May 31st, 2016

Brickworkz: LEGO Mosaic Art

Brickworkz: Local Artist Creates LEGO Mosaics

Brian Korte, founder of Brickworkz, creates strikingly elaborate custom LEGO mosaics with LEGO® bricks.

One of Brian Korte's LEGO mosaics, depicting a vivid orange monarch butterfly pollinating red and orange flowers.

LEGO® art mosaic of a monarch butterfly by Brian Korte.

Working on everything from portraits to company logos and even a LEGO artwork that pays homage to artist Roy Lichtenstein, Korte’s mosaics are “for those of us with a special place in our hearts for our LEGO memories, as well as an appreciation for unique contemporary art,” according to the Brickworkz website. Most of us have a connection to LEGO bricks from our childhood, but Korte continues to work with LEGO pieces to create art everyone can enjoy. Korte took the time to answer a few questions for us about his connection to LEGO pieces  and his creative process.

Question: Do you remember your first LEGO set? What was the first thing you built?

Korte: The first Lego set I remember playing with was the Yellow Castle. I loved the classic “Knights” theme of the castle guards. The “Forestmen” series of Robin Hood-like minifigures who lived in secret hideouts in the woods was a favorite, too. I created an elaborate layout to play with them all as a series.

A vintage photograph shows young Brian Korte with a LEGO® set and an elaborate world with a yellow castle and "Forestmen" he created with the bricks.

Brian Korte at age 10 with the Yellow Castle set.

In addition to playing with LEGO toys, I was always very artsy. I enjoyed making things in my father’s wood shop and even got into cross-stitching. After a while, I got bored of the standard stitch patterns and started making my own LEGO cross stitch patterns. Soon after college, I pulled out the LEGO collection and thought I could make patterns again but this time as LEGO mosaics. It was a natural progression, as the process to create LEGO mosaics is almost identical to planning and stitching a cross stitch pattern.

Q: Can you go into detail about your process?

K: The process starts with an idea — an image or a photograph. Customers email a photo or idea and we design everything by hand to ensure that it looks perfect. I work on how the final look will appear digitally before the first brick hits the plate. Once the image looks just right, I start to build.

Q: What was the inspiration for your first LEGO mosaics?

K: My first LEGO mosaic was a wedding gift to my friends in 2004 — it was a mosaic portrait of the two of them, about 30 x 30 inches in size. It was made on a folding card table in my apartment, with graph papers and sheets and sheets of calculations, all written out as I figured out how this would work. It’s funny to think about now, more than 12 years from that first mosaic, how far we’ve come. Today, we’ve built for kings and governments, Fortune 100 companies, and international conglomerates. I’ve streamlined the design process quite a bit since then and have made hundreds of LEGO mosaics, on display all over the world. But like every entrepreneur, I had a very humble beginning, right there on that folding card table.

Q:  What are the biggest challenges that come up in creating your work?

K: Challenges for creating the work mostly have to do with size. When you work at four dots-per-inch, every LEGO stud matters. When a customer commissions a LEGO portrait from Brickworkz, we [Korte and his assitants] work very hard to ensure that we get as close to photo-realism as possible. The larger the piece, the more detail it will contain. So when I design on a small scale (say, a 20 x 30 inches) it is a real challenge to be sure I can pack the same detail fans have come to expect into that smaller building space.

Q: What is the most exciting project you have worked on in the last year?

K: Among the most interesting projects this year was a large-scale free build. I’ve been all over the country this past year working with companies to facilitate exciting team-building events and create custom installations in workplaces. One company, gave me complete freedom to design on a whole wall made of LEGO base plates however I saw fit.  I must admit, having a blank canvas to play on was as intimidating as it was exciting. I only wish I had more than 24 hours to create more art in that giant space. Still, I left their office with a really creative and fun design that will hopefully encourage employees to pick up some bricks and add onto my piece, making it their own.

A detailed LEGO mosaic displaying a bright pink lotus flower, with purple shadows and pastel highlights with a green stamen against a stark white background.

A LEGO brick mosaic of pink lotus flower by Brian Korte.

For this exhibit, you created botanically-themed works. What was your favorite piece to work on and why?

I really enjoyed designing the colorful flowers because they really showcase the beauty that LEGO bricks can achieve as an artistic medium. At Brickworkz, many of my popular portraits are done in grayscale to achieve a photo-realistic look that is modern, but classic. But with these bright colors in the flower portraits, you can see how color LEGO bricks can really take things to another level of beauty.

Brian Korte: Botanical Mosaics with LEGO® Bricks

Ginter Gallery II of the Kelly Education Center

Now through Sept. 18, 2016.



About Roxy Hojat

Art Exhibit Coordinator & Graduate Assistant at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

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