Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Nothing But Brick's October Builder Of The Month - Arvin Encarnacion

I have been attending brick events of PhLUG and PinoyLUG for several months now and I could attest to the fact that the local Lego community is filled with talented builders. These people are gifted with creative minds as they build innovative works of art using the brick as their medium. I have great respect for these guys and gals for being dedicated to their craft. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a MOC and I admire them for continuing to come up with new stuff.

Arvin Encarnacion giving a talk at Ayala Museum's Inspire Everyday Event last July 2015 (photo courtesy of Arvin Encarnacion)

Before I  started becoming fully active in the local Lego community, I've always had this perception that MOC possibilities are limited to buildings, vehicles, mechs and other concrete objects that we usually see around us. This soon changed when I saw the works of Arvin Encarnacion. You see, Arvin's doing something unique in the local Lego community. He creates mosaics using Lego bricks.

Puddin'. Harley Quinn and The Joker at BxB 5.0

I first encountered Arvin's works during PhLUG's Brickxhibit last year at Resorts World Manila and it really got my attention. I like the fact that his creations are highly detailed even though he makes use of just regular bricks. Here are some pics I took of his works at the event.

Some of Arvin's mosaics at PhLUG's Brickxhibit 2015

More of Arvin's mosaics at PhLUG's Brickxhibit 2015
Before we get on with the show, here are some of Arvin's other works. Man, I'm really amazed at the stuff he creates. Enjoy!

Portraits of former Philippine president, Elpidio Quirino at Ayala Museum's Defining Quirino Exhibit (Photo taken from Ayala Museum's Instagram account, @ayalamuseum)

Digong, Bayaw and Mar (Photo courtesy of PinoyLUG Ambassador Leslie Araujo)

Philippine Hero General Antonio Luna, Doc Emmett Brown of the Back to the Future franchise and Toshio Saeki from the Grudge (Photo courtesy of Arvin Encarnacion)

Pacquiao & Co. Lower right is Arvin's favorite creation, a portait of his daughter. One of his early builds that has not been dismantled or recycled.  (Photo courtesy of Arvin Encarnacion)
Without further ado, let's peek into the mind of Nothing But Brick's October Builder of the Month. Read about how Arvin's passion for the brick was inspired by his family and how they support him in his quest to turn a child's toy into an art medium. Also, discover how he advocates the philosophy that Lego bricks and elements can be used as tools for learning other than being just a toy. Last but not the least, learn the secrets of his craft as he gives us a glimpse of his building process.


What is your earliest memory of Lego?
We lived in the province of Nueva Ecija, but my Nanay (Mom) worked in Manila. Most weekends, my Tatay (Dad) would fetch my Nanay from Manila. There were times I'd go with him, we'd pass by Shoemart for a little bit of shopping before going home to the province. Those were the only times I got to see Lego, in the toy section.

Even back then, early 1980's, Lego's already pricey and the only time I cried for a toy was for a Lego 6364 Paramedic Unit. I constantly played with it until I could build the main model without referring to the instructions. Then I went back to playing basketball, riding my bicycle and just messing around with my older brothers. I don't know what happened to that set. 

I only got back to Lego around 2010/11. My family (me, my wife and our daughter) loves Toy Story. We bought 7789 Lotso's Dump Truck and that's when I came out of what AFOL's refer to as the dark ages.

Which Lego theme is your favorite?
Well, because I mainly make LEGO mosaics and use only basic bricks, I love Bricks & More. I wish Lego never stopped producing 6177 Basic Bricks Deluxe. Although I have some truck sets from various themes, City, Racers, Cars, that I sometimes bring out to display in our living room. We love the Christmas/Winter sets as well.

I'm also starting to get into Technic as I've started Coding4Kids which provides Computer Programming and Robotics lessons and workshops for young kids. Aside from basic bricks, we use Technic elements with our robots.

What is the first Lego set you acquired? Which set do you value the most?
Acquired as an AFOL? Yup, that would be Lotso's Dump Truck. But the set that I value the most, and I would say influenced me to go into making Lego portraits and mosaics is 6163 A World of Lego Mosaic.  

How do you manage funding your hobby as a Lego collector/builder? Where do you get your bricks?
I was a college professor teaching Computer Science before. That funded my early acquisitions. I'm now a stay-at-home dad who peddles various stuff online. I have that. What I earn from commissioned works also goes right back into buying bricks and baseplates. Coding4Kids hopefully will take off and also help the Lego fund. So, in reality, it's my wife that's funding my Lego addiction. LOL!

I get bricks from Bricklink and from local resellers by way of the Lego Trading Group. The sets for my collection and for my daughter, we get them from shop.lego.com.

How do you address the hobby's requirements for storage space?
We have a room that we've turned into a store room for toys, clothes, books, etc. Lego sets that aren't on display in our living room are also placed there.

What storage and sorting methods can you recommend?
I don't know if I can recommend it as the elements I use are very different from those that other MOCcers use. I use those microwavable food containers that you can get from supermarkets and place them inside comic book longboxes. This makes putting them away and bringing them out easy as I don't have a permanent work area. With sorting, I sort by size and color. All orange 1x1 go in one container, all orange 1x2 go in another, and so on.

What made you start building MOCs?
My daughter also loves Lego. I noticed that there were times that she'd just totally disregard the instruction booklets and just come up with her own designs and structures. I remembered doing the same as a kid and how fun that was. I didn't know that it's called MOCcing.

