With LEGO play, there is no ‘right way’ to build a tree… or grass… or a bush. There is a lot of room to experiment, which can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming. We chatted to Damian Hinds, contestant on season two of LEGO Masters Australia, to see if he had any tips to share.
Spoiler alert: he did.
Q: Tell us a bit about your beanstalk build on 'LEGO Masters' - had you tackled a build with greenery like this before? How did you approach the task, and what did you learn from it?
Ahh, the beanstalk! Yes, that build taught me so many things! The first thing it taught me, as most viewers would know, is how quickly a build can become heavy and have an impact on your design. Making sure your structure is set up well enough to handle whatever aesthetic flair you want to add to it is critical. In the case of the beanstalk, we got so excited about our idea we just started building brick on brick. We wanted it twisting high into the air, but it wasn't until we started building above and out over the cut in the trunk that we realised we didn't have a strong enough core to support so much weight. That nice chunk that Jack had taken out of the base and the way the vine was twisting was disrupting the stability of the whole thing. It took quite some rebuilding to re-establish a solid core that was strong enough to support the rest of the vine – and, of course, the giant. Aesthetically, to help give the vine a twisting feel, we added smaller vines and wrapped them around the core, then added a variety of different sized leaves.
Q: Outside 'LEGO Masters', what have you built that has featured foliage or greenery?
Being mostly a castle builder, I have needed to make a range of trees and shrubs. I have also made palm trees for a Star Wars display.
Q: What are your go to techniques or pieces for creating greenery en masse?
The bamboo leaf piece is my most useful foliage part as it can be used individually, scattered around for grass, clumped together in bunches to make shrubs or stacked to make a vine.
Q: What is the weirdest piece you have used to create a foliage effect?
Well, it's not green foliage but the strangest tree I made were these burnt skeleton-type trees. I was at a BrickResales event a couple of years ago and I just started putting together a collection of black robot arms, bars, pots, stud shooters, clips, claws… all sorts of random bits that either clipped or had something to clip to. I ended up with this small forest of cool, creepy, dead-looking trees.
Q: Do you have any advice for making greenery or foliage go further, so that builders don’t need to use as many pieces?
Sure do – for my Scarif Star Wars display I had to do exactly that. I wanted to have this dense jungle feel but didn't have that many shrubs and other tree parts, so I ended up making a tree using a palm leaf with a clip. I made it point upwards by clipping it onto a part often used for taps and with a few of these together, slightly overlapping, it helped fill up the area.
Q: Any tips for making grass look textured?
Using cheese slopes in different directions can be interesting. You can also use your grass parts together in smaller, different-sized groups over a larger space – just try not to evenly space out your grass parts, as that doesn't look natural. You could also try varying the height of your grass pieces by having one or two 1x1 plates underneath in random spots.
Q: What is your advice for creating lifelike trees and bushes?
It really depends on your build, but usually I try to keep two things in mind: shape, and texture. Nature is very rarely straight or uniform, so try to give your trees a slight bend here and there. Leaves are the same – you can make lots of cool effects with bricks, plates and slopes, as well as the more traditional leaf parts.
Q: How can builders make their terrain more realistic?
For me the big thing about great terrain is that it's not just completely flat all the time. Try to break up large areas of level ground by raising it up with a few plates here and there – it can even be the same colour, just so long as it's not dead flat all the time. You can add splashes of the next type of colour in the colour palette here and there to help give it a bit of interest, too. You could also add some earth tones for patches of dirt and use a colour between your grass and the dirt to help it blend. The odd bunch of rocks or pebbles go a long way, too.
Q: Where do you go for inspiration for your builds?
I like big, epic action movies and now even TV series, and I'm often wanting to draw on the excitement of those big moments from my favourite films and TV episodes. World history and architecture are also some of my other influences. Once I have an idea, I often go looking for cool and interesting techniques to help bring the idea to life.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on combining my castle display with Andrew's to make one really large one, which should be EPIC!
Q: Any final tips or tricks?
Yes – experiment! Be open to making trees without any actual tree parts, just to see what you can make using other bits and pieces. The most important part is to get clicking and have fun.
Follow along with Damian and Andrew’s latest builds at www.instagram.com/clickingbricks_au.