Lego Bar Art
Mosaics, mostly using just standard Lego bricks,
placed on the face of our recreation room bar

As usual, just click on any snapshot for an enlargement
suitable for downloading, printing (or framing?)

1. The beginnings

When my adorable and insightful wife decided early in 2000 that our much needed basement remodel should also enhance my Lego hobby, one of the
issues was what to do with the beautiful oak plank-faced bar which in 25 years had never seen a drop of alcohol cross it's surface. Even though I'd designed and built the oak bar, I was excited to convert it to better fit my beloved hobby!

The bar itself was extracted during the remodelling - and then resurfaced with 48 x 48 light gray Lego baseplates, which were glued and screwed
to cover the entire three visible faces of the bar. If you plan a similar project for your home, please note that I never considered aligning the baseplates
with Lego plates or long bricks. "Eye-balling" the placement of screwholes was not perfect. The bar works well for my mosaic art - but it could be better!

The playroom (and bar) as
it looked before 2000.
Here's the bar with Lego
baseplates attached, ready
for reinstillation.
And this is the way the
playroom looked before I
started added my junk!
The end of the bar facing
the recreation room was
quickly grided onto 1/8"
graph paper

2. The Mosaic Plan

Now that I had a canvas upon which to work (Note that a 32 x 32 or better yet a 48 x 48 stud baseplate make a great canvas as well.), it was time to find a picture and convert it into Lego! I typically print a copy of my picture, cartoon or drawing for reference, then pixellize the art on Photoshop or a similar art/photo program,

For a mosaic on a 48 x 48 baseplate, for example, break your picture down to 48 x 48, just a little more than twice as large as the 32 x 32 artwork for an icon maker. I then print the small pixelized picture on a full sheet of paper, so I can see and map each pixel. Let's use a. a. milne's Winnie the Pooh as an example:

The first step is to
pixellize the Pooh,
in this case 40 wide.
Then I block out the page,
usually in grids of 5, either
starting top or center.
At this point I usually transfer
the picture to my bar or base-
plate grid, especially if there
are words to be plotted.
Finally out comes the
Lego and we have mosaic
art, in this case for
Valentine's Day 2009.
[My wife loved it!]

3. Examples of my mosaics: They are often seasonal, so let's work our way through the year.

New Years Eve 2002
featured bar art for
our annual party.
By 2007 the display
was much more colorful.
The next year a
snowman announced
the New Year.
Winter 2002 featured a
simple message, forwhich
I cannot find a photo.
But my retirement at the
end of June 2011 resulted
in a resurrected snowman.
The end of winter doldrums
is signalled by St Patrick's
Day (see later below).
Spring 2002 was worth
a new mosaic, in
traditional colors
2007 saw new art and
several new colors on
my pallet...
Which caused the happy
bluebird to return the
next year!
And again with slight
variations in 2012.
The very first bar art
heralded completion
of the remodelling and
the summer of 2001.
On the other hand, the
summer of 2012 brought
the worst drought in
many years to Illinois.
Halloween is not usually
an occasion to gather at
our house so this is my
first Halloween bar art
The cold turkey is a
favorite of mine, though
we're not often home at
Thanksgiving time.
Christmas 2001
inspired a candy
...which has
been tweaked
...and again over
the years until...
...Christmas got
a little too long.
Then in 2010
Santa Claus
Followed by a
chilly penguin
in 2011

4. Some of the Bar Art is done for special occasions...

One of the first examples announced our vacation to Ireland in 2003 [the first appearance of the leprechaun and his pot of gold]. Others have included:

A visit from our California
daughter Robbin and her
surfer husband Ben.
Our son Steve's 20th
Eisenhower High School
class reunion: Go Panthers!
And the roughly 20 year
togetherness of our
Couples Golf team, the
We actually placed 1st
in the entire league
one glorious year!
Time will... ...tell what art... ...may be in... future.

5. Big Ten on 48 x 48 Baseplates - even suitable for framing!

About six years ago, a close friend's grandson Justin and I began an annual Lego project for his county 4H Fair in western Indiana. For the second year of his restricted 12 x 12 x 12" projects he chose to do a 38 x 38 stud mosaic of the nearby Purdue University logo. He (with my assistance) won a blue ribbon, and I liked the logo so much that when he was finished with it, I transferred it to a 48 x 48 stud baseplate, where it remains today (see right).

The next year another local Lego enthusiast, Terry Parrish, saw the Purdue logo, and thought it would be fun to do Illinois' Chief Illiniwek, then under fire for being an native American Indian symbol. So we designed and he built the Chief on a 48 stud baseplate and had it framed:

Here's my layout for the
mosaic of Chief Illiniwek.
Here are yours truly and Terry
with his framed Illinois logo,
done in blue, orange and white
Lego. I'll likely use dark blue if I
do one for myself someday.
Terry is from Ohio and a
huge Buckeye fan, so
naturally he's also done
the Ohio State University
logo as well.
That all naturally
inspired me to do
Herky the Hawk from
my alma mater, the
University of Iowa...
And last football season
create a Tiger Hawk to
monitor the football season
- until the Hawks fell out of
the Top 25.

Many pictures done on a 48-stud baseplate can be very reasonably priced, even though the baseplate contains 2304 Lego studs. Unfortunately Lego Group has (temporarily?) stopped making 48 x 48-stud baseplates, though about 1500 light gray and light bluish gray plates are on sale on BrickLink for typically $10-15 with or without original packaging.

The second issue is cost of the Lego itself. I uses bricks 99% of the time for my mosaics, though plates work just as well. You can purchase the 2304 studs worth of Lego bricks in standard colors for no more than a penny per stud on BrickLink and not a lot more from Lego Group (especially if you're buying many larger bricks/plates to cover large areas of uniform colors). Even orange bricks (only made since about 1998) can be purchased for about 2 cents per stud, with plates costing perhaps 3 cents (though 1x1 plates are 15-20 cents each). BUT if you (or I) want to do a large mosaic using a lot of dark blue bricks or plates the cost jumps to 5-10 cents per stud, and for purple [say Northwestern University Wildcats] ~500 purple brick studs would cost $50-75 and plates even more. You're now looking at an expensive project (heirloom?). The framing might not be the most expensive part of the project. Soon I'll be adding grids to the items below (and others upon request):

Indiana Hoosiers Michigan Wolverines Michigan State's
old 'Sparty'
Golden Gophers
University Wildcats
Penn State and their... new sleek Nittany Lion Wisconsin's
And the new W

6. And several Logos that are a must for all AFOLs, especially in the midwestern USA.

Da Bears The sweet but ever
losing Chicago Cubs
The 2011 World Series
Champion St. Louis
Cardinals [exciting
again this year]
And the ever popular -
and ever beloved- logo
of the Lego Group
I'm currently thinking I'll
pixellize and plot your
favorite team or logo for
US$10. All rights reserved.
Email me if interested.

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