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Getty Images

10 Amazing LEGO Artists

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Getty Images

LEGO bricks and minifigs are more than just toys—they're also an art medium that can be used to illustrate the real world when a photograph isn't freely available, a fictional world when an artist prefers not to draw one, or just for the fun of it. Here are a few LEGO-centric sites and social media feeds to check out.

1. AN ANONYMOUS GRAD STUDENT // LEGO GRAD STUDENT

Borrowing the department credit card to buy supplies for an event, the grad student fleetingly considers running away and never coming back.

LEGO Grad Student is a Tumblr—cross-posted to other sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook—that follows a LEGO minifig graduate student through the trials and tribulations of earning a higher degree. The anonymous creator—a sixth-year social sciences grad student—told InsideHigherEd.com that his creations are inspired by his personal experiences but are “exaggerated through my admittedly darker sense of humor.” LEGOs, he says, are “just a nice way to spend an hour or two to decompress and to exercise my creative side ... I've always felt better during the more stressful moments of graduate school when I knew that I was not alone in feeling a certain way or having a particular experience. I hope that these posts, in their own absurd way, provide that sort of reassurance to others.”

2. SEAN ROMERO // THE SHORT NEWS

The Short News is a real news site that posts real stories from other sources, all illustrated in LEGO scenes. Sean Romero, a tax lawyer in Australia, founded the site in 2014. "I wanted to recreate the news but for legal reasons I can't use real photos," he told 7News. "I was having a laugh with my wife and thought if I can't use someone else's photos, I'll make my own using toys." The news items tend toward the offbeat and entertaining—"I pick a few stories each day that interest me and I think will interest others"—but some news events are off-limits: "While a plane crash is huge news, it would be doing a huge discredit to the story to look like I am making light of a tragic event using toys," Romero said. The scene above was created to illustrate the story about a GoFundMe account created to protect Betty White through the rest of 2016.

3. DONNA YATES // LEGO ACADEMICS

In 2014, LEGO released a new building set called the Research Institute featuring a science lab staffed by women. Donna Yates, an archaeologist who works at the University of Glasgow's Trafficking Culture Project, immediately bought one and was inspired to create scenes from her own life in academia. She posts pictures of those scenes in her Twitter feed LEGO Academics, which became an instant hit among women in STEM fields. “I got a few extra heads (I wanted some with no makeup), a few extra bodies (I wanted some without the pinched in waist), and some more hair (I wanted some short hair and grey hair),” she told The Washington Post, which added “a bit more variety for the academic women rather than just the long hair/make-up scene.”

4. CRAIG MCCARTNEY AND LINDSEY HAGGERTY // LEGO TRAVELLERS

The LEGO Travellers are Craig McCartney and Lindsey Haggerty, a Scottish couple who are constantly exploring different parts of the world—and share their adventures by setting up their LEGO minifigs everywhere they go. The idea came about after McCartney's mom found some of his old LEGOs in her home. “I started having a go at building some of the LEGO and I found LEGO figures which kind of looked like us,” he told Gold Coast Bulletin. “We were in Paris for Lindsey’s birthday and took a few pictures of them with the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre in the background for a bit of fun. I joked I would make a Facebook page out of it and Lindsey said it was a bit silly, but the more we did it the more she got into it and it’s become quite popular now.” McCartney and Haggerty spent the holidays in Perth, Australia, and took the above picture at Wave Rock in Hyden. You can follow their footsteps at Facebook and Instagram.

5. HARRY HEATON // LEGO ALBUMS

LEGO bricks are great for rendering new versions of existing art in two dimensions, too. The Tumblr blog LEGO Albums is a project by Harry Heaton recreating iconic album covers using LEGO bricks. The finished products resemble low-resolution pixelated versions of album art. Check through the archives to see if your favorite album cover is there.

6. DAVE // BRICKS OF THE DEAD

Bricks of the Dead is a webcomic about a zombie apocalypse that began in 2010. Creator Dave says on the site that he wanted to "create a zombie comic book to entertain and inform the public of exactly what they should do when the zombies show up at their doors." But with "zero artistic ability," he was at a loss for how to achieve his goal—until he saw the LEGO comic Adventures of S-Team. "After this epiphany I ran to my parents’ basement (after a lengthy drive to their house) and unearthed my lost bin full of LEGO® and started concocting a story." Click here to start at the beginning.

