10K Club Interview: Meet Mark Fitzpatrick of RuPaul's Brick Race
10K Club Interview: Meet Mark Fitzpatrick of RuPaul's Brick Race
It took some time for this week's 10K Club member, Mark Fitzpatrick a.k.a. SeeMarkGeek, to come up with an idea for a project that would be both challenging and new, while at the same time being something that would mean a great deal to many people. 319 days after its submission, there's no doubt that Mark "struck gold" when he settled on the idea of the fun and colourful RuPaul's Brick Race, that has certainly shown to mean a lot to its many supporters.
Help us congratulate Mark on joining the exclusive LEGO Ideas 10K Club and for sharing his story with us!
- Where are you from?
I’m from Hobart, Australia, though I currently live in Melbourne.
- How old are you?
I’m 36 years old.
- What do you study or do for a living?
I work in a marketing role for a company that provides training and support for Australian not-for-profit organisations and charities.
- What hobbies do you have?
When I have downtime, I enjoy reading, looking over LEGO news, spending time with my friends and jogging.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
Like many children, I grew up with buckets of bricks that belonged to elder siblings. When I didn’t have my nose in a book, I would probably be found elbow-deep in that pile of plastic.
The first LEGO set that was truly mine was Forbidden Island (6270) and I thought it was amazing. I got it for Christmas and it kept me entertained until school started back, months later.
Also, like lots of kids who loved LEGO, I went on to resist “childish things” as a teenager but rediscovered LEGO many years later when I received the Forbidden Corridor (4706) for my 21st birthday.
I’m now once more the proud owner of a healthy collection of bricks and in recent years I’ve particularly enjoyed collecting the Harry Potter, Batman and DC Super Heroes themes.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
It’s as hard to pick a single favourite LEGO set as it is to name a single favourite book or film... so, I’ll cheat and pick two (or three.)
I love the Harry Potter theme and consider The Chamber of Secrets (4730) a real highlight. I like the scale of this model and its display appeal. It has a fun minifigure selection, lots of play features and a flippin’ Basilisk with glow-in-the-dark dagger teeth. What’s not to love? That theme also gave us the most purpley-purple Knight Bus (4866). So much purple, so much fun.
I also really enjoy the Polar Scout (6586) from the Arctic theme. I think it’s a great example of a small set that hits above its weight. It has heaps of play value, accessories and a Polar Bear. Winning!
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
Nope. That’s just too hard. (Well… maybe the monkey from the Forbidden Island set. Nine-year-old me thought that was the best LEGO element ever).
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
I really like Marcos Bessa’s designs for LEGO. I like colourful designs and many of his creations are bursting with colour, like his recent Joker Manor (70922) and also The Simpsons House (71006) and Kwik-E-Mart (71016). His Batwing Battle Over Gotham City (6863) is also, in my opinion, one of the most “swooshable” LEGO sets of all time.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I subscribe to a number of LEGO blogs (including Brickset, The Brother’s Brick and New Elementary) and look forward to reading their posts each morning. I also enjoy following lots of creative LEGO designers and artists on Instagram.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I’d wanted to submit a project for some years and spent lots of time pondering options. I was looking for a bit of a personal challenge; something that might take some time to complete so the process could be savoured. I was also keen to find something new that I could contribute to the LEGO universe.
I decided that a LEGO set based on RuPaul’s Drag Race was definitely something new and challenging. And beyond this, I knew this project would be fun!
At its core, the subject material this set is based on is whimsical, colourful and full of life and I think these are qualities that match up well with LEGO.
It has also been really, really satisfying to represent, in plastic, something that means a great deal to lots of people. This project has brought me into contact with interesting, diverse, passionate LEGO and RuPaul fans around the globe and I’m personally richer for every kind comment and vote of support they gave along the way.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
Firstly, this was my first LEGO Ideas submission (and my first major MOC really) so almost everything about putting this project together involved a steep learning curve.
One of the trickiest aspects of this design was creating and applying custom decorations to my virtual build. I knew that faithfully translating the characters into minifigure form would require unique decorations, so I needed to learn how to design LEGO-like decorations and then find a tool to apply them to my LEGO Digital Designer files. The solution I found required running Windows on my Macbook and the resulting rendering process ground to a glacial pace. If I made a mistake composing a scene before I rendered it, it could amount to hours and hours of wasted time - it was a really slooooow process of trial and error.
