Ryan McNaught is not one to go unnoticed. His bold decision-making skills have led him to be the best at what he does: in 2008, he was the Chief Information Officer of a computer company in his native Australia. Then he changed the course of his life overnight to become one of 21 people in the world recognized as Lego Certified Professionals, a program made up of adult entrepreneurs who have turned their passion for bricks into a full-time or part-time profession. He is the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. “One day my boss asked me: How many meetings do we have a day? That’s when I realized that I didn’t want any more meetings,” a smiling McNaught recalls.
His beginnings were humble, working in his garage. But his creations were so well received by the Australian public that he decided to found The Brickman, his own company with a team of 35 artisans who create a wide range of Lego structures and traveling exhibitions around the world. This time it was Madrid’s turn; specifically, in the Ifema Conference Center, where more than 50 dinosaurs built with over six million pieces will be on display from September 30 to January 14, 2024. “Before starting this project I had never made a dinosaur in my life. It was quite difficult. It took us a year and a half to finish,” he explains.
McNaught has been a fan of Lego since he was little. “I’ve done great projects, from dinosaurs to great architectural works like the Acropolis in Greece,” he says, enthusiastically. In his adolescence, he admits, he lost interest, like any boy who leaves toys behind to explore his social life: “As a child I always made Lego structures. I loved it. Then there was a moment when I stopped. I started to like sports... and girls.” It was after he had his two children, who turn 15 this year, that a surge of nostalgia drove him back to the bricks. And this time, he did not stop. “I have two boys who love dinosaurs. We loved watching all the Jurassic Park movies together, and here we are now,” he laughs.
“We always have new projects in mind,” he explains. Currently, they have seven open exhibitions around the world: in the United States, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, two in China and the one in Spain. McNaught’s work has also earned him awards, such as first place in the Lego Masters Australia. So far, the most difficult job he has faced was a recreation of Michelangelo’s David, he says, taking out his phone and proudly showing a photo of the sculpture, practically identical to the original.
McNaught does not settle for little. In addition to the seven exhibitions around the world, he decorates his continent’s Lego stores with his pieces, as well as those in some African countries: “If you ever see a giant structure, it’s probably mine.” Outside of his profession, he trains his body daily to participate in marathons. “Running is one of my passions. I’ve already done 15 competitions,” he says. All of this comes from the curious, very imaginative mind of a man who, despite having tools to facilitate the process of creating a piece, prefers not to use them. “I’m not going to deny that sometimes I use a computer program to make maps and things like that. But most of the time I don’t need it. A little imagination is enough for me.”
McNaught, who describes himself as an engineer, is clear about one thing: “I made the right choice.” When asked about the gratification and recognition he has garnered over the years, he fills with pride. “The only problem I’ve had regarding my job is when I have to travel or sell some of my structures in Lego stores, because people don’t believe what I do. But it doesn’t bother me. I actually like it; it’s fun.” The effect that his work has on people is more than evident; everyone is mesmerized by it. “If you know the painting, you know the painter, and vice versa. The same thing happens in my profession. If people like Lego, my work will always be recognized. And who doesn’t like Lego?”
An opinion that he shares with the rest of the 21 Certified Professionals, who, despite living in different parts of the world, always find some time to work together. “We’re friends. Next week we will meet in Denmark. We work on some collections together,” he explains.
If there is something that McNaught has not lost, it is the love and passion he feels for what used to be a child’s plaything. And speaking of children, he has some advice: “I encourage them to make their own creations and share them, because they can create true works of art, and one day they could have this wonderful job,” he says to conclude the interview, with the same smile that lit up his face at the beginning. “There’s nothing you can’t do. Anything that lives in your imagination, a plane, a bicycle, a giraffe, a dinosaur... you can do anything.”
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