is not much conceptual and visual creativity.

Conceptual Creativity

Another common thing to do is to build in a particular style, like using “the crumbling wall aesthetics” of castle builders. This requires some conceptual creativity to make a new scene and technical to get the look, but the visual part of it is pretty much set.

Lego models are often categorized as themes, and to stay within a theme can limit both visual and conceptual creativity.

– Birgitte’s LEGO “still life” is creatively contrasted with a classy gold frame. –

Having said that, I never think of this when I’m working on a new build. Ideas come more easily when I’m not self-conscious, and manage to remove filters like thoughts of how original the idea is, if people will like it, etc. I do, however, try to analyze what I’ve done after the model is finished. My motivation for building is the joy of getting ideas and turning them into objects. I post photos of everything, without any censorship regarding quality.

The Building Process

The fish is a fairly original build, and will work as an example for describing a typical building process. Like most of my builds it started with a vague idea, this one of a fish with a particular look. These ideas often need to be more defined, and drawing can be a tool in the process. As the model progresses it seems to become clearer what the vague idea actually was. The thing sort of becomes itself.

The fish idea was quite clear from the start and didn’t require any drawing, the challenge was more on the technical side.  When a model is developing and the idea becomes more defined, it can change slightly as new ideas appear and the reality of putting bricks together (or possibly my limited technical creativity) strikes.

When the fish was finished I tried to trace what inspired the idea. The fish idea is a mix of real species of ugly deep water fish, carp scales, goldfish tails, Earl, the piranha in Bud Grace’s comic, “The Piranha Club,” and color combinations in knitting patterns.

A Visual Trick

There was also a thought of trying to master a visual trick I’ve learned from a designer friend. The model has two different parts, the aggressive brightly colored head and the softer looking, pastel colored body. When done right such differences can compliment each other.

So, I can describe a creative process and say something about LEGO and creativity in general, but can I give some advice on how to be more creative? Apart from the obvious –  no. Try to avoid copying and build your own ideas. Where do ideas come from? All I can say is that mine seem to be recombined impressions. How about yours?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Amy

    “Ideas come more easily when I’m not self-conscious, and manage to remove filters like thoughts of how original the idea is, if people will like it, etc. I do, however, try to analyze what I’ve done after the model is finished.” This comment by Birgitte is, I believe, the best advice to give someone who is seeking to be more creative! Whether building with Legos, drawing, writing, etc., if you try to analyze the process while you’re at it, you’re stuck before you’ve begun. At least I’ve found it to be true while writing. It works much better for me to write first and edit later, otherwise I usually give up because it’s too distracting to try to do both. Great reminder to just let the creative juices flow!