Sean Kenney: Art with LEGO bricks
Life-size busts for Herman Miller SEE magazine     ‹ Back to portfolio
Photo of Life-size busts for Herman Miller SEE magazine
18 inches tall        9,000 LEGO elements.        Completed May 1, 2006

In February 2006, Sean was commissioned by Dwight Escliman Photography to build three life-size monochromatic busts, to be included in Herman Miller's award-winning design magazine, "SEE", alongside an article about the humanization of architecture and design.

Each bust took about three days to design, build, and glue, and each contains about 3000 LEGO elements.

Sean found creating monochromatic figures to be more challenging than multi-colored ones. "The biggest challenge with these models was trying to create the subtlety of human features," says Sean. "Normally you can use a color change to indicate where areas like eyes, lips, or hair begin and end. But I didn't have that luxury, so I was forced to exaggerate these features and use depth-of-LEGO-bricks to define areas."

On any human figure, the eyes are the most time consuming because not only are they looked at the most, but in addition, the slightest change can have a great effect on the emotion of the face. "Having only one color to do this with made it even more complicated!" said Sean.

"Woman's clothing is also often more fitted than men's, and it was challenging to attempt to illustrate where clothing began and skin ended. I am happy with the results, but getting there took a lot of designing-and-redesigning."

It was also important to Sean that these three people each have their own unique features, not as simply three identical heads with different hair-dos. "I modelled the yellow man to have a large bone structure and mostly European features," said Sean. "The tan woman has a much smaller bone structure, higher cheekbones, and a pointer nose and chin. The red woman has more African features, with a wider, more rounded jawline and a shorter nose." Every feature, from their ear lobes to the shape of their eyes, is different.

Just in case you didn't believe it... yes, they are life size. :)

A closeup of the tan woman (above). She was the third and final bust that Sean built, and his favorite. "I especially like the way she photographs from the side," says Sean. "I think she has the most realistic profile of all three models. I was learning more and more about monochromatic construction as I went through the other two, and applied what I learned to her."

This is a close-up of how Sean constructed the eyes and eyelids. It was important to him that the eyes convey a neutral expression, but not look spaced-out or zombielike. This was the solution he designed.