20-year-old Zhongkai Xiang, from Taiwan, is just like any other boy of his age – interested in animals, monsters, robots and dinosaurs. But Zhongkai is special – he has a rare artistic ability that allows him to recreate his favorite characters using the most mundane materials, like cardboard.
“I just drew them at first, then I started to love making paper sculptures in junior high school, and creating with cardboard has been my main focus from senior high school until now,” he said. Some of his most spectacular works include cardboard sculptures of horses, dragons, aliens and birds. He even has a cardboard alien doorknocker installed on his front door. Once in a while, he departs from his preferred medium – like this one alien sculpture made entirely out of drinking straws.
Of all his works, Zhongkai’s favorite one is the dragon, which is also the first one he ever made. “I have since produced lots of artwork with cardboard,” he said. For example, Optimus Prime from Transformers, skeletons of the T-Rex and a Pterodactyl, an Iron Man suit, and so on. And the last three of them were made full-size.”
It’s true, the full-blown, life-size Iron Man suit is the star of Zhongkai’s collection. To create it, he used a special paper modelling technique called Pepakura. “But I did not add any special color on the surface,” he said. “Keeping the cardboard color and texture was deliberate. That’s my style.” Zhongkai worked on the suit in his spare time – it took him one whole year to complete.
“Tony Stark’s suit cost almost $1 billion. But mine cost almost ‘zero’,” he declared with pride, in an interview with the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. “I made Iron Man because I like him. I saw the movie and I decided to make one for myself.” Zhongkai says that art shouldn’t cost a lot of money; people should make what they love out of the materials that they have at hand. “If you are an artist like me, then you don’t need a lot of money to make your art.”
“Creating is the most important part of my life. I hope I can keep going in the future,” the young artist said.