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One Adult, Many Legos And Beautiful Sculptures

Updated on November 9, 2015
Peacock by artist Sean Kenney, on display at the Morton Arboretum
Peacock by artist Sean Kenney, on display at the Morton Arboretum | Source

Did You Know?

68, 827 LEGO bricks were used over 625 hours to complete the peacock.

Flower lego sculpture at the Morton Arboretum
Flower lego sculpture at the Morton Arboretum | Source

Were you surprised Legos could be made into such elaborate sculptures?

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Sean Kenney received his first LEGO set at the age of 4. A New Jersey native, he studied computer science, philosophy and visual arts at Rutgers University. An average computer science major, he excelled at, and was always attracted to the arts, when at the age of 18 he became a published cartoonist. Following college, he continued to follow a "traditional" career path and spent 10 years as a website designer, suit and tie included.

Spending days in a cubicle in his Park Avenue office, he found himself daydreaming about the LEGO creations he would make after work. Then one day, relishing a particularly delightful daydream, he quit his job on the spot in the middle of the day. Deciding to leave a successful computer science career behind and pursue his dream of becoming a LEGO artist was a leap of faith that has paid off and well. With time, people started commissioning him to do specific pieces and inviting him to events. This led to a relationship with the LEGO Group and receiving the designation Certified LEGO Professional in 2005. To date, he is one of only 11 artists world wide to receive such recognition.

Kenney works out of a loft in New York City where his workspace houses 2.5 million LEGO bricks, sorted by color and shape. His close relationship with LEGO affords him the opportunity to receive "one offs", pieces that didn't make the grade either in color or shape. He estimates that he has made possibly thousands of LEGO works to date.

Hummingbird at the Morton Arboretum
Hummingbird at the Morton Arboretum | Source

The creation of each piece follows it's own logic. For his "Hummingbird" piece, Kenney spent four weeks researching hummingbirds in nature, choosing the perfect colors and building the steel reinforcements. The actual building of the sculpture took five weeks.

He eschews computer planning, preferring to work form pictures and drawings, using graph paper to draw the basic design and structure of a piece. From this he builds a prototype, examining it from all angles before making any changes and then gluing it once he's satisfied with the design.

For large pieces, he has assistants help him problem solve difficult pieces and assemble the larger ones. He never spray paints his blocks, relying on the same colors everyone else has access to. He finds it fun to use the same things other "kids" have.

His favorite piece to date has been a Greenwich Village inspired piece that used 50,000 LEGO bricks and took 6 months to complete. The model was highly detailed and had street vendors, parking meters, historic buildings, high-rises, taxicabs, tourists and even graffitti! His attention to detail as well as his ability to create natural looking texture, as well as curves that soften the pieces, are what make his talent so special.


Kenney's work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the BBC, PBS, ABC, HGTV, Wired, Elle and more. Not one to rest on his laurels, he has published nine books including:

  • Totally Cool Creations
  • Cool Creations in 35 Pieces
  • Cool Cars and Trucks
  • Cool Creations in 101 Pieces
  • Cool Robots
  • Cool City
  • Cool Castles
  • Amazing ABC: An Alphabet Book of LEGO Creations
  • Three Books in One: Cool Cars and Trucks, Cool Robots, Cool City

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Grandfather and grand daughter by artist Sean KenneyTortoise and Finch by artist Sean Kenney Wheelbarrow by artist Sean Kenney
Grandfather and grand daughter by artist Sean Kenney
Grandfather and grand daughter by artist Sean Kenney | Source
Tortoise and Finch by artist Sean Kenney
Tortoise and Finch by artist Sean Kenney | Source
Wheelbarrow by artist Sean Kenney
Wheelbarrow by artist Sean Kenney | Source

Kenney has 3 internationally-touring installations. NatureConnect is currently on display at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. The exhibit features thirteen pieces interwoven within the existing gardens on display.

The Children's Garden features a sculpture of a grandfather and a granddaughter gardening together in a vegetable bed, a tortoise and a finch relaxing in a pond, and a little red wheelbarrow.

