Looking Beyond the Expected, with Jonathan Lopes, LEGO Artist
February 6, 2017
As I pointed out in my second K post last week, sometimes inspiration comes from surprising sources. Today I’m delighted to feature a mini-interview with an artist who has found his medium for expressing his creativity in something most of us see as a child’s toy and an underfoot hazard.
Jonathan Lopes is a LEGO artist — with artist being the main emphasis. Art is his creative muse, LEGO is his medium. Through that medium he has re-created beloved characters from children’s books, and grittily realistic depictions of cityscapes. I am continually amazed by his art.
He shows his work all over the United States, and it is fascinating to see his Facebook posts about setting up at a new venue. You can see examples of his work at his website. I promise you that you will be astonished. Now on to the interview!
Beth: Jonathan, thank you so much for being willing to do this mini-interview! How did you get into LEGO art?
JONATHAN: I have been an artist and a creative my whole life. LEGO was a huge part of my childhood but I moved away from it when I discovered music in my teenage years. I relocated from Boston to New York City in 1990 and music became creative outlet for me for a number of years.
When I sidelined my musical ambitions, I happened to buy a LEGO kit, which then led to more kits and then I started building my own creations with LEGO. Soon people were asking me to build things for them.
All this led to LEGO being my full time creative outlet and established the path to where I am now. This transition was not the least bit planned. It just grew and continues to grow naturally. It’s fun!
Beth: How do you choose what you build/create?
JONATHAN: Inspiration is everywhere. Early in my days of building with LEGO as an adult, I was drawn to creating urban cityscapes with an eye for urban grit and realism. The drive for me was the challenge of attaining a gritty and weathered urban appearance, within a medium that was known for bright, shiny colors.
Fast forward to today, I still strive to create realistic pieces and I am on creative overload with so many ideas, that I can’t keep up. I get a lot of inspiration from looking at the work other artists create, either online or at exhibits.
And, the key here for me is ‘other artists.’ Not specifically LEGO artists or fans, but traditional painters and sculptors and contemporary artists. I make an effort to broaden my view and I try to avoid limiting my creativity to what I refer to as the “LEGO lense.”
I don’t want LEGO as a medium to dictate or constrain what I create. I want to push the visual envelope as far as I can within the medium. In addition to reviewing the work of other artists, I originate many ideas as well. For example: I recently tried out a contemporary art concept that was initially planned to only be one piece. Now, this idea has grown into a whole series based on this concept! So, something I tried as an experiment of sorts, has now grown to a backlog queue of other ideas in this format.
Another area that provides inspiration can happen when I am hired as a commissioned artist. The piece I am working on for the client may lead my creative mind to future projects elsewhere as well. Again, inspiration is everywhere.
Beth: How long does a sculpture/creation take to build?
JONATHAN: I’ve worked projects that have taken 4-8 hours and I have worked projects that have taken 140 hours. It’s a wide range depending on the project scope.
I am generally working on three to five projects at once. Either physically assembling them all at once or developing a few while physically working on others. My queue is full of projects right now: hired works scheduled throughout the year, and within the timing of those, I am developing my own works. I keep quite busy. My creative mind is always moving. And, I love it.
Beth: How do you transport them when you take them to shows across the United States? (Trying to figure that out boggles my mind.)
JONATHAN: This is probably the most common question I receive when I exhibit my work. The answer is actually simple: I transport the pieces from event to event in huge wooden shipping crates. I build the crates (or have them built for me, if they are intricate.) I then pack them up, and call a freight truck to come pick them up.
Then a few days later, I fly out to the venue to manage the installation and prepare for opening night and/or public events. Having logistics management experience and project management experience helps with all this.
Beth: Tell us one fun fact about you.
JONATHAN: This is the most difficult part of the interview! I have many interests and passions. Far beyond creating with LEGO. But, I am a very focused and goal oriented person who is able to sideline other interests, seemingly without regret, while I pursue this creative area of my life.
Beth: Thanks again, Jonathan, for participating in this fascinating interview! You’ve given me — and my readers — much inspiration and many insightful thoughts to chew on. Finding inspiration everywhere, being willing to push the envelope — these are things that can expand the lives and creativity of us all, if we are alert and open.
L is for Lopes and LEGO, and for looking beyond the surface to find the inspiration hidden in what seems to be the everyday stuff of life. Take a look around! See what inspires YOU!
You can find Jonathan on social media at