The Portrait of the President

 The Parts Festival continues! This was the second last MOC I build for it, but don't worry, there is actually more than one left. This is also something like a half-semi-character build, and it began as the very first tablescrap for the Festival. Text published here has more political depth than the one posted in New Elementary. Enjoy, and thanks again to Tim and Elspeth.

This MOC is in a way a character build, but obviously very different from what I usually build! Person in the portrait is Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (1900-1986), the eighth president of Finland. His reign lasted from 1956 to 1982, over 25 years, which is unusual in democratic country that limits its president’s career to two six-year terms. He’s seen as somewhat autocrat-y, stepping over the parliament couple of times and giving stern feedback to the journalists, but even today widely respected as president who directed Finland in the currents of the Cold War as a neighbouring country of Soviet Union. Kekkonen was known as a sportsman, fisherman and skier, something like an imposing figure over whole Finland quarter a century.  

Kekkonen is also known for his quite caricature-like look: Bald head and big black-framed eyeglasses. When I first studied the seed parts, the 3x3 dome remined me instantly of Kekkonen’s bald head: the most iconic portraits of him are in black and white, so light bley worked perfectly, and 3x3 was excellent size for my usual character models. I made the head quite fast – it was the first thing built for the Parts Festival. The most interesting bit here might be the minifig hands used on the glasses; I like how the crop the round dome part from the more angular head area.
The head was on my table for a month, and several other builds were started and finished along it, until I decided to finally complete it. I wasn’t really interested in building whole figure in suit, as it didn’t offer any fresh challenges. The figure would also be in black and white, which I think would be acceptable for a person familiar from black and white photographs, but even still, many people would have though him as zombie or something! I though I’d make it a bust, as the most important piece use was the dome. However, a bust didn’t feel very inspiring. Fortunately, and idea stuck me – make it a portrait! Having president portraits isn’t that rare in Finland (and as a side note, current President Niinistö’s official portrait looks absolutely photoshopped), and they’re always in black and white, so the idea felt naturally working.

I first though of making the wall sand green, as it’s respectable colour, something that might work in neoclassical or empire-style environment associated with sites of Finnish politics and government. I didn’t have enough sand green, though, so I looked other options. Old light yellow would have been perfect, but I didn’t have that much, maybe, even though my old light yellow stock is quite decent! I thought of tan, but I wanted to use it in the frame (as birch) and some brighter shade would have created better contrast with the black and white portrait.

I ended up using dark turquoise. It looks medium azure in the photos: direct, cold daylight makes it look bluer than it actually is. But it looks very nice and is not that far from neoclassical colour schemes I mentioned. I thought of adding ornamental frieze on a top, but settled on simple wall structure without any detail, to allow tighter cropping without losing elements of the build and giving the focus to the portrait itself. The structure includes 6x6 bay, with walls forming gradient from black to white, as in some famous Kekkonen portraits. 

The frame uses plenty of Batman bits. The circular saws give the birch frame some heaviness. As there are two different saw pieces, the frame is symmetric. 90-degree bar connectors are used on the top and bottom boards. I really like the pattern they make – even though it feels a bit prodigal using such handy pieces for ornamental purposes…



New Elementary Figbarf

One of creations I made for New Elementary's parts festival was not a build but a figbarf. Yeah, a batch of purist minifigures - a real blast from the past. Some of these figures are much older than the festival, but got a refurbishing with the new pieces to get a excuse of posting them. This is longer version of text written for New Elementary; as before, I'd like to thank Tim and Elspeth for organizing everything.

I used to make lot of custom minifigures, usually in so-called barfs of 4-6 figs. I made the last one in August 2016, over three years ago. Why did I stop? I drifted away from minifig scale, mostly. Minifig parts are also relatively expensive, so I prioritized my hobby into ordinary (but, of course, weird and interesting) parts over fig parts, which are usually hard to use outside their context. Of course, I’ve still made minifigs to minifigure scale builds, most importantly to inhabitant my early 20th century modular building streets. However, some of seed parts seemed useful on minifig scale, so I began fiddling with some figs. They were also inspired by parts bought in LEGO House’s AFOL Day’s Pick-a-Brick where fans could buy one small cup of minifig parts. At first these figs were going to be on the bridge scene which developed into creation called “Frost Serpent Arises”, but they didn’t work in that context, so they were exiled to become a barf. In a way, this is a special gift to anyone who has asked me to make another barf or wondered why I ever stopped.

Brun Hammergrasp. This fig is a veteran of my first and only Brikwars experience. He has a hammer using Batman greeble capsules (small variant) and a hubcap shield.  
Ambassador Välthung Brassgut. Another Brikwars veteran. The seed part – Batman bowl thing - is used as a part of the brazier. Trans-orange robot arm piece made this use possible. I enjoy the cryptic stud-on-stud connection between the silver and the gold part. 
Wurthans Grimboller. Once again Brikwars veteran, though he went through some changes. Batman bowl was one of the most enjoyable seed parts and is used here as part of the hammer. I like how 1x1 round plate fits inside it; they are the type with pin hole, and a 3L bar connects them into the hammer, as keen-eyed readers notice: No LEGO logo on them! 

