Artists have used the techniques of mosaic (piecing together bits of glass or tile) and collage to create designs and portraits for centuries. The artist, Jenny Odell made a self-portrait composed of all the items she threw away over a two-week period. In this lesson you will make a self-portrait comprised of found and photographed textures.


Jenny Odell demonstrates how to make a digital collage to create a Garbage Selfie.


  • Collect a few dozen photographs (or download images) of items that you or others discard. Look for a range of textures, colors and values.
  • Have a friend photograph your head and shoulders in front of a plain background. It should be easy to see you against it so you can isolate your figure from the background later. You can pose in profile, three-quarters or straight on.
  • Open your portrait in the prefered app or software program and begin to assemble the photos of textured, discarded items you had previously collected to cover your self-portrait.
  • Try to match the value and color of your self-portrait, as you layer the textured photos over it. You may have to crop them, select a portion or change the scale to fit in the contours of your image. Remember, you are trying to match the “you” beneath it all.
  • Flatten layers and save as a JPEG or PNG.


PhotoShop Elements


PIXLR Editor


  • What were some of the items you gathered or photographed? Did anything surprise you about the discarded objects you found? Why or why not?
  • How did you alter the photographed items to fit into your portrait?
  • Create an interesting title for someone else’s portrait based on the textures found in their piece.
  • Post your Garbage Selfie online and tag #ArtSchoolElements.