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John McCormack

Born: 1972
Lives and works: Connecticut, USA
Education: Rhode Island School of Design, Art Institute of Chicago
Exhibitions: Columbus Museum of Art (2013), LEGO Systems, Inc. (2008)
“To see the joys these little plastic bits bring to children is simply heartwarming.”

After working for LEGO for 17 years, John brings a unique perspective to his cartoon-inspired original paintings. Fascinated by the patterns found in everyday life, his art features recognisable characters and shapes which nevertheless challenge viewers’ perspectives.

Inspiration

As a child, John built LEGO characters inspired by TV shows like The Amazing Spider-Man and Looney Tunes. Little did he know that he would one day work as a designer and developer for the global phenomenon! 

Learning to draw by posing and sketching his toys or copying from popular comic strips like Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts, John also became fascinated by the special effects of blockbuster films and the stop-motion clay animation of Aardman Animations, famed for their Wallace and Gromit series. When LEGO released their famous Minifigures in 1978 he was bewitched by their bold colours and blank stares, and these themes later influenced his work. 

Following his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago, the American artist joined LEGO as a designer before developing their LEGO Club Magazine. He worked on their Star Wars project in 2003 and led the development of their Harry Potter, Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean series from 2008. In total, he made over 70 TV commercials and helped to create LEGO's first-ever CGI cartoon. He now works in the aerospace industry. 

Inspired by Abstract Impressionism and his young daughter’s artistic self-expression, John’s paintings allow the original pencil sketches to live in the layers of paint. Recognisable characters are presented as both entire beings and a unique combination of shapes, patterns and colour.

Inside the world of John McCormack

John spent his childhood drawing toys and recreating comic strips, and these memories inspire his art today. He says: "Seeing them come to life through animation got me hooked on the medium. Anything was possible, and the vibrant colours and relatable stories made me want to be a storyteller."

His lifelong fascination with patterns made LEGO the perfect muse for his colourful acrylic paintings. In particular, he enjoys how the simple brick shapes can create something magical when combined. The artists he admires are those who challenge perceptions – including Jeremy Mann, Alex Kanevsky and Jessica Brilli – and he tries to do this within his own work.

To add energy, he allows the pencil lines to show through the layers of paint. This was inspired by his young daughter, who once took it upon herself to embellish one of his paintings. He explains: "She found some oil pastels that I had in my studio and drew all over it. At first, I was angry. But then I realised that she had brought an energy to my painting, so I left her marks. It was kind of a revelatory moment for me in terms of freeing myself up to be more emotional with mark-making." 

Behind each of his artworks is a desire to bring the joy of childhood to his audience. John adds: "Memories are so vivid that they sometimes become colours and patterns. To see the way it makes people happy – these simple little bricks – is something that just brings joy in trying to capture it." 

Latest events

John McCormack | Exhibition

After working for LEGO for 17 years, John McCormack brings a unique perspective to his cartoon-inspired original paintings. Fascinated by the patterns found in everyday life, his art features recognisable characters and shapes which nevertheless challenge viewers’ perspectives.

Inspired by Abstract Impressionism, John's paintings have original pencil sketches immersed within the layers of paint. The recognisable characters of his artwork are presented as both entire beings and a unique combination of shapes, patterns and colour.

Would you like to find out more? Be the first to see John McCormack's work exhibited at a selection of our galleries from the 4th-28th July.

From the blog

NEW ARTIST: John McCormack

With 17 years at LEGO under his belt, our newest artist brings a fresh perspective to his cartoon-inspired original paintings. Shop his debut collection online now.

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