Season three of LEGO® Masters has ended. However, we’ve still got some interviews to go with the contestants! This week, it’s time for the Brendan and Greg interview. The brothers from Missouri made it to fourth place in the competition, and were eliminated following the events of episode 12. The brothers were the last American team on the show. While their builds were epic and worthy of their incredible run, I have to admit, a small part of me rejoiced when they were eliminated. We ended up with an all Canadian finale… Sorry, Brendan and Greg, its nothing personal, just a little bit of Canadian pride 😉
What’s your LEGO® backstory?
Greg: I played with LEGO® from the time I was about six. I remember when we were kids, our collection was actually a lot of my dad’s LEGO® from when he was a kid. So, there was LEGO® in that tub that was probably 40 years old. My brother added some sets to it over time, and we’d play as siblings. I bought my first set, which was the Bull’s Attack set (6096), on eBay on dial up internet when I was 12. I started doing stop-motion when I was 14. I’ve just never stopped. That’s actually been a big avenue through which the art medium has grown for me, through doing stop-motion animation.
Brendan: As brothers, we obviously grew up in the same house, playing with the same family collection. I didn’t invest quite as much as Greg did. I was more of a cheapskate and went for alternative building systems that were more affordable. But I never lost that interest or love. I tend to dream big and I always felt limited by our meagre, old style collection. That’s part of why I shifted to a digital building medium. I really liked the unlimited parts and colours.
That was a really cool aspect of building on the show. Although the collection is curated a certain way, and you don’t have every kind of like a part available, those that they lean into, especially traditional bricks, do feel almost unlimited. That’s pretty fun. I remember especially building the castle. We went for a pretty standard brick style. It was fairly square. We just went back for buckets and buckets of 2x8s and 2x4s. They just kept coming, and that was a pretty cool experience.
What do you do for inspiration when looking for new ideas?
Brendan: I’ll be honest, I’m not a super creative person. Being an engineer, that’s probably not surprising. My building style is almost strictly scale-models. I just look around, and whatever I think is cool, that’s usually what I start brainstorming about.
One of the few MOCs that I have built in person, and one of my favorites, is a diesel-electric locomotive. A General Electric model with the BSNF livery on it. It’s a larger scale and its fun. Those would come by our house; we had a train track going right past our backyard. They’re in operation today, they pull a lot of freight trains. I thought, “hey, those are cool engines, I want to build one.” Similarly, I’m brainstorming about the largest ever steam locomotive created. It was for the Union Pacific and it was called the Big Boy. I think of different ideas too, of buildings, vehicles; I’ve done chess sets and other kinds of games. Just whatever is aesthetic.
Greg: I spend a lot of time in my brain. So, things I cook up in my brain inspire me. For external inspiration, organic forms inspire me. I love doing landscaping, rock work, and animals. I think I enjoy the irony and juxtaposition of taking something which is inorganic in its base form, a brick, and trying to turn it into something that has an organic end result. Nathan Sawaya does that with a lot of his sculptures. But I prefer to take it in a bit of a different direction, and think about using different slopes or wedge pieces to try an replicate certain anatomical features, down to strands of muscular tissue when I’m doing a model. Like a life-like replica of a giraffe, or a fox. I’m thinking about doing a large model of a phoenix. Those things are very intriguing to me.
LEGO® lends itself naturally to building things like buildings or castles. I’m not taking away from the artists that do that, please do. People make amazing things. But I am more drawn to the things that it doesn’t lend itself to very naturally. I think that’s when you really have to start to wrestle with the limitations, and then find capability in the medium. It has a lot of capability. But it’s that constant problem-solving, taking an inorganic form and trying to render an organic form, that’s what inspires me a lot.
What was your favorite build from this season?
Greg: Oh, Mikey, bar none. That’s the Boston Terrier from episode five.
Brendan: I also really enjoyed the dog build. That was more Greg’s specialty, but I appreciated the model sculpting objective. For me, in terms of what I did, I liked the mechanical flight simulator, as I call it, from the whale camp in episode seven. That was something I felt pretty proud of.
Greg: It’s worth noting in terms of that mechanism that he created, Jamie told us that if we had tried to produce that at an official LEGO® facility, we probably would have worked on it for a week with a team of people. But that didn’t make the edit. From start to finish, Brendan produced that in 11 hours as a flawlessly functional model. So, from an engineering standpoint, it’s wicked impressive. I know I’m a little biased because he’s my brother, but it’s probably the most advanced thing that’s ever been engineered on the show.
