“Play on”. Those are the two famous words that have become the driving force behind all who have played with Lego. Some use them according to the manual, while others do not even acknowledge its existence.
Lego has also been an integral part of the Kaleon household.
“I have been playing with Lego for as long as I can remember”, said Kaleon Rahan, the 43-year-old patriarch of the family and a columnist for Star2.com.
The love for the brick was passed down to his children, particularly his two older sons, Khairy Arief and Eizec Harith.
“When we were younger, we would play with Lego, making figurines and role-playing. As we got older, we thought ‘why not try something new?’ Since Lego was our main medium, why not make masterpieces?” said 19-year-old Khairy.
“When I was young, I used to draw a lot. Then, one day, I thought, ‘why not use Lego instead of pen and paper?’ Let’s challenge ourselves and see what we can achieve,” added 18-year-old Eizec.
While a cause to rejoice, the boys’ interest in making portraits, unfortunately, grew following their grandfather’s passing.
“We built a Lego train set that went across his room in his honour. Our father gave us leeway to add what we wanted to the set, so, we ended up with Lego trees, buildings, and a portrait of our grandfather,” Khairy added.
After that, they produced family portraits of their parents and received requests from friends to do likewise for them.
As a consequence, the brothers and their father started Legolads to showcase Lego as an artistic medium to the world.
In their humble home studio, the family produces Lego portraits of famous celebrities, comic book characters and a host of other things, with the main creators being Khairy and Eizec.
The whole process of accentuating every tiny detail of their subjects, is a very meticulous one.
According to Eizec, “The first step is to find the right photograph of what or who we are going to ‘brick-alise’. Then, we make an outline of it on the building plates. Finally, we fill the shape with the right colours.”
It normally takes a minimum of two people to make the portraits, with each Legolad having their own speciality.
For instance, Khairy is the go-to person for creating human beings, while Eizec is better at making comic book characters. Kaleon finances the projects and provides creative criticism while the rest of the family, including their two younger siblings and mother, help out in various ways.
They ship the portraits – packaged in bubble and Saran wrap – using their car, but if the artwork is too big, like their Mona Lisa recreation, they hire a lorry to ferry it.
The duration of each project depends on two factors, which are its magnitude and how much free time the boys have. They normally delve into the projects at night and on weekends as they are still studying.
The shortest time they have taken – on an image of a friend – is two days, while the longest, a portrait of Usain Bolt striking his signature “lightning” pose, is four months.
“The idea started because he is my idol. After going through a few pictures, I started to visualise it in Lego terms. It was tough because it was our first big project, using 12 building plates.
“We also had to be extremely cautious about the colour, because it’s an outdoor picture with various shades and tones,” said Khairy on the fastest man’s portrait.
Legolads has undertaken 70 projects since it began three-and-a-half years ago, never rejecting a single request.
Of course, not everything produced is requested by the public. Some projects are for portfolio purposes, where they exhibit their handiwork at events for all to see.
So far, they have showcased their works at comic and university conventions, art festivals and Lego gatherings, such as Lego-building events.
The Lego community in Malaysia has been very helpful to the Lego-lads, with organisations such as the Lego User Group of Malaysia and Asia Brick, as well as Legoland, lending their support.
“Like all hobbies, we need a support group as part of the ecosystem. It’s a win-win situation because we get to exchange creative ideas and participate with them in activities,” said Kaleon.
As might be expected, no journey is without its stumbles. The Legolads have faced their share of challenges which have hindered them from completing their projects on time.
“It took us two months to complete the first version of the venom-infected Spiderman. However, upon further inspection, we found that the right leg looked a bit off. Since it didn’t match, we had to reshape it and recreate the venom effects, which delayed its completion by a month,” recalled Eizec.
Projects have also been delayed, particularly when they ran out of appropriate Lego pieces. Since certain items require a multitude of hues, this would set them back.
The Legolads project has had a profound effect on the family. For one, the bond of the family has strengthened immensely.
“When building Lego, we will all be in one room. If this project never happened, we would have been absorbed with our own lives and distant from one another,” said Khairy insightfully.
Kaleon added, “The reason we got into this is to bond. If we moved out of our home studio, the boys would be away most of the time and our relationship would not be as strong, so, it defeats the purpose.”
The Legolads have big dreams, with Iron Man and local celebrities in the pipeline. Eizec, a fan of the local rap scene, hopes to create more portraits of domestic musicians, so as to promote the homegrown scene.
One thing is for sure; the sky’s the limit for this family. After all, if they are numb to the pain of stepping on Lego pieces, what can stop them?