Hamrad of Eternal Seek. priest designed for the bridge scene. Batman bowl and circular
saw made this ritual helmet. It’s barely connected. Batman greeble bags
actually included two different saws, and they’re mirrored versions of each
other. What a luxury. Shepherd staff is bit forced as the ritual staff here,
but I wanted to do something with it; and this barf was done before the three
other uses of that beautifully coloured piece, so…

Frey of Gilded Glade. Not much to do with the seed parts. I had just got some Spider-man’s web pieces, and they made a cool incense burning thing with, again, Batman lantern. Sickle piece from Ninjago created some druidic vibes.
Glamhoo of Raven’s Flight. Old Moko technique from middle Brickshelf period (maybe 2007) used two old bats on 32034 180 degree angled TECHNIC connector to create a cool iron cross. I stole that technique for couple of MOCs. I wondered if something similar could be done with these new, headless bats, which I heard were suggested by Jonas Kramm, my old Iron Builder rival. Thanks Jonas, I like the bats. Here they’d look better if rest of the staff end was dark blue too, but you can’t get everything. Unrelated to the seed parts, I like the cloth skirt on new dress combination.


Frost Serpent Arises

 This is build number four for Parts Festival 2/2019 on New Elementary. It began with simple bridge technique and grew into reasonably large, vertical minifig-scale creation. As before, shorter version of the text was published earlier on New Elementary. Thanks Tim, thanks Elspeth!

Sometimes the base bulk of a creation stays almost the same while the concept changes completely. This creation began with the idea of a bridge made of “Panels 1 x 6 x 4 1/3 with Window and 4 Pin Holes”. I had never seen this piece before, and it took a while to find it from Brickset’s new parts browser. It has been used in some City space exploration sets; this isn’t surprising. They have a hole in the middle that had very odd shape, as the TECHNIC holes form sort of bumps in the frame. I though of making an arch and putting those panels around it so that they would adapt into the natural shape. 

The first idea had an arch made of rigid hose or ribbed tube, but it turned out to be very hard to make stabile structure enough with them; bending them creates some forces that push the cliff faces apart. I though about making a cloud between the  cliffs to hold them together, giving image of very high location, but I didn’t have enough pieces available for such high cliffs and a cloud hanging in between would have made the bridge bit confusing – LEGO clouds tent to feel too substantial. In the end I ended up making a SNOT water base - I feel I made lot of those around 9 years ago – and somewhat high cliffs. I also build an actual, solid bridge inside the panels, with different surfaces holding the panels on different heighs: studs, tiles, tiles on sides… The steps are bigger near the ends and around 1/3 a plate near the middle.

After making the water, the cliffs and the bridge I had to define the scene. This turned out to be harder than expected. The build is in minifig scale. I don’t to much things in minifig scale, except for my modular buildings from turn of the 20th century. But I used to collect cool minifig parts and thus I have lot of goodies to work with. I made some figs, using lot of Batman greeble parts in their accessories. I had a band of dwarves and some magical pilgrims. The idea was that the wizards wanted to cross the bridge, but it was dwarf territory and they were grumpy about the intruders. I tried different compositions of figs, but it just didn’t fly. The scale of the figs was so small compared to the bridge that they felt like puny add-ons (at least on character builder’s perspective), like some frosting on a cake. The scene needed a strong vertical element to go with the technical, horizontal element, the bridge.

I ended up building a mythological dragon serpent and giving the scene oriental feel. It is connected to a build titled “Gale Serpent Arises” from 2016; it was built for my LUG Palikkatakomo’s summer contest. In that scene a monk encounters a dragon that rises from a black pool in shrine-filled moorland. What I was thinking here felt similar, and I quite liked the connection, so I went with similar style, mix of CCBS and SYSTEM parts. A defining quality would be the medium azure shepherd staves. I hadn’t used them yet, and dragon moustache had been one of my first ideas, so medium azure would be one colour; it’s a very nice shade. White went well with it, hinting to ice theme. 
I had plenty of 5-long CCBS bones in medium azure and small shell pieces in white, so the made most of the serpent. Its structure is very homogenous: There are no thicker or thinner parts. It feels a bit unrealistic in a way, but I like the way that it suggests that there’s no clue how long it actually is; are we meeting only the tip of the iceberg? Hockey sticks were added on the back as they reminded fish bones. The underside technique with small L-panels and boat studs is probably stolen from Patrick Biggs.

Building the head of the dragon was a nice challenge. I wanted it to be bit like the gale serpent’s head, but not a copy. The mouth is similar with its boat stud lower jaw, and bright green teeth worked nicely with the colours. Big nostrils and small but angled connection to the moustache were essential. As a defining part I used ice armour piece from Bionicle set Strakk; it created nice brow while fitting the colour scheme and ice theme. I posed the serpent so that it circles around the bridge, guarding the pass. It’s not openly hostile towards the travelling warrior, who bows respectfully between the shrine posts, while still holding her sword. There’s a tension between the characters, and that was something I quite couldn’t achieve with only the figs.

With the new scene, the landscape went through couple of changes. I build two shrines that use another seed parts, 3x3 domes, and added more foliage to define the path leading to the bridge. Reddish brown randomly arranged plates were used to balance the colours. I also ended up making the bridge smooth with cheese slopes and 1x2 tiles. I was unsure about it at first, as I wanted the bridge to feel like it would be made of one material – not build, just formed from the cliff itself. In the end, the tiles surface captures that better. It also made the shape rounder. The flat area on it, the pathway, is also two studs wide, so it’s very oppressive bridge to cross, dragon or not. Don’t slip!