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Corn Spider by artist Sean KenneyHummingbird with Flower by artist Sean Kenney
Corn Spider by artist Sean Kenney
Corn Spider by artist Sean Kenney | Source
Hummingbird with Flower by artist Sean Kenney
Hummingbird with Flower by artist Sean Kenney | Source

Exit the Children's Garden and head east following the path that leads to the Administration Building. The first sculpture you'll see is several red cardinals and a squirrel "bathing" in a birdbath. Farther down the path a hummingbird drinks from a flower and a corn spider spins a web above the entrance to the Administration buildlng.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Dragonfly by artist Sean KenneyHerd of Deer by artist Sean KenneyMonarch on Milkweed by artist Sean Kenney
Dragonfly by artist Sean Kenney
Dragonfly by artist Sean Kenney | Source
Herd of Deer by artist Sean Kenney
Herd of Deer by artist Sean Kenney | Source
Monarch on Milkweed by artist Sean Kenney
Monarch on Milkweed by artist Sean Kenney | Source

Follow the path around Meadow Lake to enjoy the last part of the exhibit. Pass a Monarch Butterfly sipping nectar from a Milkweed, a bee pollinating a purple pansy, a family of deer enjoying the cool shade of the thicket, and a dragonfly that has landed just to day "Hi".

Did You Know?

84,442 LEGO bricks were used over 540 hours to complete the deer family.

Morton Arboretum

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Alliums at Morton ArboretumBlack-eyed Susans at the Morton ArboretumContainer Garden at the Morton ArboretumPrairie Smoke at the Morton ArboretumMagnolia tree at the Morton ArboretumMonarch butterfly at the Morton ArboretumBeetle at the Morton Aboretum
Alliums at Morton Arboretum
Alliums at Morton Arboretum | Source
Black-eyed Susans at the Morton Arboretum
Black-eyed Susans at the Morton Arboretum | Source
Container Garden at the Morton Arboretum
Container Garden at the Morton Arboretum | Source
Prairie Smoke at the Morton Arboretum
Prairie Smoke at the Morton Arboretum | Source
Magnolia tree at the Morton Arboretum
Magnolia tree at the Morton Arboretum | Source
Monarch butterfly at the Morton Arboretum
Monarch butterfly at the Morton Arboretum | Source
Beetle at the Morton Aboretum
Beetle at the Morton Aboretum | Source

A Word About The Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum is located in Lisle, Illinois and encompasses 1700 acres with over 4100 different species trees, shrubs and plants from around the world. There are sixteen miles of hiking trails and nine miles of paved roads for biking and driving.

The Arboretum features a native woodlands, a restored Illinois prairie, a Children's Garden, a 1 acre maze garden, a fragrance garden, a ground cover garden and a hedge garden.

The Morton Arboretum collects plants from around the world to display in natural settings for people to study, enjoy and learn how to grow them to benefit the environment.

The Arboretum was first opened in December, 1922 by Joy Morton, the founder of Morton Salt Company. Her estate formed the basis of the Arboretum's original gardens. Ms. Morton inherited her love of trees and nature from her father, Julius Sterling Morton, who was the founder of Arbor day.

The Arboretum also includes a library, established to honor Joy Morton's son, Sterling. With a collection of books numbering over 27,000, it's focus is on plant sciences with special interest in Midwestern prairies, savannas, woodland and wetland ecosystems and natural history. It also houses a large collection of materials focusing on animals, the history of plant exploration, biographies of botanists, horticulturalists and botanical artists.

Also offered at the Arboretum are tram tours, outdoor concerts during the summer, summer camps for children, educational programs for adults and a lovely restaurant overlooking a beautifully landscaped garden and fountain. Biking is allowed on the roadways from 10:00 to 4:00 pm. The gift shop has a wide variety of offerings for the outdoor enthusiast from books, to T-shirts , to china. It is, however, pricey at $14.00 per adult.

Let's Not Forget The LEGOS

Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter from Denmark, began making wooden toys in 1932. In 1934 his company was named "Leg Godt" which in Danish means "play well". The Product line expanded in 1947 to include plastic toys and in 1949 they began making the interlocking bricks for which they are known.

The company motto, "the best is never too good", was created by Ole Kirk to motivate his employees to do their best. By 1951 plastic toys accounted for half of the company's sales. By 1954 the idea of a toy system took hold as a system for creative play. The bricks still had difficulties interlocking which wasn't solved until 1958. In February, 2015, Lego replaced Ferrari as the "world's most powerful brand".

Did You Know?

The world's first full-sized home was built in 2009 using 3.3 million bricks.

© 2015 Chantelle Porter

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    • Chantelle Porter profile image
      Author

      Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

      It's amazing, isn't it? I know nothing about Legos but I can still appreciate how talented he is. Thanks for stopping by!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      His work is amazing. My grandchildren are lego aficionados!