Interview: Joseph Kraham – Creating F1 art brick by brick

26/06/2019
by Laura Sexton
Memento Exclusives chats with LEGO artist Joseph Kraham about his art inspiration and his recent F1 projects, which include pieces commissioned by Memento Exclusives.
 
 
Joseph Kraham is an American engineer-turned-artist who found his big break after creating a portrait out of LEGO depicting Red Bull F1 driver, Max Verstappen. We chat to him to find out how it all began and why Memento Exclusives customers should keep an eye out for his future F1 projects. Find Joseph's artwork on our store.
 
In the beginning…there was LEGO
 
“It’s a rather sad story actually,” Joseph tells us when asked about how his business, One Brick At A Time began.
 
“Several years ago, I bought my wife a Great Dane, who we loved and took with us when we travelled and moved around to Australia. Unfortunately, and quite suddenly, the dog passed away at only 5 years old. It was horrible. My wife and I were heartbroken, it was like our first child. 
 
“So, as a memento for my wife, I thought I’d try building something for her and thought of trying it with LEGO. I created a portrait of her kissing our dog – it was one of her favourite pictures. It had such a positive reaction that things just escalated from there. 
 
Of all the different materials that could be used, we ask him, why LEGO? Joseph tells us that as an engineer, he has always loved LEGO.
 
“I thought to myself ‘well how hard can it be to create art out of it?’ Turns out… it’s really hard!
 
“In the beginning I only used regular LEGO pieces but there are only about 20-25 different colours which made it hard to create my portraits. So, I thought I would start painting each LEGO piece individually – people thought I was crazy for this idea. It took me about a year to figure out the best way to do it and have the LEGO logo still visible and use the best method. The painting actually takes longer than anything else I have to do for the artwork!”
 
LEGO inspired by Formula 1®
 
We are excited to share Kraham’s art on Memento Exclusives and are thrilled to hear that it was in fact his first F1 piece, a portrait of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen made from LEGO, that changed things for him.
 
“I’ve been creating LEGO art for about four years now but what’s really interesting is that my Max Verstappen piece was the one that, without knowing it, changed my hobby to a profession. I had no idea at the time that this would be the case.
 
“I made it back in 2017 when I worked with ExxonMobil and we were told we’d meet Max and Daniel Ricciardo and could bring something to get signed. So, I made the art piece and it stole the show. When Max saw it, he was excited – I think he wanted to keep it! 
 
“I remember feeling bad though because Daniel Ricciardo came up to me and asked where his piece was. I didn’t realise the art would be so popular!”
 
So surely, you’ll have to make Ricciardo a piece now, we ask. “Eventually I will yes! I want to make more and he’s on my list.”
 
 
To create Formula 1® inspired art, we expect Joseph to be the biggest F1 fan but are surprised to hear that his love for the sport came afterwards.
 
“I like F1 now, since meeting Max and getting him to sign my work – he was really supportive. Before that I had never watched F1, I had seen the art as just a fun task at the time. But now I watch the races a lot.
 
“I really like the duo at Mercedes right now, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. It’s amazing how they continue to win. But I like Max too because he’s fun to watch.”
 
The creative process behind it all
 
Besides the wonderful art that we see, we delve in to find out more about Joseph’s creative process.
 
“One piece averages between 200 and 300 hours of work. I design them in Microsoft Excel to see if it’s even possible to create. I can spend 20 hours just designing and up to 100 hours painting the pieces. The Verstappen piece I would consider a slightly smaller piece, but it still took a lot of hard work.
 
“I actually work with hundreds of concept ideas and the hard part is figuring out what to focus on. When I created the Max piece it gave me great indication of what people would like. I spend hours trialling and planning my art.”
 
With the art taking up so much time, we’re impressed to discover that Joseph still works as a consulting engineer when he’s not spending time in his art studio. 
 
“The main thing for me is seeing the look on someone’s face, knowing that somebody is willing to spend hundreds of hours creating something like that. There’s a lot of appreciation.”
 
So, what’s next for the artist? 
 
Joseph says he makes between six and ten artworks a year, his last being the Sebastian Vettel portrait which will soon be available on the Memento Exclusives store.
 
“Hopefully I can get him to sign it one day!
 
“Currently I am working on a Lewis Hamilton one; I’m about 75% done now so I just need to keep going.”
 
In other words, watch this space.
 

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