A Creative Profile: Nathan Sawaya

Nathan Sawaya- Art of the Brick

Nathan Sawaya- Art of the Brick (Photo credit: Inhabitat)

Since I still feel a bit creatively stuck with my own work, I decided to write about an artist who inspires me creatively. I showcased the graffiti artist, Banksy in my last creative profile (A Creative Profile: Banksy). I used the same questions I did for Banksy, which were part of an assignment, as I thought they might keep me focused. This time I chose an artist named Nathan Sawaya.  I heard an interview with him on Q a while ago and decided to investigate further.


  • DOB: July 10, 1973
  • Place of Birth: Colville, Washington
  • Years Active: 2004-present
  • Occupation: New York based artist specializing in 3-D sculptures and oversized portraits

Why is Sawaya an important model of creativity? Sawaya is an important model of creativity because he works with a popular medium (Lego) that is accessible to all, transforming it into something beyond the typical Lego structures and sculptures. I find it fascinating that Sawaya has taken a childhood toy and re-imagined it as something more. He takes the ordinary and turns it into fine art. I think he’s also an important model of creativity because he inspires Lego lovers and others not to be afraid to try, to imagine, to do. Sawaya left a career as a corporate attorney to follow his dream of becoming an artist, working with an unlikely medium.

Where do Sawaya’s ideas come from?  Sawaya states that he is inspired by the everyday, as well as by his experiences and feelings. Often Sawaya recreates famous art pieces, so it would seem that he is also inspired by other artists as well.

What is Sawaya’s particular struggle? One struggle that Sawaya encounters is the restriction of the medium–he does not use any specialty Lego pieces with slopes or curves, all are the basic rectangular bricks in the same colours available to all–nothing is customized. I think the greater struggle for Sawaya would be to avoid selling out. His work sells for $10 000-$20 000, and even higher for celebrity pieces. It must be a delicate balance to create the work you want, yet offer to make customized pieces for those that can afford to pay. Do these customized pieces mean that Sawaya is not longer creating art, but moving into the realm of craft? Some of his pieces seem to be moving into a repetitive sort of realm. A final struggle for Sawaya must be the imitators. Sawaya is arguably the most well known of artists that work with Lego, yet he is not the only one. A google search reveals not only other artists creating with Lego, but many of whom are willing to sell the same designed piece over and over and over. Will this bring down the value of Sawaya’s art? Will it force him to push boundaries even further within the confines of the brick? Only time will tell.

What creative qualities does he display? The creative quality that I like best about Sawaya is the playfulness and purity that is evident within his art. Working with the basic bricks (colour, shape, and size) is both pure and limiting, yet evocative of childhood memories people have of creating and playing within the confines of those bricks.

My hope is that Sawaya’s work will inspire others to create in whatever medium they choose.  I also hope it inspires parents to stop buying Lego kits and to just get the basic bricks for their children. Kids have imaginations–let them use them.

If you are interested learning more about Nathan Sawaya and his art, check out the following links:







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