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EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – As a child, Joseph Kraham, like many people, played with LEGOs, arranging the tiny plastic to build sculptures of all types. He never imagined that one day the toy would reappear in his life in the form of art.

“When I originally came up with the idea, I told my wife, I said, ‘I want to do something special for her,’ and she was kind of like, ‘OK,’ and part of it was kind of a grieving process, because we loved this dog,” said artist, Joseph Kraham.

About six years ago, the Kraham family lost their beloved great dane, Samson. As a memorial piece, Kraham came up with the idea of a LEGO portrait.

Samson portrait by Joseph Kraham (Photo: KFOR)

“I didn’t really know how to paint, but the only thing I knew how to use or build was LEGO,” said Kraham.

The modular pieces optimize Kraham’s skills as an engineer while creating the LEGO mosaics.

Kraham noticed the LEGO pieces only came in so many colors, which is why he decided to paint the pieces himself.

“I choose to paint mine because I like having hundreds of colors to choose from,” said Kraham.

Kraham said the paint makes all the difference.

“When you see regular LEGO pieces, like, yeah, it looks cool, but by hand painting them, using acrylic it takes it to that level, an actual level of art,” said Kraham.

Kraham found a way to paint the pieces without warping them and eventually patented his process.

“The painting technique I’ve worked on for so many years,” said Kraham. “I don’t say it’s perfected, but I’m getting, what I feel, is pretty close.”

His work is a blend of art and engineering.

“The unique thing about the artwork is some things there’s no shortcut to do,” said Kraham. “There’s no shortcut to painting tens of thousands of pieces. There’s no shortcut to hand placing tens of thousands of pieces. Like, some things just take a long time to do, and I think that’s why some of the people that have bought pieces really appreciate that, because there’s no alternative.”

Several years into the pixelated process, Kraham said he can now officially call himself an artist, even while he continues his 9-5 as an engineer.

“I call myself an engineering artist so that I can combine both,” said Kraham. “I just basically celebrate and say, look, use your strengths, use the things that you’re good at and use them to overcome the things that you’re weak at. I still can’t draw very well to this day, but if you want a sketch of a portrait in LEGO, I can make one.”

To view more of Kraham’s work, visit his website.