Paper Dolls Inspired by Outsider Art

Written by Ethan Switall
Fourth-year IntuiTeen

Paper Dolls Inspired by Outsider Art

Everyone, at one point in their life, has wondered what it would be like to live as somebody else. To become a new person, a person without restrictions, someone who may be the polar opposite of how we see ourselves. Now, more than ever, many of us look for an escape, and imagination offers us just that.

This paper doll activity was designed to help people bring imaginary characters to life. Inspired by the work of Calvin and Ruby Black, two artists featured in the exhibition Outsider Art: The Collection of Victor F. Keen, this activity combines art and fashion. The Blacks made more than 80 Possum Trot dolls out of wood and recycled and found materials. Each of the dolls was given a unique name and personality.

Possum Trot-inspired paper dolls
Possum Trot-inspired paper dolls

Using pre-made paper templates and a wide range of materials, from markers to fabrics, we invite you to create your own version of Calvin and Ruby Black’s famous Possum Trot dolls. By using different materials and experimenting with the paper doll templates, you will be able to provide your paper dolls with a particular and specific personality. We encourage you to get creative by creating backstories and fun facts.

Want to do this activity with live instructions? Tune in to Instagram Live @IntuitArtCenter, Tuesday, May 7, at 5 p.m. central. to get a step-by-step tutorial from Ethan himself!

Suggested Materials:


  1. While you’re working, think about creating your character. You can base your character on someone you know in real life or create completely from your imagination.
  2. Come up with a name and two fun facts about this person (such as occupation, favorite food, favorite clothing brand, number of family members). Write this information above or around the template.
  3. Gather your materials. We suggest using markers, pens, colored pencils, paper with different textures and patterns, scissors, and tape or glue. You can also use scraps of yarn and fabric.
  4. Begin by outlining the clothing of your doll. The outline will help you with collaging or coloring in your doll’s clothes. Don’t forget to add a face to your doll.
  5. Collage, color or draw in the specific details for your dolls. Layer paper with different textures to give the paper doll more sculptural qualities.
  6. Keep going until you have fully fleshed out your doll’s personality.