Tyler Clites, aka Legohaulic, is a MOC artist with a truly inspired vision. After doing a quick piece on his “Walkies” Mech yesterday, I decided to contact him about doing an in-depth interview about one of his newer creations, “Defense Beacon”. What follows is our short exchange about this phenomenally creative and uniquely textural piece whose image truly is worth a thousand words.
PROJECT TITLE: “Defense Beacon”
This piece seems to be depicting some sort of super interesting backstory Is there one? Who is this character and what’s this “beacon”?
In it’s simplest form, the backstory is simply a pilot crash landing on an alien planet. I imagine that the pilot is maybe a space fighter pilot who was in a space battle and ended up crash landing on an alien planet. The planet is one that I envision being perhaps an ancient alien planet that nobody has ever been able to land on due to the defense beacons which are scattered across the planet’s surface. The beacon perhaps would function like an EMP emitter which would essentially create an EMP field around the planet.
Nice. So it definitely seems like you had some sort of narrative running in the back of your head, even if the details aren’t all there. Actually, many of your creations seem to have some general context or story behind them. They actually seem pretty well thought out. Is that something you intentionally figure out before you build? How does it play into your general building process?
Most of the time I try to have a clear idea of what sort of story will be depicted. However, as I build, the idea usually grows or evolves slightly. Maybe an aesthetic change in the design of the MOC will change the story or perhaps I will think of a better story to tell and that will slightly alter what I build.
I like the organic process you’re describing. For this MOC, how did the general concept originally hit you? You mentioned in the comments sections of one of the photos that you were inspired by a few different things. Can you recount those here and how they played into the general design?
Well, this MOC was built for a contest on MOCpages in which there was a category called “Lost In Space”. The guidelines stated that they wanted contestants to build an alien landscape of some sort. I started thinking of alien landscapes and what would be something unusual or different. So many people build alien landscapes as standard baseplates and some funky flowers so I wanted to do something that perhaps nobody has ever done before. I thought, what if the ground covering the planet were a combination of organic and metallic or even crystal. I ended up combining these three elements into what eventually made up the ‘ground’ of the MOC. The beacon itself was inspired by the Marker from [the popular video game] “Dead Space 2″. I haven’t actually played the game, but during the build process someone showed me a picture of them and said that something similar might look good as the centerpiece to the creation.
Do you start straight into building or do you do some level of sketching or some other sort of pre-planning?
Sometimes I sketch out ideas and sometimes I don’t. This time I didn’t. I started doodling with making the horseshoe shape of the base and eventually started to get a mental picture of what I wanted everything to look like.
This piece really proves that LEGO don’t have to be so geometric and slavish to 90° angles. You’ve achieved a certain level of an organic look, especially in the grey platform area. Can you talk about how the bulk of that platform is held together? Is there a basic horseshoe magnet structure that’s then coated with randomly positioned bricks and tiles, or is there something else?
The curved platform is very fragile since I never intended on keeping it built for any longer than just taking photos. The main structure of the base is a series of plates and wedge plates which are held together by hinge plates. I then covered this base with the various grill tiles and tentacle pieces.
We tend to be our worst critics. I’m curious what, if anything, you feel like could be improved in this MOC? Anything you’d like to change or alter? Why?
Of what I built, I wouldn’t change anything. I would however, like to have been able to add a small crashed ship or escape pod to further sell the thought that the character has crash landed and is stranded on this alien planet.
I’m always curious how long it takes for people to work on projects. How long do you think you took with this one? Were you building this long sessions or short bursts?
I have a short attention span, so if the creation is too big or taking too long I get bored very quickly. If I can build it in two sessions of building that is ideal for me. This was one of those things that came together in two separate build sessions. I first spent about 2-3 hours creating the base. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted the centerpiece to be, whether it be gun, control center, or artifact. I then showed it to Nannan who showed me the Dead Space 2 Marker. I then ordered some parts and when they arrived I spend about 2-3 hours again finishing the beacon and other little details.
You’re a pretty prolific builder. Do you work on multiple projects at a time? If so, I’m curious what other models you were building while finishing this one. And if you do work on several projects at a time, during the process of working on multiple projects, do they start to inform each other? Do you find your building techniques start to inform all the different projects?
Usually, I don’t have multiple things going, but this was an exception since it was built for a contest in which both quantity and quality are vital. During the time I was waiting on parts for the beacon, I built Once Upon a Times Square, Feelings for Dummies, and the Stag Beetle. My projects are very separate and distinct so they don’t inform each other.
Aside from great building, you’ve also got a great eye for photographing your MOCs. This is the money shot. So much is captured in terms of character, situation, mood, etc. Do you have any general insights on how you find these great shots?
Having gone through film school, my eye tends to look for those interesting shots which will evoke emotion or give insight into the character’s mood. That particular shot is one that I had in mind as I built the beacon, so I placed the character and the small bridge according to how I knew I wanted to compose that shot.
Will you be building anything more in the same “universe” as this one, such as other scenes or locations? Whether or not you actually do build them, can you describe some ideas that could be built to help carry the story to its conclusion?
No, I won’t be building anymore within this “universe”. I like new and different and I think I’ve exhausted my capabilities with this particular idea. As for the continuation or conclusion of the story, I intentionally like to leave it ambiguous. I feel like not telling you the entire story will help engage viewers into creating their own idea of a conclusion. This is something that I feel pulls the viewer into the creation and makes them a part of it. They are not just looking at it on a surface level, but they are asked to engage and invest a little of themselves in the creation.