I designed this scene for the 2018 Summer Joust, as an entry for the "Interiors" category. However, it originated as something very different... something involving magic bananas!
About two weeks before publishing this piece, I had the pleasure of entertaining a few LEGO set designer friends (Nick Vaas, Niek van Slagmaat, and Corvin Stichert) when they passed through my neck of the woods. Naturally, we decided to mess around with bricks and collaborate on something. Putting together purple roller coaster track pieces into a circle, we thought it'd make a cool metaphysical magic construct/nexus. I assembled a windblown wizard (originally intended to hover mid-hoop, suspended by his own sorcery) as a natural outgrowth from that.
A banana-suit-guy minifigure Nick brought over inspired him to think that this wizard could be directing his prodigious powers towards solving a food crisis, i.e., turning regular-sized bananas into gigantic ones. The rest of us loved the idea and ran with it. We decided to put this gigantic banana in the glowing center of a LEGO Dimensions game console, and masked the other luminous surfaces of that unorthodox base with cracked flooring; this allowed for some pretty nifty under-lighting of the build. All told, it was a wacky premise that we enjoyed creating for a night!
After my friends left, I decided to keep certain elements of our zany collaboration and turn them towards a very different build. I kept the wizard, the purple roller coaster track circle, and the concept of under-lighting, and then combined these foundational elements with my desire to do something Gothic. I wound up with the mental image of a summoning circle inside a cathedral, and started pursuing that vision.
I modeled my backdrop for this scene on an elevation diagram from David Macaulay's fantastic Cathedral book. I ended up choosing brown as the "stone" color here purely out of necessity, since that was the only hue in which I possessed sufficient quantities of the Gothic half-arch brick and of those huge 2x2 pillars. I worried that brown, which is so commonly a "wood" color in LEGO builds, might be a confusing choice, but I hope that the level of "stonework" detail I squeezed into the facade —plus the finished lighting effect's impact—eliminates any potential confusion.
I planned to have my flooring texture (that medley of slopes laid flat) within the circle as well as without. Short on parts, though, I chose to leave the circle clear; now, for lighting reasons I prefer it that way.
Speaking of parts shortages, the stained glass windows really put my trans-colored elements collection to the test; I barely scraped together enough bricks, plates, and cheese slopes to cover all my window areas! The scarcity, luckily, led me to be very deliberate with my patterns and color combinations up there.
I initially imagined a generic demon summoning, but upon rediscovering my cow skull element while looking for wizardly table decor, I ended up pursuing something a little different: a skeleton dragon. This development really clarified what the scene would be, for me, and felt like a relief... I hadn't really had many ideas for other demons, at the time. Plus, with its dominantly white color scheme, the skeleton benefited by both standing out against my brown backdrop and maximally showing off the effects of under-lighting.
Photographing this scene was quite difficult. I had to assemble up a pretty complex set-up involving a glass table, specially-cut black paper masking, purple plastic wrap, and four lights. The trickiest parts were: illuminating the stained glass windows without flooding the rest of the scene (and, in fact, trying to make the insides of those larger arches as dark as possible); making sure the under-light was contained to where I needed it; and adding a little bit of bounce light that still left the scene feeling "dark and moody," allowing the purple under-light to steal the show like I wanted, while also allowing for a decent-quality photograph. All in all, I feel I sacrificed a little bit of photo clarity in favor of atmosphere, but for the sake of the final presentation I feel okay about that trade-off.
Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions or comments about the model, feel free to leave them in the comments below.