Fire and WaterDo you like Lego? Of course you do.

Well, Blake Baer is the brain behind a number of remarkable Lego dioramas that recreate famous scenes from the Hobbit. If you were excited about the announcement of the Lord of the Rings Lego series, you’ll love this. the full-resolution images of the scenes from The Hobbit that Blake has visualised in Lego are amazing. chatted with Blake about the inspiration for his Lego creations, and asked him to pick his three favourites from his Hobbit series. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Blake: I live in the USA, I am a sophomore in high-school and have been home-schooled all my school years, I am interested in pre-medicine, biology, or engineering as college majors. A couple of my interests aside from LEGO are: soccer, music, architecture, art, books of all kinds, photography, medieval times, and technology. How long have you been building with LEGO, and what inspired you to start doing it seriously?

Blake: I grew up with LEGO, so I’ve been building since I was about four. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I met a LEGO professional (one who makes a living from commissions) and he really inspired me to stretch my interests. Before this point in my career, LEGO had simply been a toy, but was now blossoming into a form of art.

It was this time that I came to learn about the online LEGO community. I was blown away by how extensive it was. I learned what MOCs (My Own Creation), AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO), and TFOLs (Teen Fans of LEGO) were. The community has its own conventions and social sites, Flickr and MOCpages to name just two. The LEGO community centers around sharing your creations online. As opposed to building by myself, sharing my creations on the web is much more enjoyable. Not only do you find fans of similar interest, like the Lord of the Rings community, but you can receive instant feedback and comments. The LEGO community is directly responsible for my maturing into a TFOL. How did you become interested in Tolkien and Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit? What drew you to them and what do you like about them?

Blake: The Hobbit was one of the first large books I read at age seven. From there, I moved through the Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, and Return of the King. These books and movies really struck a chord with me. I think they ignited my interests in medieval time periods and that genre of fantasy.

Aside from being in my top five as movies/books go, I totally love Tolkien’s writing style, and his complex story line. Very rarely will you find another author who put as much effort into his books as Tolkien did with Middle Earth. His development of different languages, sub-stories and histories adds so much depth. It isn’t just a story to me though. I am sure many of you agree with me on this. While Tolkien never wanted his books to be allegorical, I find myself continuing to dissect just a little more symbolism and meaning from the story, every time I read or watch. I still cry whenever I see the end of ROTK. What was the first original piece you constructed? What do you think of it now?

Blake: My first real MOC was a big dwarf mine which readers can find on my site here.  Looking back on it now, I am not at all impressed. Different sections I did well, while others fail to impress me. I also did a stop-motion animation movie of the Lord of the Rings with some of my close friends. That was about four years back, and we didn’t manage to finish it. I actually built a smaller version of Amon Hen for that video. There may have been some foreshadowing going on. Did you make the Lord of the Rings Amon Hen piece first? Did that inspire you to move onto the Hobbit?

Blake: Indeed I did. That was built in July-August of last year. Because of its surprisingly good reception, I decided to continue with the LOTR theme which brought me to my Hobbit series. Amon Hen was actually preceded by Hobbiton, which was a small model of the Shire that I built in 2009.

Amon Hen by Blake Baer. Click for full-size How did you select the scenes you re-created from the Hobbit? What did you look for?

Blake: When I think of the Hobbit, I think of spiders, dragons and a wooden city on a lake. I think everyone has different scenes in their mind from the story. I tried to pick the more iconic scenes and portray them as I saw them in my mind’s eye. I relied on artists’ paintings as well. As I construct scenes in my mind, I think of highlights that would bring the scene out more. For example, in my Amon Hen, the waterfall was the main attraction because even people who don’t know what LOTR is, still know what a beautiful waterfall looks like. Can you just generally map out the creative process and the planning involved, from concept to finished work, for us?

