Introduction: Wayne White Inspired Cardboard Masks

Wayne White is a versatile contemporary artist all of my students can relate to in one way or another. He won multiple Emmys for his puppet work and set design on Pee-wee's Playhouse, he was the art director for two well-known music videos including Smashing Pumpkin's "Tonight, Tonight," and he has become, most recently, well known for his word paintings. But, it was in an impromptu moment while filming "Beauty is Embarrassing," a documentary about his life and work, that he made an oversized cardboard mask of former President Lyndon B. Johnson that sparked another aspect of his work and inspiration for art teachers everywhere.

With meager supplies of:


Box cutters

Hot glue

and Donated House Paint

my students created fun and imaginative masks that taught problem solving, abstraction, and persistence.

To introduce this project, we watched and discussed the trailer to the documentary about Wayne White "Beauty is Embarassing."


In addition to those listed above:

hot glue guns

cutting mats or boards to protect countertops/tables

masking tape

paintbrushes of various sizes

Step 1: Preparations

Before beginning this project, there were a few precautionary measures I took to protect the students and the studio. Be sure to:

train your students on how to use a box cutter safely

cover tables and countertops to protect them from being cut up - I taped masonite boards to all available surfaces.

gather as many hot glue guns as you can and spread them around the room - These sculptures get big and nearly everyone needs a glue gun. I'd say we had one glue gun for ever couple students.

remind students to be ambitious, but not so ambitious their creation won't fit through the door - We had a couple come close to being stuck in the studio.

consider storage - We were lucky enough to have an empty classroom down the hall to store these in once they started to get really big.

Step 2: Fit

First, each student found a box that fit on their head comfortably while still sitting on their shoulders. Ideally, it doesn't rest on the top of the head. It's less comfortable and more wobbly.

Cutting a small divot for the shoulders as shown on the student in the back of the first image worked great for making it more comfortable and staying more balanced.

After they'd found their perfect box, each student cut eye holes so they could see.

Step 3: Characters

Once their base box was established they began constructing their chosen characters.

Some used the shape of the box as part of the head, while others built over it.

Taping pieces in place temporarily before hot gluing was often helpful.

Step 4: Paint

Once each character was assembled, we started painting.

We were lucky enough to have a fair amount of house paint donated by a few parents and other teachers. We mixed some of them to create other colors. Accents were done with our regular acrylic paints. By using house paint, it kept our cost down. Even if I had bought some of the rejected gallons at a hardware store, the cost would have been significantly cheaper for the amount of paint we used.

Step 5: Have Fun!

My students wore their masks at our annual art show to greet and interact with attendees. It was a lot of fun for everyone!

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