Special Interview with Anthony Wilson a.k.a. The Secret Walrus

This week we continue our series of Special Interviews starting with a very talented model builder from New Zealand. This weeks guest of honor is Anthony Wilson a.k.a. The Secret WalrusHe is known for his colorful and amazingly detailed dioramas and extraordinary shaped figures and vehicle. Photos from the work of our guest will be presented between the questions but you should check the builders Flickr photo-stream for tons of amazing creations.

Kaplan: We already know you are one of the best LEGO MOC'ers in the world. What can you tell us about yourself other than that? Is Anthony Wilson your real name? We are also curious where does the nick “The Secret Walrus” come from?

Anthony: I’m very flattered that you think I’m one of the best MOC’sts out there. Anthony Wilson is indeed my name. I’m Australian but I’ve lived in New Zealand for most of my life. I’m 21 years old and a computer science student with 2 years left on my degree. I don’t have many hobbies other than LEGO at the moment. I try to write/compose some music as a secondary hobby but it’s not much at the moment and I don’t really share it with anyone right now. I don’t exactly remember where my nickname ‘The Secret Walrus’ came from but I’m pretty sure the Beatles song “I am the Walrus” had something to do with it.

K:  Do you remember the day when you got your first LEGO set? Which set was it? And How old were you when you started playing with LEGO bricks?

A: Aside from Duplo I’m pretty sure my first LEGO set was the original Hogwarts Express. I must’ve been 3 or 4 when I got it which seems like an awfully young age to get a set like that but I built it regardless. I still have the parts from it in my collection to this day.

K: What is your best/unforgettable memory involving LEGO?

A: I’m not really sure to be honest, there aren’t really any specific moments that come to mind. Possibly the first time I went overseas for a LEGO convention, or maybe the first LEGO show I went to as a visitor back in 2013.

K: If you have to choose, what is your all-time favorite LEGO set?

A: That’s tough. There’s been a lot of good sets that have come out in the past few years. I think my answer to this changes pretty frequently but right now I’d say Voltron. Very well done recreation of the source material and it’s just fun to build and play with.

K: What are your favorite LEGO themes?

A: Bionicle is an obvious choice. The setting, atmosphere and character designs really appealed to me as a kid and to this day. Classic Space and some of the later spin-offs I really love too. They have a really charming aesthetic to them that feels very ‘LEGO’. Fantasy action themes like Ninjago and Elves I really like too, lots of pretty colours and fun creatures and vehicles.

K: Did you have a "dark-age"? If you had one when did you return from your dark age and how?

A: I never really had a dark age. Maybe I had a small period where I was more interested in collecting sets rather than mocing but that was pretty brief and ineffectual.

K: How many LEGO bricks/sets do you own approximately?

A: No idea, but I know it’s quite a lot. It’s far less than someone like JangBricks has but it’s probably a bit more than some of my contemporaries. I see people throwing out numbers like 250 - 500 thousand, so maybe closer to 400 or 500 thousand but I still don’t really know.

K: What are your favorite top three of your MOC’s?

A: My most recent MOC, ‘The Octopus’s Garden’ and ‘OmicronCentipede’ are definitely my top 2. Other than just being really happy with the results of them both they have a really distinct and strong personality to them that I try to infuse into my builds. As for a third there are a ton of contenders so I’m somewhat picking at random but I’ll go with Western Woods. It’s just got very out there colour choices for a castle MOC that really ended up paying off.

K: Those are truely magnificent MOC's. Do you scrap your 
MOC's after taking photos or displaying or do you keep them? How do you decide which ones you keep?

A: Generally I keep them together if I like them. If I break up a MOC it’s generally for a combination of A: I don’t like the MOC as much as others, B: I need the parts, C: It’s taking up space and D: It’s been damaged after a LEGO Show

K: What do you think about custom or third party pieces in MOC's?

A: All good in my book. Sometimes LEGO doesn’t produce exactly what people want to build with so using custom parts or even clone brands I think is fine, although I don’t think it’s my position to tell people what to do anyway.

K: You are especially great at building brickbuilt figures/robots as well as detailed dioramas. Your presentations are very colorful and beautiful. Can you give tips about building techniques and color-combinations?

A: If you want to get nice colour combinations I’d recommend looking up some basic colour theory to inform some of your creative decisions. Colour management, colour blocking and colour coding are all extremely important too to make sure your creation doesn’t look messy or incoherent. Beyond that however remember to use your eyes. More or less if it looks good use it, if it looks bad don’t, and don’t be afraid to experiment, (and look at what other people do too!)

K: We especially like the organic/alive look of creations (like big figures). How do you catch the posing and shaping for your figure MOC’s? Do you scatch drawings prior building the actual MOC or do you start building and decide shaping and posing afterwards?

A: Most of the LEGO System is based on a grid system. This is great for making square buildings and strong structures but not quite so much for making something look natural and organic, so often I try to use different techniques to not rely on it too much. Using hinge and joint pieces can be great for getting weird angles where I need to, but there are a lot of different ways of doing it and it’s worth playing around with if this is something you would like to try for yourself in your own builds.

K: You are one of the few very talented builders who can build amazingly in different theme types like castle and sci-fi. Different themes have different selection of specialized pieces. How do you manage to be good at building in different types of themes?

A: It’s a bit of a cliche but pushing outside of what I normally do is good. Generally the more you do something the better you get at it, and in a meta sense I think the more varied you get the better you get at switching from one style to another.

K: Your latest MOC: The Octopus's Garden is absolutely amazing piece of design. What can you tell us about that creation?

A: A few months ago I just had a really strong urge to make a quirky little undersea lab diorama for some reason. My original idea was quite different and a lot more vertical (there was originally a surface with a lighthouse entrance) but it ended up looking a bit awkward. Beyond that some of the key features like the basalt rocks and varied corals started to germinate in my head and the general composition started taking roughly the shape of what it ended up being. Past that I just made a few small little bits and pieces and eventually figured out how to fit them together into a single whole and fill in everything else.

K: Do you have any suggestions for the new MOC'ers?

A:  Don’t be too scared to borrow other people’s ideas. I’m sure this sentiment is well worn out by now but it’s worth reminding people (including myself) every once in a while. In particular I’d recommend using designs outside of LEGO as a reference to build from and go from there if you’re stuck or have builders block.

K: Are you currently working on some MOC's or other LEGO related projects?

A: I have some projects in mind and I’m building a couple of small planetary rovers but not much right now other than that.

K: Do you member of a local LUG? Do you participate in collaborative builds?

A: For a while I’ve been part of AuckLUG (Auckland LEGO User Group) here in New Zealand but recently I’ve been drifting between Lugs a bit. There’s also a LUG in the town I live in (Hamilton) called HamLUG and I’ve recently joined BioniLUG.

K: And or final question as always: Tiles or studs?

A: Studs are just another technique to use; they aren’t inherently bad or good, it just depends on what context you use them in. Studs can really add a lot of texture to a build, but they can also make it look messy. Studless can make a build look nice and clean but if there’s a lack of other textures it can look pretty bland and boring (for me personally anyway, other people are different).

K: It looks like one more support fort he “Studs”. We will be continuing to post your great MOC’s in our blog. Thank you very much again for participating.

A: Thanks for the interview.