Another interesting design problem was how to represent the “Clutch Game” backdrop. In the television show this project is based on, the backdrop is a single, sparkly, dark blue sequin curtain. I tried all sorts of options and couldn’t find a way of building a curtain system from bricks, so instead, I devised the grid and transparent triangular plate system I’ve used.
- How long did it take to complete the model?
I worked on the design of this model on-and-off for around 2 years. That might sound like an exaggeration (or a silly amount of time to have spent) but it took me that long to figure out how to build and then render my design.
When I started building this set in LEGO Digital Designer, I would put in an hour or two a week. As I became more familiar with the various software tools I used to build, decorate and render this model, my pace picked up.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
It took 319 days to reach 10,000 votes. When the last vote came in, I felt proud, a little anxious but also very grateful. I’d worked on this project for a long while and reaching that milestone only became possible because a community of fans recognised something fun, playful and worthwhile in this idea. That was humbling and pleasing, certainly.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
This model uses 551 elements, including minifigs.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
I’m not an expert designer by any measure, so I don’t think I’m the right person to give advice about the design process. Where I might have some thoughts others might find useful relates to the promotion of ideas.
Here’s what I’d offer:
Firstly, and most importantly, know that you’ll almost certainly have to put in lots of work to find votes. Every now and then an amazing concept will launch and find 10,000 votes in a matter of days but those projects are the exception (proposed by really, really talented folk) and not the rule. I would put aside a few hours, at least twice a week, to look for new networks to reach out to and new opportunities for sharing this project.
I soon realised that the RuPaul’s Drag Race fan base was truly global. I became a member of more than 20 different Facebook fan groups from all around the globe and I would post to those groups often. While I first worried I was being patronising, I realised I could use Google Translate to post in the language preferred by each group. I think most people appreciated this simple gesture of wanting to meet them half-way. The lesson here? You’ll find supporters all around the world and we don’t all speak the same language - think about how you can make a meaningful attempt at sharing your idea with everyone equally.
Finally, I made an effort to reply to each and every comment I could find about my project, setting up keyword alerts wherever possible so that I could make sure I thanked supporters. Some days there would be none, other days it felt like a full-time job keeping up with the discussion. I enjoyed every minute though. I think it’s worth responding to everyone and being thankful for everyone’s time.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
Of the LEGO Ideas projects that have had success so far, my favourite is Andrew Clarks Doctor Who (21304). It has wonderful play and display value, fun minifigures and his brick-built Daleks are perfect.
There are so many great projects currently being voted on though and many that have come and gone through the program were equally enjoyable. I really like Isometry’s Monument Valley project (such vibrant colours and delicate detail) and I am bursting to get my hands on len_d69’s Voltron - Defender of the Universe when it is released.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I really like the diversity of ideas that this program has created space for over the years. No two review rounds have been the same in composition and that’s because there is still such a great variety of concepts being voted on.
I think it’s commendable that the LEGO Group provides a place for amateur designers of different skill levels to put forward ideas.
I think that a diversity of ideas on the platform is really important, and where I sometimes fall into polite disagreement with others is that I don’t think that users should only submit ‘certain winners’.
My project raised a few eyebrows along the way, with some constructive criticism that it probably shouldn’t have been submitted or allowed. I think that LEGO Ideas is all the better for its wild diversity and that any project that meets LEGO’s submission guidelines and that can demonstrate broad support is worth looking at.
Sure, they may not all hit toy shelves in the future, but I don’t think we should constrain our proposals by thinking about “winning” solely in those terms.
Rather, if we continue to create and design from our hearts, making things that interest ourselves, people like ourselves, and people who are supportive of all sorts of ideas, then we’ll all be better off for that, regardless of whether we ultimately intend to pick up a copy at the toy store
My project may not go any further but I feel very much the richer for having stuck at. It’s been great to see it through to this stage and even better to have heard from so many supportive and encouraging members of the LEGO community along the way. If others get to enjoy an experience like the one I’ve had, they will be winners too.