Cardboard Self Portraits

Incorporating recycled materials is an important component to our art curriculum because it forces students to see possibilities, were they may otherwise see limitations. As a material, cardboard is interesting because it varies in thickness, texture, color and it is usually free.

Despite the positive attributes that cardboard boasts, its shortcoming is that it is incredibly difficult to work with. Kids scissors need not apply here! One contemporary artist that successfully tackles the challenges of cardboard is artist, Ali Golzad. Golzad brings cardboard to life by creating beautiful portraits of what he calls, invisible people. Starting with a contour drawing he turns his work into large, life like portraits. In class, we applied his process and started by drawing contour self-portraits. Turning a 2D design into a 3D sculpture is always fun and challenging!

Students worked with a variety of thicknesses of cardboard, learned to soften it by bending and twisting and even discovered unique textures by peeling it apart. Taking the time to examine, experiment and explore before creating with cardboard was an element that sparked a lot of creative thinking and saved students from a few classes of frustration. Examining color was also an essential element to study because it was easy for facial features to get washed away in all those shades of brown. Students used a variety of layering techniques to create shadows and raise the facial features that they deemed the most important.


This project gave students a new appreciation for a unique material. They learned, shared and discovered new techniques while creating. Circling back to Golzad’s work at the completion of this project allowed students to gain a deeper respect for both his work, the material and his process.





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