#643 Q&A with a Master Builder: Answers from Ralf Langer
Updated: May 1
Continuing on from last weeks post, Ralf Langer is answering your questions!
Let's jump straight into it:
What is your favourite LEGO theme?
“I don't really care for LEGO themes that much as I just love to build MOCs and I also love to do explore different architectural styles and different epochs in general. However, if I had to pick it would be the Pirates of the Caribbean theme.”
Can you share some in-progress or close up pictures of water technique that you use/like?
“When doing a splash I use almost only 1x2 plates in clear transparent - not matter what colour the water is in, as pictured directly below. Take a look at ‘Guardyloo’ or ‘A week in the life of Johnny Thunder’ for this.
For rivers in microscale I like to use 1x2 plates and tiles sideways and bend it. I did this in my MOC called ‘The Future is bright’: https://www.flickr.com/photos/154489981@N04/30101992097/in/photolist-2dG152E-2cnNwrM-2cpgSxf-Q6LPvN-NmRaCt-PYSuEG-MS1zvK
Large areas of (calm) water can be done nicely with 1x2 tiles in transparent light blue, transparent clear or transparent black. Using different colours underneath can simulate the depth of the water. This technique doesn't really look that good close up but it is really awesome in larger MOCs. It is also efficient - you get the most surface out of the bricks here. I used that a few times such as my MOC called ‘The Wave’: https://www.flickr.com/photos/154489981@N04/45821603714/in/photolist-2cP6Gof
Using transparent plates sideways allows more versatility and might work better on smaller MOCs but it is much more expensive. An example for this is my MOC called ‘Time to reflect’: https://www.flickr.com/photos/154489981@N04/45535340975/in/photolist-2dG152E-2cnNwrM-2aZUYsh-26gMsnE "
What tricks do you have for transporting large builds for moving or shows?
“I am quite new at LEGO building and have only done a single exhibition, so I might not be the best source for that question. Nevertheless, I have a trick for you; wrap the builds - or the parts of the builds - in cellophane or some kind of protection. That will stiffen the structure and prevent any damage from vibration.
I have seen that Joachim Klang (famous builder and LEGO book author) does it the same way when meeting him in cologne. And he is definitely a very experienced in that field.”
What advice do you have on if I was creating a LEGO portfolio? Do you know what LEGO look for when hiring new set designers?
“I can only guess about this one as I would say my own style is in most aspects the opposite of what The LEGO Group does. Basically I wouldn't do huge complicated, tricky builds but small, clean, down-to-earth ones with a few hundred bricks that are different in style, scale and theme.
What is the best technique in your opinion to build giant trees?
“I usually prefer aesthetically looks over anything else and I tend to sacrifice stability and simplicity for it. As I don't keep my MOCs assembled for very long I don't care too much for the number of bricks I use or the price of them either.
I really like trees that do not have a square or edged trunk. I experimented with 6, 7 or 8 edged trunks when doing my first trees as pictured to the left.
I optimised that technique by using hoses inside the trunks that allow really organic forms. The hoses also make sure that the trunk itself is stable - there is no way it can fall apart with those inside the structure. For the leaves, connecting them via bars seems to be by far the sturdiest solution.”
What advice would you give new builders that want to build models more seriously to become as good as you?
“I guess there are two key factors in my opinion: the time you invest and the will to try out something new. I rarely do a build that is easy going - most often I feel at least a little lost. I don't like to accept limits and find my best creations come from when I look at a specific part from every side and angle without thinking about connection first. I also often combine parts without connecting them (just hold them in my hands) just to get a feel what might be done with them; and this leads me to a lot of creative results.”
Where do you get your inspiration from for your builds?
“When talking about inspiration it's not quite clear what is meant. Design, layout, details? Or even the basic idea of a build - the plot as I would say? For me, inspiration is everywhere. Movies, real life, comics, video games… but I would say real life is the main one for me. For example my MOC called ‘Broken Home’ was inspired just by taking a walk outside. Most of the buildings in that MOC were based on real buildings that are near my home: https://www.flickr.com/photos/154489981@N04/42204545352/in/photolist-HW5FHK-27itjX3-25ZU8E2-26gMsnE-27nx6CK
I also love comics for inspiration; they are more stylized than real life and so it’s easier to make the transition to a LEGO build. For example, my medieval timber work was inspired by some volumes of the French series ‘Vasco’, drawn by Gilles Chaillet.
In general, I love my MOCs to have more than one dimension – a story, joke, moral etc. You can see this in most of my MOCs, such as ‘Another brick in the brick wall’, where I had the basic idea of a grey background that opens up, having all kind of colours popping out: https://www.flickr.com/photos/154489981@N04/31290002607/in/photolist-PEZrDz-28ki9vp-EWPRVB/
Another would be my "Broken home" MOC, which I built to convey the emotion of solitude and loss by means of the single little girl trying to cling on to her childhood (the teddy bear).
It's sometimes difficult to combine ideas when doing contests. Usually contests require you to compromise in some way: maybe scale, theme, layout, time, size, presentation etc. So I try to avoid them in future (unless I have an idea I would like to do anyways).”
And there we have it! If you read to the end, then thank you! And a huge thank you once again to Ralf for going into such detail with his answers.