7. ANTHONY VALENTINO // BALLINABRICKY

Another webcomic illustrated in LEGO, Ballinabricky is set in Ireland in 1936. The action takes place in a fictional town (whose name is a play on the town Ballinabrackey) that, in the comic, is home to many of Ireland's most famous literary figures, including William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Maud Gonne, and Peig Sayers. The comic was created by Dr. Anthony Valentino, an assistant professor at the County College of Morris in New Jersey. The series starts here, or you can catch up on completed stories here.

8. ELBE SPURLING // THE BRICK BIBLE

The Brick Bible via Facebook

LEGO artist Elbe Spurling began bringing us Bible stories recreated with LEGO sets in The Brick Testament back in 2001 and these days goes by the name The Brick Bible. Spurling has also created a book series called The Brick Bible for Kids, and The Brick Book of Mormon is coming soon. You might also be interested in Spurling's account of the French Revolution illustrated in LEGO.

9. MORGAN SPENCE // MORGSPENNY PRODUCTIONS

There are many brick artists who make stop-motion LEGO videos, but Morgan Spence stands out among them. The Scottish teenager has such a knack for storytelling that he makes commissioned LEGO videos through his company Morgspenny Productions. The teen told Jimmy Kimmel that last summer, Spence made the proposal video above. Check out his other videos here.

10. JEFF FRIESEN // 50 STATES OF LEGO

Canadian photographer Jeff Friesen and his daughter did a series that depicted each state in America in a scene made of construction paper and LEGO minifigs. They're more comedic than accurate, but they do give us an idea of what outsiders think when they hear a state's name. (If you couldn't guess, the state pictured here is New Mexico.) See all the 50 States Of LEGO at Bitrebels, and check out more of Friesen's whimsical LEGO works at the Instagram gallery Stories for Toys.

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Vivian Abagiu, University of Texas at Austin
This LEGO Box Could Be Key to Detecting Deadly Nerve Gas
Vivian Abagiu, University of Texas at Austin
Vivian Abagiu, University of Texas at Austin

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new way to detect deadly nerve gases, and it involves LEGO.

The new detection device, described in a study published in the journal ACS Central Science, uses chemical sensors, a box made out of LEGO bricks, and a cell phone to identify the presence of odorless, tasteless nerve agents like VX and sarin.

Chemical weapons like sarin are extremely dangerous—even at low concentrations, a direct whiff of sarin can kill you in just minutes. So being able to identify them in the field is vital, and it has to be done fast.

The chemical-identifying sensors, developed by UT Austin chemist Xiaolong Sun and his colleagues, fluoresce in different colors and brightnesses to indicate which nerve agents are present in the air, and in what concentrations. Unfortunately, depending on where these tests are taking place, it’s not always easy to see how bright the fluorescent glow is. Expensive equipment designed to detect these changes in the lab just isn’t feasible on the battlefield or in a war-torn region.

An open black LEGO box sits in the lab in front of a chemical test plate.
Vivian Abagiu, University of Texas at Austin

The 320-brick LEGO structure, meanwhile, is portable and quick to assemble. It acts as a black box that blocks out light around the sensors. The top of the box has a hole in it, over which the user places a smartphone’s camera lens. Using a standard lab test plate and a UV light inside the box, the fluorescent changes can be photographed with the phone and analyzed with UT Austin's free software to determine what type and concentration of nerve agents are present in the sample.

While 3D printing could produce a cheap equivalent of the LEGO box, the toy bricks may be more accessible. Not everyone has access to a 3D printer or the same printing materials as researchers might use in the lab—but LEGOs are available across the world for a relatively low price. The software necessary to analyze the samples is available for free on GitHub, and the researchers include the LEGO assembly directions within their study.

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Build Your Own Harry Potter Characters With LEGO's New BrickHeadz Set

Harry Potter is looking pretty square these days. In a testament to the enduring appeal of the boy—and the franchise—who lived, LEGO has launched a line of Harry Potter BrickHeadz.

The gang’s all here in this latest collection, which was recently revealed during the toymaker’s Fall 2018 preview in New York City. Other highlights of that show included LEGO renderings of characters from Star Wars, Incredibles 2, and several Disney films, according to Inside The Magic.

The Harry Potter BrickHeadz collection will be released in July and includes figurines of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, and even Hedwig. Some will be sold individually, while others come as a set.

A Ron Weasley figurine
LEGO

A Hermione figurine
LEGO

A Dumbledore figurine
LEGO

Harry Potter fans can also look forward to a four-story, 878-piece LEGO model of the Hogwarts Great Hall, which will be available for purchase August 1. Sets depicting the Whomping Willow, Hogwarts Express, and a quidditch match will hit shelves that same day.

[h/t Inside The Magic]

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