Chris McVeigh is one of those builders who has something for everyone. I'm not saying that his portfolio is so vast that he's bound to have done something to please you, I'm saying that his work is so clean, so appealing and so invested with heartfelt nostalgia, that it's irresistible. His work is also ubiquitous, so often shared and celebrated that everyone has seen something he's done. Not only is his building impeccable, his photography is top notch, and each elevates the other.
And he's also a genuinely nice guy. I'm very pleased to let you all get to know him a little better.
Tell us a little about yourself, how did you get started in the hobby?
First, the boring stuff: I'm an author and illustrator by trade, but in recent years, I've found a degree of success with toy photography.
Now onto the important stuff! I was a huge fan of Lego as a kid, but of course, the dark ages set in when I reached my teens. It was well over twenty years before I returned to Lego, and my reintroduction to the plastic bricks was rather drawn out. Knowing I liked Star Wars, a few friends of mine bought me some small sets during a Christmas gift exchange in 2004: Jabba's Message (7745) and Ewok Attack (7139). I appreciated the gift, but at the time, I was much more focused on collecting Hasbro's Star Wars action figures and I just tossed the Lego sets in a closet. It was about three years before I finally cracked them open, and I found myself wanting more. In 2008, I started buying more and more Star Wars sets, putting them together as per the instructions with no independent creativity.
It was the Green Grocer that changed things for me. It was one of the first non-Star Wars sets that I bought, and it really brought back memories. I always preferred City (and now Creator) because I love architecture and building towns and cities. But... I wasn't totally happy with the design of the Green Grocer. I didn't like that the upper floors were barren, and some things on the ground level didn't sit right with me either. So... I decided to change it. And that was it. The spark was reignited, and I realized I could build anything I wanted.
What is your earliest LEGO memory?
I remember a few key sets from my childhood: Garage (361), Town House with Garden (560), Summer Cottage (6365), and of course, Spaceship (918). I spend most of time building town layouts, that were occasionally outfitted with a space port. And I remember distinctly pretending to be sick so that I could stay home and build. (I used to hold a desk lamp to my forehead so that my head would feel hot and feverish. I'm surprised I didn't send myself to the burn ward!)
What drives you to create?
I don't know that I have a good answer for that question. I've always been driven to create, whether it's writing, illustration or Lego. Coming up with something new has always been more rewarding to me than just being a cog in the machine, I suppose!
Would you call yourself a purist (no cutting, painting, knockoff)?
Absolutely. The challenge is always to make a model work within the existing system of bricks and pieces. In fact, I generally won't do anything in my models that cannot be done in Lego Digital Designer.
Do you have any favorite parts?
Oh, absolutely! A lot of new parts, actually. Here are some examples:
I'd say I'm partial to all brackets and bricks with front-facing knobs because of how they allow you to change the direction of the build. And I generally love curved slopes because they allow you to more closely approximate the gentle curves of many real-world items.
Do you have a wish list of parts?
In terms of specific parts, I really want both an inverted cheese slope and a 1x1 brick with 2 knobs on adjacent sides. The latter would open so many new doors.
Who's your favorite builder(s)?
Oh, there are many. In no particular order (and forgive for mixing real names and online handles): Tyler Clites, Pascal (Pasukaru), Bruce Lowel, Iain Heath, Angus MacLane, Cole Blaq, Thomas Oeschner, Alex Jones, Mike Doyle, Thorsten Bonsch... I'm sure there are dozens I'm forgetting, too!
Do you ever look back on old MOCs and say "if I only…"
Yes, quite often. Part of it is because I've learned new techniques, or I've come up with new solutions to old problems. Another factor is new parts, and how they can improve older builds.
Tell us about your building area.
It's rather small for the moment. It's essentially a 9x10 room lined with shelving. My computer is in once corner, and I have two work surfaces where I build. The shelves are loading with sorted and semi-sorted Lego in various containers, and a small storage room off to the side is loaded up with sort Lego parts I don't use all that often (for example, wheels and large wedge plates).
Do you listen to music while you build?
You know, not really. I tend to be highly focused when I'm designing, and while music doesn't interfere with my focus... I'm usually so focused that I forget to turn it on. :)
Do you keep all your MOCs? If so, do you display them?
I tend to keep all my final prototype for almost all my models. They're usually displayed atop the shelving that runs around the room. I do not have any sort of official display area though (i.e., glass cabinets in my living room).
What is your all time favorite LEGO set?
Until the Parisian Restaurant came along, I would have said the Monster Hunters Haunted House. Now I'm not sure! I love them both, both for their architectural merit as well as the fact they use rare colors and have fully thought-out interiors.
Which of your creations would you say personifies you?
Quite literally the model I call "What Remains," which is effectively a self portrait. (I shaped it by wrapping it around my own face, hah!):