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Engineering student, artist makes Las Vegas Raiders' Derek Carr portrait from Rubik's Cubes

@TheCollegeCuber on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter
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Posted at 10:27 AM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 23:05:55-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Raider Nation has been known to express its love in creative ways, but one young artist has caught the team's attention with something a bit more on the puzzling side.

Until about four months ago, though, Dylan Sadiq did not describe himself as an artist. Business enthusiast? Sure. Full-time engineering student? Absolutely. But artist?

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Art as a puzzle to solve

It was around that time when the Rutgers University senior stumbled across a genre of art that he could not ignore — Rubik's Cubism.

"I thought it was amazing," he said of the carefully constructed mosaics made from, oftentimes hundreds and sometimes thousands of, the colorful puzzle blocks. "I thought I could do it."

Sadiq went all in and bought 600 cubes at once.

Despite diving headfirst, he was not a cube enthusiast at the time, although he did know how to solve them. Sadiq says when he was 10 his brother made a bet that he couldn't solve a Rubik's Cube, but if he did, he would buy Sadiq a new video game.

A few YouTube videos later, Sadiq won the bet and that was that. He really hadn't picked up a cube since.

"I had no idea what I was doing," he recalled.

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"I didn't know how to make mosaics, I just knew I wanted to do it," he added. "I knew the best way to do it was making that commitment, buying the cubes and just figuring it out. And that that's what I did."

Months later, the timelapse videos he shares on his @TheCollegeCuber social media accounts have garnered attention from professional sports teams and big-name athletes across the country and across leagues.

He's even received international attention from teams like Futbol Club Barcelona.

Catching the attention of Las Vegas Raiders

"I think they were the first team ever to comment on my Instagram," said Sadiq, thinking back to the moment when the Las Vegas Raiders tapped him for a portrait of either Quarterback Derek Carr or Tight End Darren Waller.

"Two great guys," he said. "Very hard choice to pick between the two, but I came up with a design, made their Carr and I actually really enjoyed it."

"They loved it," he added.

It wasn't just the team who loved it. Carr had something to say about it too, commenting "Wow" on the video with four fire Emoji.

"That actually does not happen too often when the player themselves, he, he seemed to really love my artwork," said Sadiq. "It was amazing."


Finding a space in the world of Rubik's Cubism

Sadiq says he is relatively new to sports and points to his college friends for sparking his interest, as well as another hobby he has.

"I play NBA 2K, I try to play Madden sometimes," he said. "That's how I learned sports."

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His favorite sport to watch is basketball. He loves the NBA. Sadiq's first portrait was of the Dallas Mavericks' Luka Dončić.


To make new pieces, he turns to requests in his comments and direct messages.

His TikTok account is currently made up of around 45 sports-related timelapse videos responding to requests, and he says there's more to come.

According to Sadiq, he's backlogged with over 70 requests from verified teams across all sports asking for one of his mosaics with a custom twist.

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Building...and then destroying his work

Each mosaic that Sadiq makes requires 560 cubes and about three hours to construct.

That timeframe does not include the time it takes for him to come up with a design, set up his studio, shoot and then edit a video for social.

"Making my design can take anywhere from 15 minutes to three days," he said.

One project for the NBA's Detroit Pistons took him 16 hours to complete.

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For that, Sadiq made two separate mosaics in one sitting: a portrait of the team's creative director, Big Sean, using 1,961 mini cubes and another of their logo using his standard 560 regular-size cubes.

"I like didn't even use a bathroom for like 16 hours," he said. "It came out amazing. It was insane."

After Sadiq shares a video of his creation on Instagram, TikTok and/or Twitter for the world to enjoy, he then destroys it.

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After he finishes a Rubik's Cube mosaic, Dylan Sadiq removes the cubes to re-use them again for future art pieces. (Photo: Dylan Sadiq)

He re-uses the cubes to save money and space in his home, but even with the recycling, you'll find thousands of cubes inside boxes at his place ready for the next challenge.

Just five months or so ago, that wasn't the case at all.


Family, business and the love of learning

"My background is more in like, just like, business," he said. Business is something Sadiq picked up from family, like much of who he is today.

Sadiq has two brothers, one older and one younger. His mom raised three boys on her own.

"She came from Trinidad when she was 19 years old by herself," he said. "So, you know, she started this story."

Sadiq lights up when he talks about his older brother, the one who first challenged him to solve a cube. "He's literally my biggest inspiration. I love that guy so much," he said.

"I got into school, he got into business."

His brother started his own successful car leasing company, where Sadiq says he got hands-on experience in the world of business while he was still in high school.

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Dylan Sadiq with his two brothers and his niece. (Photo: Dylan Sadiq)

"You really realize the importance of business in the world," he said.

Sadiq soon followed in his brother's footsteps. Last year he started his own pressure washing business.

"I bought a bunch of stuff," he said. "I bought a truck, tons of professional-grade equipment... I went really hard. I opened up my first LLC [limited liability company]."


Sadiq says things were going well with the pressure washing company, named The College Cleaners, but he started to get antsy for something new. That's when he got into cubing.

"I was literally just having fun and that took over my whole life," he said.

So much so, he paused the pressure washing business and shifted his focus.

The College Cuber, LLC

"Now The College Cuber actually has its own LLC, I'm officially my own business," he said. "I got my first business credit card in the mail."

"I'm learning so many things," said Sadiq.

Sometimes, instead of destroying his art, it lives on as a purchased commission.

Take the piece he made for the New York Red Bulls. It's currently hanging inside Red Bulls Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, the state where Sadiq grew up.


Aspiring to help others

For Sadiq, the learning happens both in the business world outside of school and in the classroom inside of school.

"I study biomedical engineering," he said of his major. "Engineering has a strong stigma to it, and it's all true. Everything they say it's true."

Sadiq says engineering is "very, very, very" difficult, both the workload and the problems presented.

"They seem near impossible," he said. "And sometimes it probably is impossible. I don't know, they, they really mess with you in engineering."

But those "probably impossible" problems have taught him something invaluable because he says he knows the truth deep down.

"There's no type of problem too big to take," he said. "You can figure out anything."


Sadiq is in his senior year, so graduation is just around the corner. He knows exactly what he wants to do after school.

"I specifically am a prosthetic engineer. So I really want to help people that are unable to do everyday tasks like we are," he said. "We really take that for granted."

In the meantime, Sadiq says business has taught him one thing he hopes others know too.

"I'm no one special. I'm just like everybody else. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know where my future takes me," he said. "I figure something out and I go all in. I try as hard as I possibly can, harder than anyone else, anyone that I know."

"That's like really where you see your success."

You can follow Sadiq at @TheCollegeCuber on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.

This story is from our "Las Vegas Art Scene" segment in our newly-launched dedicated digital show "How to Vegas." Watch "How to Vegas" at 10:30 p.m. on Fridays -- and throughout the weekend -- using the KTNV app on your favorite streaming device.