Inside the Customizer's Studio: Shobrick

Customizer ‘Shobrick’ has exploded onto the scene over the past year with a combination of detailed custom minifigures and fantastic photography. I only discovered Sho recently, but in that time he’s clearly demonstrated he has a unique style and approach to his work that made me want to get to know him better.

This interview was conducted over a period of weeks through an e-mail exchange. Shobrick was gracious enough to conduct the interview in English (he’s French), as if it were the other way around this wouldn’t have been possible.

As with most stories we start at the beginning and talk about Shobrick’s childhood LEGO experiences and emerging from his dark ages...

Shobrick: ‘Well I had a dark age starting from 12-13 years old until 21-22 years old. I did play a long time with LEGO and I remember taking pictures and using LEGO to recreate favorite scenes from movies I've just seen. My eye was the camera, my mind help me to imagine the story, and the LEGO figs were the actors... I had loved getting inspired by movies to start new adventures and new stories.

I think LEGO is the best material for kids, no other toy is that complete and enjoyable. I had played with other toys of course, but I remember playing mostly to LEGO. My parents as kids played outside, I've played to LEGO, nowadays kids play to video games.

I don't know exactly how I came back to LEGO, I guess I was searching a different way to create from drawings or writing or making short movies. I guess toys are great material to learn photography and lighting. About customization I don't know I guess I like to create things with my hands and I love details, so LEGO minifigs are the perfect medium!

Besides LEGO does have the greatest active toy community. That is not a surprise, the uses and combinations using LEGO are endless.’

Cygnet: What is your favorite customization tool in your kit and why?

Shobrick: ‘It should be e-tape, because it's easy, it's removable, it's available in lots of colors. That's my alternative to paint, because I don't want to have my hands dirty, and I think it looks cleaner in a way than paint. I mean paint is used mostly to replace tissue or fabric. LEGO is all about plastic so why don't stay into plastic.’

Cygnet: Many of your creations focus on military themes. Why does this particular area inspire your designs?

Shobrick: ‘I don't know I always loved military, maybe because the soldiers' gear are full of details, and you know my love for details. Besides most of the custom figs are military I don't know why, manufacturers are mostly making military products too, except from BrickForge.

Looks like humankind is well known for his war history. That's kind of strange but when you think to the Middle Ages, the first image that come in your mind is a knight on his horse (he's a soldier), when you think to Roman Civilization you think to Caesar and his legions, it's the same for every main period of our history. Looks like humans are made for war, and they will never stop to do so.’

Cygnet: You recently shared a couple of scenes focused on the ethnic cleansing happening in the Darfur region. What inspired you to develop these scenes? What was your goal in developing these?

Shobrick: ‘I can already tell you I made it in reaction to yoshix's work about extermination camps. Lots of people were shocked and reacted violently about his creation. I wanted to see if people will be shocked the same by a MOC on Darfur or Rwanda genocide happening nowadays, and obviously nobody was scandalized. It's kind of sad, people learned to be shocked by the shoah (holocaust) but not about Staline or African genocide. I just wanted to talk about something that people never talk about. I wanted to shock also, too make a disturbing creation but I think that's a failure.’

NOTE: If you’ve not seen yoshix’s concentration camp, it was posted a few months ago with little explanation, leaving the meaning and interpretation up to the viewer. The comments were varied, but yoshix never came out to provide his side (not that he needed to).

Shobrick’s depictions of ethnic cleansing didn’t appear to shock as many people, based on the comments, but should remind us that these acts are happening around the world even today...

Cygnet: You recently collaborated with Tiny Tactical on a diorama/scene using many of their custom parts. How did that collaboration come to happen?

Shobrick: ‘I contacted Tiny Tactical (TT) to make a commercial pic, which will help them to promote their work a bit more. I used only LEGO and TT and a bit of BrickArms that they had already shown in their stream. I believe they were pretty happy with the results. I hope to work on another set with the TT team, you know I'm a real fan of their products.

The best thing to do it's to combine the release of a commercial pic with the opening of a shop, an update, or the release of a new products, to give maximum visibility. If the pic is Explored it can even bring new customers.

