LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Twenty-one-year-old Amai Rawls has to search for a special material before he makes masterpieces. Through his art, he’s cutting dollar bills to pay the bills.

What You Need To Know

  • Amai Rawls is a visual artist who uses currency as his primary medium

  • His pieces illustrate his life and open conversations about mental health 

  • He takes around 10-15 hours to cut 100 single bills

  • A 5x7 piece takes about 30 hours to complete

“I’ll have to first call around to every bank in the city pretty much and ask if they have dollar bills, which 90% of them don’t but there’s usually one bank in the city with brand new $1 bills,” says Rawls. 

Once he finds his jackpot, he spends 10-15 hours cutting 100 single bills and spends another 30 hours gluing the scraps together to create money masterpieces.

“The dollars, while they are amazing [and] they’re super cool to work with, they give an extremely limited palette. I only have I believe four different colors to work with,” Rawls said. “There are probably over 1,000 pieces from a dollar on this right now. It’ll probably be over 3000 by the time I finish it.” 


Watch some of his process above. 

Rawls was a visual arts student at duPont Manual High School. While in the program, he won a gold National Scholastic Art and Writing Award for one of his money art pieces.  

Dollar bills have been his main art medium since he was 16 years old. He started Brochevski, an art business. 

His hobby is one his friends still don’t understand. 

“They were like, oh my god, imagine what you could spend all of that money on. Like the first piece I made, I spent $73 on it and that was the title of the piece: $73,” Rawls recalled. 

This year alone, he has cut up at least $800, but he says cutting money cuts costs.

“I would be spending this money on supplies, paintbrushes, canvasses, frames all of those things anyway, so in a sense this is just as expensive if not less expensive than any other form or media of art,” Rawls said.  


Rawls’ George Series portrays his thoughts, feelings and dreams using George Washington’s face cut out from $1 bills to hide his own. 

“I’m taking a piece of myself, memories, past experiences, friendships, relationships, traumatic things that have happened to me and I’m putting them in my art,” says Rawls. 

He uses art as an outlet to openly discuss mental health.

“It’s something people don’t usually talk about,” said Rawls. “A lot of people tend to bottle things up, which is very unhealthy and I’ve definitely done that myself.” 

Rawls hopes his art paints a picture, one without paint, that money can’t buy happiness.

“Some people think about money. It actually makes them quite sad because that’s just how money is—if you don’t have it, you kind of feel like you’re stuck or unsuccessful,” says Rawls. 

He believes there are more valuable things in life. 

“Society especially has placed such an emphasis on money and having as much currency as possible that it’s taken away from how we appreciate the little things in our lives like friends and family being happy without those monetary or materialistic things,” says Rawls. 

Those are things, he said, that are worth their weight in gold.