There are many different ways to approach building mosaics in LEGO, and each artist tends to claim their own style. Sometimes it means “massive images built of bricks”. In this theme, a clear distinction is Jonathan Farrell. We had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Jonathan and talk about his methods, his favorite builds and what happens to a mosaic that fills a room once you photograph it!
Thank you for introducing yourself to our readers!
My name is Jonathan Farrell, from Montreal (the French-speaking people of Canada). I work in the video game industry by day and create large scale lego mosaics by night.
How long have you been interested in LEGO mosaics?
I started making mosaics about two years ago when I was playing with my son’s Duplo bricks and had the idea to make original NES pixel art with them. At first I was searching online for sprites to recreate in LEGO form and had a lot of fun doing it. It was a tribute to all my favorite childhood games. I quickly wanted to create other types of subjects, so I started researching the best way to rasterize images using Photoshop.
I started out doing simple images using only 1-2 base plates, but as my process evolved I was able to do more complex and larger images. I chose bricks instead of plates because I needed to separate them faster and more often and because there seemed to be a greater variety of colors available. Every time I bought more pieces or new colors for a specific piece I could reuse them to create something else and it has been going on ever since.
It’s a great pastime to do in the evening to unwind by watching old movies or listening to music. It keeps my hands and mind occupied and has been extremely helpful during this covid pandemic. By posting my work on Instagram, I discovered the fantastic LEGO community and made lots of new friends while discovering the work of others.
How do you select your images?
I’m usually inspired by whatever I’m watching or reading right now and always creating new designs for later use.
What is the usual number of pieces/size of your mosaic work?
My favorite size to work with currently is twelve 48×48 LEGO baseplates for one picture. I find I can get the best resolution with this size. In bricks, this represents approximately 20,000 pieces per mosaic,
How big is your coin selection? Where do you get your brick?
I have lots of bricks. I first bought bricks from the choose a brick section of the LEGO website, but not all the pieces I needed were available in all colors. When I discovered brinklink.com it opened up a whole new world to me and I have been getting my LEGO ever since.
What aspects of a mosaic do you usually find the most challenging?
The hardest part of the process for me is breaking the mosaic and sorting out all the pieces before I can create something new. It’s almost as long as the creation part itself. Second, finding a good image to work from, I can spend many hours creating or recreating a design until it’s perfect.
Do you keep your mosaics assembled? If not, how long do you normally keep them?
I always separate them, like the Tibetan sand mandalas, for me creation is the goal. Once the mosaic is complete and I’ve taken a few photos, I sometimes start dismantling the piece just hours after completion. The only one left assembled is a portrait I made of a friend. It was glued to a piece of wood and framed as a gift.
Do you display them publicly?
No, I never did.
What are your favorite works?
Mosaic of Billie Eilish. This is my most popular piece and the one that took the longest to make. I decided to do this after watching the world’s somewhat fuzzy documentary about her and her brother. I thought it was so interesting and I’m in awe of their talent. I thought the movie was so interesting and showed many facets that fans don’t think about (like their parents). I knew his music, but I listened to more of it while I was creating this piece and it was really fun. I’m especially happy with how her eyes turned out.
Back to the future mosaic. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, I consider it perfect in every way and I love everything about it. It reminds me so much of my childhood and I can quote most of the movie. This was my first big job and I had to put it on hold twice while waiting for more bricks to arrive. If I could only build one and hang it in my house, this would be it.
Black Panther/Chadwick Boseman Mosaic. This one is important because of the shock it was to learn that he died suddenly. For some reason, it’s really hard to watch someone at the top of their game die so young. He seemed to have it all, he was very talented, very well spoken and intelligent, generous to others, of course there is the question of the representation of the black community. Watching its popularity explode, you saw how much it meant to so many people. The day after he died, I designed a model of him and wrote that it was free to anyone who contacted me. (this offer still stands). It was natural that I would make a more complex one later, for the anniversary of his disappearance.
Do you still use Photoshop as your primary planning tool?
Yes, photoshop exclusively.
What tip would you like to share with your old self regarding the design stage?
Bricklink! I wish I had known about this site from the start. Besides the fact that they have more colors available (coral, dark orange, olive green were a game changer for me), they also have more parts. The best example is green (what LEGO calls dark green), this color was not available in 1×1 bricks so I couldn’t use it and it was very frustrating as it prevented me from building any many mosaics. When I discovered Bricklink, it opened up a whole new world of creation for me and that’s when I started making more complex pieces.
Do you often receive questions regarding the sale of your work?
People are always shocked that I break my work after it’s finished and many have tried to convince me to sell my work and here’s why I don’t care. Doing this is extremely relaxing to do at night, especially during the whole pandemic, but more than that is that this job is mine and mine alone. I like not having to answer to anyone about my way of working or the subject I choose. I know what it takes to put up a website and try to promote my work and if I do that it’s less time for creation, that’s what I like. The creation aspect is so much fun for me, that’s why I don’t hesitate to divide my work, I’m always excited for the next piece I will do.
What is the next step for you in the mosaic world?
One day I hope to have a small exhibition in a gallery to share my work with people. I would also like to create a large scale mural if I can find the space for it. Otherwise, I have many more models that are designed but waiting to be created.
Special thanks to Jonathan for sharing these ideas about his work! If you’d like to see what other artists have done, be sure to browse our mosaics tag!