Thursday, November 19th, 2020 at 3:56am by Jason, BZPower Reporter
The new LEGO Art theme is an interesting take on mosaics, which LEGO hasn't released as mass produced sets lately. Of the first wave, the most colorful is 31197 Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe. BZPower Reporter Xccj picked up a copy to see how this new mosaic system looks. Read on to see how good it is, or watch the video to see a mosaic speed-build!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
At $119.99 USD, this is a sizable set, and the box shows. It features the main Marilyn Monroe image on the front, as well as the three alternatives you can make at a smaller size. The back features more shots of the mosaic, as well as an advertisement for a soundtrack / podcast they've prepared for the builders to listen to during construction. The interior is nicely organized with the instruction booklet, the various tiles, and the new baseplate elements.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
This set has 3341 pieces, which seems pretty good until you remember that a majority of them are just the 1x1 round tiles. Still, you need a ton of those if you want to make a decent mosaic, and this set comes with plenty and then some. This set comes with seven different colored tiles, as listed below. The four main ones all come in the same quantity because the idea is that you can mix and match them to redesign the main image in different styles. This leaves you with plenty of extras when you're finished, but also means you're guaranteed to be able to make any of the four designs.
There are a couple of new elements. The main one is the new baseplate piece. They're 16x16 and have technic connections on the side, which allow for better connections. The back of them is mostly hollow besides the antistuds on the border. Another new piece is the wall mount, which connects neatly to the technic interior of the baseplates and allows you to hang them from a wall, like a properly mounted art piece. Also new is an extra wide brick separator. A 2x4 tile also has Andy Warhol's signature on it, which makes for a nice addition to the overall piece. Various black bricks, tiles, and plates are also included to help create the frame at the end.
The tile colors and quantities included are:
Dark Gray: 131
Dark Pink: 587
Light Pink: 587
Medium Azure: 587
I've got to be honest with you; the build can be very tedious and time consuming. I did a speed build of the whole thing, and it was a bit much and hurt my hands. The main build consists entirely of placing the tiles on the baseplates one at a time... and when you have a 48x48 mosaic, that's 2304 individual tiles you have to put on. Yikes! The build took me about two hours, but LEGO Art recommends taking your time, and I think it would be a lot easier just to take your time and make the plates at your leisure. Just because I'm impatient doesn't mean you have to be!
The instruction booklet isn't too complicated. There's not actual building steps for the tiles; mainly it just shows you a 16x16 section and you build from there. Luckily, because some of the colors blend in together, particularly the pinks, they have labeled each color with a different number so there's no confusion. Still, you are putting black tiles on a black baseplate, and that does blend in a little too much during the build, so beware. There are some various techniques I used when building to help with the process. I'd usually go for the smaller details in the design first, like the various streaks used through the hair or the detailed eyes and lips. For big blocks of a single color, I will usually fill in the outline first, to make sure I get all the details right, and then fill in the interior in a more haphazardous way. This does require a little bit more attention to detail than you'd get from a normal set, but it is aimed for adults.
One of the special features for LEGO Art is the Soundtrack / Podcast. It's about an hour and a half discussion about Andy Warhol. They brought in a lot of experts to talk about his art and his history and his general influence on the art world. I was admittedly not very knowledgeable about him before I picked up this set, so I lacked some of the appreciation that the experts had for him, but it was still a very informative listen. They also brought in some of the LEGO designers who talked about the process of making the mosaic. In particular, they talked about how tough it was to focus on all the little details to the point where they'd forget about the bigger images. They also talked about their various color choices; at one point, they tested out a design using the Lego flesh color that's used in licensed minifigures. The color worked great when it was a skin tone, but because the colors have to get swapped around in different designs, it was very off-putting when it was the hair or background color. The soundtrack is worth a listen, although it was only about an hour and a half, so I still was building when they wrapped up. Luckily, the soundtrack is available online for free, so you can listen to it whenever, or you could preview some of the prepared soundtrack for the other LEGO Art sets. I also listened to their take on the Beatles and Marvel's Iron Man to fill the time.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Gotta be honest, there's not a whole lot to discuss when it comes to the design, because you see exactly what you get on the front box. I did the main image with the dark pink background, and they did a good job of capturing the hair, eyes, and lips even at a relatively small scale. This one feels like the most natural of the four images, but alas there was no use of blues. If you want all four designs at once, you'll have to buy four copies of the set.
The overall thing is pretty solid. It's sizable too; the main mosaic is 48x48, but with the frame it's 50x50. The thick frame is built using bricks, plates, and tiles, and it really holds the thing together quite well. And the wall mount pieces are pretty good too, although it can be a bit tricky aligning them up to the nails in the wall to set up the full display. (I suppose this is a general issue with wall mounts.) There are some plates that go on the back to keep it level, although I noticed they like to fall off quite easily. The antistuds beneath the main baseplates aren't very strong.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
There's no real play feature, but one of the general ideas is that you can take apart this design and build another. The Marilyn Monroe designs are mostly just recolors; the black and gray tiles basically stay where they are and you swap out the hair, skin, and background colors. (The rebuilds make a bit more sense for the other Art sets, which feature completely different designs each time.) However, the disassembly process ended up being far more tedious that I expected. You see, those round tiles do not want to come off, and when they do they tend to pop off with force and go flying. They included a new, larger brick separator, but after taking apart the display once, it got really beat up, and jamming it into my hand caused some long lasting aches. (They didn't exactly provide a tutorial on how to handle the brick separator for extended periods of time. Ouch.) This makes me think that disassembling was probably not intended to be a main feature, with the idea being you pick your favorite design the first time and leave it at that. Not everybody getting this set wants to speed build two designs for a review, after all.
But I just had to make my own custom design, since I have a habit of making Bionicle themed mosaics, so it was a necessity for me to make one from this set's pieces. Mostly. The limited color palate really hurt the designs here; I supplemented it a little bit by including blue and coral tiles from the Extra Dots packs that came out this summer. Although it's clear that the designers did want people to design their own mosaics, I am a little disappointed about the lack of explanations for how to design your own. There are tons of programs out there that do mosaics to varying degrees. (I have one I prefer to use but it's old and out of date with all the colors.) You could just do it by eye as well, but you risk running out of the colors you'd need. It would be nice if they had some generator that could parse through a picture taking into consideration the color limitations of the model; instead I had to take that into consideration myself when I designed my own mosaic. It's a 2002 era Bionicle Hau / Krana design! If you want some Bionicle inspired designs but don't want to go to all the effort yourself, we did report on some Bionicle designs released by Nick Vas earlier this year.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
Good Marilyn Monroe design
All the pieces you need to make the mosaic, and then some!
Informative soundtrack / podcast
What's not to like?
Long, tedious build
Longer, more tedious disassembly
It's purely a display piece, compared to most other LEGO models
This mosaic is clearly aimed at a particular type of builder, so I understand that it will not appeal to everybody. Heck, even for mosaic builders this is just barely scratching the surface, because we like to go BIG! But if you want a neat introduction into the art of mosaics, and have the time and cash, I think this is a worthwhile build. And if Andy Warhol's design doesn't tickle your fancy, then you can also remake the Beatles, Iron Man, or Darth Vader in the other Art sets.
(And seriously, only speed-build these at your own risk!)