Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Builder Interview: Jon Hall, Master of Dieselpunk Aircraft

Jon Hall is one of those Lego designers who basically "own" their chosen subject, in this case Dieselpunk aircraft.  Nobody can get even close to the quality, creativity, and variety (25+) that Jon has accomplished in these sub-genre of alternate history war planes. 

Each vehicle is a pleasure to behold and showcases the heights that Lego can accomplish as a medium for actualizing ones imagination in a real world model.  Jon goes the extra mile for that final touch and creates a custom pilot for each vehicle, proving that his artistic talent matches his building skill.

 The Spirit of Freedom

Jon Hall recently published on of these many fantastic works, the Spirit of Freedom to Cuusoo.  I think he is one of those rare talents, like Peter Reid with the raw imagination, bricking skill, and imaging mastery to take a totally unlicensed idea all the way to production (with of course 9400 more votes).

Make sure to check out his array of great design at JonHall18

The Interview

"I first became interested in Lego bricks as little boy in the 70s. I owned some of the sets that are now regarded as classics – the famous “yellow castle” and quite a lot of the classic space sets (there, now I don’t need to tell you exactly how old I am!)

It was only when I had my first child that I was exposed to Lego again. We were visiting my parents house and they got down my old Lego from the loft for him to play with. They still had most of my original instructions so we built my old train set (7740), put in on the tracks, switched on the power and… it still worked! My son was very keen on this “new” toy so we started buying him current Lego sets for his birthday and Christmas and I helped him assemble them. Then I started building things for him to play with (like the Mars Mission base I created as we didn’t like Lego’s official set!)

He loved it, but I had the bug then and wanted to build more stuff and that’s where it all began.

I’ve always made stuff that’s for kids (or immature adults!) in my day job too. I started my career in animation, then progressed to computer games, and currently work for a major UK publishing house as a graphic designer. I work with Lego, Lucasfilm, Disney, Pixar and Marvel to name but a few, doing licensed books of their IPs. I designed the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary (and its soon to be released update) amongst other things.

My process of making an MOC is almost always the same - I draw lots and lots of ideas on paper, as little thumbnails usually, and then I choose one that I think are the coolest or most interesting and then start thinking about how I’d make it from Lego, what colours it will be etc. I very rarely just start building with bricks. It can take me a long time to actually finish a model though as I don’t actually have a lot of time to build, as I have two small children and a full-time job! I usually do all my building very late at night in my shed!
My Lego vehicles have been categorized as dieselpunk – a label I’d never heard of until after I’d already started building my planes. But it a useful label insofar as people who search for dieselpunk on the net can find my stuff. Dieselpunk is one of a series of sci-fi genres which started with cyberpunk in the 80s, then came steampunk and now there’s lots, some would say too many, genres with “punk” at the end. Dieselpunk is basically anything fictional that inhabits a world with 1920s-1940s technology, so the steam engine in steampunk is replaced with the internal combustion engine. It often harks back to Art Deco design, American pulp fiction, and World War I and II style vehicles and settings.

I started building imaginary planes in Lego as an experiment. When I first started exploring the Lego community online I noticed there were lots of people building spacecraft, and starfighters but I didn’t want to do that, mainly because what was already out there was so good, but I thought I could take some of the ideas of starfighter design and change them just enough that they would work for imaginary aircraft. No-one seemed to be doing that and I thought it would get me noticed in the community quicker – plus I found it interesting myself. I thought I’d explore that particular niche until I ran out of ideas and then would move on to something else – but I haven’t run out of ideas yet!

I’m very new to the Lego Cuusoo community. Several people over the last year or so had said I should submit one or other of my models to Cuusoo but I wasn’t sure at first. This is my first submission and I have absolutely no idea if it will reach 10,000 votes, but I’m a naïve optimist - If I thought it didn’t have a chance I wouldn’t have submitted it! I chose the Spirit of Freedom as it’s my most popular model on Flickr and also one or my personal favourites, the wings in particular were very hard to get right but I’m quite proud of the final result.
I get my inspiration from all sorts of places – concept artists, comics, films, animation, as well as other builders of course. I’m a big Hayao Miyazaki fan and love all his films and books. I love looking at concept art too –there are so many insanely talented people out there making this amazing art – I wish I could draw and paint half as well as some of them! One of my favourite illustrators is Jake Parker, he's a great cartoonist, very imaginative. As for builders, there are so many that I admire and am friends with that I feel rather reluctant to name anyone - it’s so hard to single anyone out, so these are just a few of my favourite builders I hope I don’t offend anyone I’ve left off: (Flickr names) LEGOLIZE IT MAN, Fredoichi, Pierre E Fieschi, Cole Blaq, Legohaulic, Legoloverman, Red Spacecat, Ted @ndes, Orion Pax, Vince Toulouse, 2 Much Caffeine, all their stuff is consistently amazing. Looking at great builders models can inspire you in so many different ways – from an idea for a whole model to a technique you might want to “borrow” and use as the starting point of a new moc. You can also learn a lot about use of colour, and lighting and how important good photography is to present your work, which reminds me, I need to get a better camera…

I have several work-in-progress mocs at the moment including a large dieselpunk walker, god knows when it’ll be finished but I’m not going to shoot it until I’m happy with it and as I’m a bit of a perfectionist that could take a while!"

Sample Gallery