Blake: For every FOL (Fan Of LEGO), each building process is different. I will always think of my scene first, and then go to build. I know of a couple builders who just start building and see where that takes them. I like to have a plan in my mind, and even a general layout of the structure. For example, I will decide that a waterfall could go there, or maybe a house here with a tree here perhaps. However, as I build, my original plan changes and it always looks different than when I started. Planning my creations ahead of time helps me save building time which is necessary when under a deadline. How long do pieces generally take to create?

Blake: Anywhere from one week to two months depending on the amount of my free time. We’d d love to specifically profile three of creations from The Hobbit you made that you especially like.

Blake: Sure!

1) Queer Lodgings. Of all of my Hobbit creations, this one remains my favorite. Aside from LOTR, Castle is my normal building theme. The two coincide so beautifully that I will often merge them. “Queer Lodgings” was my favorite because it uses a lot of techniques that we Castle builders will use regularly. Things like grass and trees and a big lodge with a textured thatched roof.

“Queer Lodgings” was always a mysterious chapter in the Hobbit, because it contains the “were-bear” Beorn who is my absolute favorite from the books. One of the things I love about LEGO is that we can portray things as we want them to look. Building Beorn for example, I tried to capture my image of a tanned, scarred, hairy, weather-beaten rough woodsmen who lived in a giant house and turned into a bear at night. I thought the scene that I built echoed that idea of Beorn pretty well. Everything from the overgrown grass, to the horses, to the Warg head above the door, to the adorable dogs he keeps.

Queer Lodgings by Blake Baer
2) Fire and Water. “Fire and Water” is my second favorite. Whenever I think of the Hobbit, I always think of a wooden city on a lake. I tried my very best to fashion the creation around what I saw in my mind’s eye. I would’ve liked to build it higher off of the water, but due to lack of pieces, this was not possible. This MOC was quite a challenge because all of it was suspended above the water. I had to actually construct my base which was very fragile. Tolkien drew some excellent drawings of Laketown which I relied heavily upon to inspire me.

Fire and Water by Blake Baer
3) Flies and Spiders. Even though this one is small, “Flies and Spiders” did exactly what I wanted it to do. I wanted to get the feeling of dark shadowy places in Mirkwood and portray the dwarves hanging from the trees with Bilbo fighting the old spider below. Most of my Hobbit creations had creatures in them (Smaug, Spider, Warg, Trolls) and I am not very good at creatures to say the least. It was a good opportunity to get some experience with them, though. As some of the more astute observers will likely notice, this spider only has six legs. Artistic license perhaps, though it was mostly because of the impossibility of adding two more legs. Also the octagonal base presented some tough angles and challenges. As a builder, I thrive on doing hard techniques or using new angles. This ultimately makes me a much better builder.

Flies and Spiders by Blake Baer Have you submitted to competitions or exhibits?

Blake: Aside from attending LEGO conventions in Washington DC, I do online contests regularly. In fact, all of my Hobbit creations were done for a contest. Competitions are a fun way to show off your creations, get to know people, and possibly earn prizes. Have you read about the LoTR lego that’s coming out? What are your thoughts on that?

Blake: This is a very interesting point. It is much more complex than some may think. To put things simply, I am very happy that LEGO is making new pieces (I vowed to buy all the sets).

But for some FOLs like myself who love to build in the LOTR theme, this is somewhat of a disappointment. One of the reasons that we love to build LOTR is that this theme has a smaller user group. We don’t want to be just another Star Wars builder. It is our own little niche so to speak. LEGO’s production of official sets leads me to think my niche may be destroyed and turned into a more popular theme. I hope not. Time will tell. What would you like to do next? Do you have any more LoTR projects in the fire, say, scenes from the Silmarillion or something?

Blake: I have tons of ideas on my clipboard currently, but none of them have really fleshed out for me. A couple ideas are Cirith Ungol (with Shelob), Edoras, Rivendell, the Mines of Moria, and Weathertop. I hadn’t considered scenes from the Silmarillion though I shall definitely be thinking about this.

You can see more of Blake’s incredible Lego works — both inside-of and outside-of Middle-earth — either on his Lego MOC site, or by visting his Flickr page. What are you waiting for? Go check them out.