What are your major takeaways from your time on LEGO® Masters?
Greg: Let’s say that you’re trying to forge a sword. To make that sword into something which is just useful, you have to put it under heat, you have to put it under stress, you have to put it under pressure. You’re beating it with a hammer, and it’s going into heat, and then it’s going into water, and it’s getting cold. What that’s doing is it’s forging the metal, and it’s tempering the blade, and that means that it can take an edge, and then it can be used in a meaningful way.
I think that an experience like LEGO® Masters is a lot of the same thing. It helps forge you as a person. Whether or not you grow depends on how you respond to that pressure. Is it the outcome that we wanted? No, of course not. We went to win. We had that aspiration, and I think we had the ability. So, to have a day where you trip, and its the one time that you can’t afford to, that’s a frustrating way to end. It’s like getting disqualified at mile 25 of a marathon. We did more work than other team that got cut, and then got cut at the very last stage before the finale. That’s a difficult thing to experience. Overall, we responded pretty well to those stressors.
For me, it was really cool to get to handle and approach LEGO® at such a high level, which you don’t normally get to do. You’re taking something that’s generally a hobby, or an outlet for stressors for certain people. But it’s something that I’ve always liked to approach very seriously as an art medium. And this is like the major leagues of competing with LEGO®. There’s little competitions that you do at conventions, but this is the major leagues.
To get the time to spend with Brendan is really cool too. We were quite close as younger kids together growing up on the farm in the Midwest. But, you know, we live about 1400 miles away now, and we have for the last several years. So, that was a cool opportunity. LEGO® has been something that we’ve always had, it has been a bonding agent for us. To get to go back to that, and then compete together in the major leagues over this shared interest was a really cool opportunity. And to get that much time together which we would normally not get in the course of our daily lives.
Brendan: I can’t claim to be quite as passionate as Greg is, but I am definitely ambitious and competitive. I do try to hold my expectations a little lower. So, going in, I felt like I didn’t know what we’re up against, we really needed to feel this thing out. We hadn’t been tested. But two or three challenges in, we were doing well, and I really felt like we could do this. We wanted to win, I wasn’t sure if we could, but then I realized we were capable of it. So we definitely had our eyes on the prize. Whether or not we thought it was possible, we gave it our all. It was pretty crushing. We went so far, we had a great idea for the finale, we knew we had the stuff. But at the end of the day it is what it is.
What is your advice to other adults who are just starting out in the LEGO® hobby?
Brendan: Gather information, follow blogs, and follow builders that you like. You can learn techniques and get inspiration. Personally, I like to familiarize myself with the system, or look for new parts that are released. I like to think about how they interlock. I like to look around my world and think: “hey, how would I build that in LEGO®?” Some kind of jump off the wall at you, and they sort of fall into place. Others, you really have to think, how could I possibly build that with LEGO®? But everyone has a different style. Some like to plug in, be the community, and attend conventions. So in that sense, I would say find your groove. Find the style that you like. Find other builders who build in the same style and get inspiration. LEGO® as something for everyone.
Greg: My answer to that would be start by buying a variety of LEGO® sets. Get yourself some Technic, get yourself a Creator, get yourself a kind of a smattering of different themes or styles. What that will do is it will teach you the brick system. And it is a system right, and it’s a wicked complicated one in its capability. But it’s actually a very simple system in it’s base interaction, right? You’re taking something with studs, and you’re attaching it to something else that accepts studs. At its core, it’s not very hard to understand how to use. But the complexities of what can be achieved with it just almost boggles the imagination.
If somebody had a smattering of sets from different themes, styles, etc. It would do a lot to teach a new LEGO® user about how the brick system interacts with itself, how the Technic system interacts. And what that’ll do is it’ll give you the sort of foundational tools to then begin to explore into areas of personal interest or design.
More to come!
A huge thanks to Brendan and Greg for taking the time to chat with us and all the other LEGO® fan media present at the interview. If you want to find out more, you can check Greg out on Instagram (@ironmen_greg). Additionally, you can catch up on everything that happened during LEGO® Masters, season three through our complete coverage here at True North Bricks. Stay tuned for more, because interviews with the top three CANADIAN teams are coming soon!
Until next time,
Want to support True North Bricks?
If you like the content at True North Bricks, please follow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, or TikTok for regular content. Additionally, you can support True North Bricks by making your LEGO® (and other) purchases using the links below. As an affiliate of those retailers, we earn from qualifying purchases. These earnings come at no extra cost to you but help to keep the content at True North Bricks free. Thanks for your support!