I love the blocky goodness of old sets which use mostly basic bricks. So, I went into MOCcing thinking I should stick to using basic bricks and try to avoid special elements like plates, tiles, slopes, etc.

I got into making Lego portraits after getting 6163. At the start, before I learned about LUGs, I was just doing Lego mosaics as a stress-reliever. Later on, I thought using Lego bricks to make art - patterns and portraits - would be a good way to change people's perception of Lego. I wanted people to realize that Lego's more than a toy. Many still see Lego as just a toy. You can have a very detailed and complex model of a car, spaceship, mech or building and they still see it as being a toy. With Lego mosaics, the patterns can be associated with art and graphic design, and portraits can be tied up to history and heritage, current evens and pop culture. Art, portraits especially, can stir up emotions. I recently made a Marcos piece and someone commented his deep hatred for the former president. Majority of my commissioned works as gifts to, or are for remembering loved ones.

Describe your building process.
My approach involves digital drawing, image-editing, and lots of trial and error to come up with guides that I use when creating the portraits. There's also what I call "dot-drawing" where I try to establish the basic shapes and lines of the portraits. This takes up the bulk of the time I spend to create my pieces.

How long does one project usually take?
It depends on the subject and size of the output. with portraits, there are faces that are harder to turn into mosaic pieces and there are easy ones. Harder ones can take up to 5 days, an hour or so a day. There are times when I can finish a portrait in just a couple of hours. 

What indicators/benchmarks do you use to measure your satisfaction with the quality of your work?
For non-commissioned work, I don't care what others say. If it looks good to me, then it's a go. For commissions, the client is king. I also have my daughter and my wife. they are my critics. I take their suggestions seriously. I'm very happy though that I haven't done any major revisions yet with any of my pieces, just minor color adjustments based on their suggestions.

Where do you get inspiration for your MOCs? Who/What are your influences?
I get my inspiration from many things including my family and my other interests. I love movies, pop culture, Filipino culture, cycling and so majority of my pieces, outside of the commissioned works, fall under those categories.

I do look at the works of other MOCcers, many of them I'm following on Instagram. Fortunately, they don't have any problems sharing their work. This is with pattern mosaics. With portraits, most Lego portrait makes make big pieces, 48x48 and bigger. I concentrate on standard baseplate size, 32x32. I like to use colors and I don't like monochromes that's why I really don't use grays and tan/sand colored bricks and I try to stay away from cartoons/comic book-like portraits. Still, there will be times when I'll see someone's style in my work even though I didn't intend for that to happen, and I credit them with inspiring or influencing those pieces because I know I've somehow picked up something from them by just being exposed to their work.

What are the challenges you have encountered as a MOCcer and how have you dealt with them?
With Lego discontinuing 6177, my main source of brick supply's the only problem I've had so far. This has somewhat been resolved now that I've discovered Bricklink. I'm also getting some bricks from the LUGBULK of my mother LUG, PinoyLUG. And of course, there's also the monthly Lego selling and trading meetups like BxB. 

What do you think are the necessary skills/attitude/characteristics a MOCcer must possess? How do you think these could be acquired or improved?
You should love what you're doing. Be passionate about it. This shows up in your output. Humility is also essential. No matter how good a MOCcer you are. Understand that there's always room for improvement and that you can even learn from those who are starting out.

What is your biggest accomplishment as a MOCcer? What would be your advice to budding builders?
I'm deeply honored that I had several pieces that were made part of an exhibit in Ayala Museum about the life of President Elpidio Quirino. This was November last year. July of this year, I was also among the lucky ones chosen to give a short talk as part of Ayala Museum's Inspire Everyday event. I brought some of my pieces and I discussed my love for Lego mosaics and Lego coding and robotics for kids. Those opportunities to showcase Lego as more than a toy, and at such a prestigious establishment, I consider as my biggest achievements so far.

Every time my works become part of an exhibit or display, I consider that a big accomplishment because my objective is to inspire others to get into Lego. I'm very thankful to PinoyLUG for being really inclusive and letting me be part of their regular events and pop-up exhibits. I was also invited once by PhLUG to have my pieces displayed as part of the first ever Brickxhibit last year. It's great to have been part of that. 

What would be your advice to budding builders?
Advice to budding builders? Just keep on building. It's okay to build on your own, but it'll be great if you can join a LUG. With a LUG you'll be immersed in everything Lego. You'll get to see what other people are doing, they'll share their works and ideas with you and if you're in an inclusive group, you'll get to be part of their activities and this will enhance your creativity even more.


If you're interested to see more of Arvin's works, then check out his Instagram account, @mis_ter_e. I'm sure you're in for a treat! Also, if you have kids and you want to have them learn something valuable which they could use in the future, make sure to check out Coding4Kids' Facebook page and website listed below. As a system developer myself, I think programming is one of the valuable tools our kids can start getting into considering the high demand for I.T. professionals in the corporate world. Coding4Kids will prepare them for that and give them a headstart if they wish to pursue a career in programming.

Coding4Kids Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/coding4kids.ph
Coding4Kids Website: http://coding4kids.jimdo.com/

There you have it folks, another talented builder featured at Nothing But Brick. I definitely had a great time writing this one. I've said this before already and I'll say it again. I really am lucky to get to feature these fantastic builders since I'm learning a lot when I read their replies to the questions I send them. I admire them tremendously for sharing their talent and I think they deserve to be recognized.

Stay tuned for more stuff at Nothing But Brick! More reviews, MOCs and features coming soon. Till next entry!

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