Actually, I'm trying to start making commercial pictures for non-official LEGO companies. If anyone is interested don't hesitate to contact me via my Flickr mail.’

Cygnet: Is there an 'unsung hero' in the customization community today that you think more people need to know about?

Shobrick: ‘I really appreciate mcgregor.harry's customized figs. He’s made some really good decals. His work deserves more views.’

Cygnet: I believe I've read in conversations on Flickr that you have been a film school student. What draws you to the cinema?

Shobrick: ‘I've been a film school student, and I hope to win my life being a movie director one day, the beginnings are pretty hard in that line of job. Cinema is a very small world and it's hard to enter it.

My passion for cinema is quite old, I'm a creative person, at first I draw a lot then I discovered cinema. Nowadays it is the most effective way to tell a story and to make people dream a little. It affects in a very obvious way I believe, I try to be cinematic as possible.’

Cygnet: How have your film studies affected your LEGO design work?

Shobrick: ‘I use some movie filter CTB/CTO, for example my computer screen is light day 5400-5600K (color temperature). I prefer working without the day light cause I have better control on the light. So I put some filters on my halogen and on my desk lamp which usually are tungsten (3200K) and have the same temperature.

I don't really like to recreate a movie scene to be 100% accurate, I prefer to put it in my own way.’

Cygnet: On your Flickr stream you have a collection of illustrations under the set title of 'No Toys'. Many of them have the title 'El Didou' with the image. Are these your illustrations and can you tell me more?

Shobrick: ‘Well I made some illustrations that I have added in a file to find a producer for a short movie. These are in fact to show what the movie will look like. I have recently contacted several production companies. I wait and prey to have at list one positive answer. "El Didou" was the name of one of the main character, now he's called "Angelo" aka Alojzy Oljenik.

This short is made only to win rewards in festival and to convince a producer to make a movie.

I'm actually looking for a scriptwriter to rewrite completely the script, to make it more consensual and more "bankable". That's a long process, but the main ideas and the world of the movie are already well developed. We just need to find money to make it possible.’

Cygnet: In addition to being a fantastic minifig customizer, you are obviously quite skilled in photography, and you appear to be very active in the toy photography groups on Flickr. What are some of the differences between the customization and photography groups in your experience?

Shobrick: ‘Well actually, I never thought about a difference between customizers and toy photographers. I think that when you are in toy photography you have to make your figs the best as possible which means you customize them.

I would say the main difference between them are the age and the quality of the pics. It's true that customizers tend to be very young, they don't have a lot of experience about photography and they don't have the best camera (it's expensive). I think the presentation is almost as important as the figs. Toy photographers should customize a bit more of their figs (most of them do it actually), and customizers should improve a bit their presentation.’

Cygnet: Is there someone in the toy photography realm that you admire? If someone was new to the scene who's work would you recommend people take a look at?

Shobrick: ‘Of course, Bleau Aquino is a master. His pics are so detailed, the lighting, the composition, the effects are perfect. His sets are incredible (I'm thinking about his Batman and Iron Man vigs).

I recently discovered Neorillaz, another 6th scale photographer, and Dre Merc. They are really talented, and some pics are really stunning. They both deserve more views.’

Cygnet: What is your dream project, and what stands in your way from going after it?

Shobrick: ‘A dream would be to make a huge set using creation from great LEGO builders, mixed with customs minifigs mixed with various techniques (smoke, ashes, live explosions effects). I would love to be able to put in display some figs in a LEGO town for a post apoc diorama, or like Saving Private Ryan, and maybe to make a comic with the pics. That would be great, but I guess it would be expensive and time keeper.

The dream project would be to mix LEGO constructions, custom minifigs and real effects (snow, ashes....), and adding some light techniques and post prod.’

I want to extend my thanks to Shobrick for agreeing to participate in these discussions. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I am honored that he took the time and effort. Merci!

If you would like to see more of Shobrick’s work you can check out his Flickr stream. Sho has also opened a RedBubble store where he sells prints of his work. Check it out when you get a chance!

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