Banner Photograph by Michael Salisbury
Throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, IPMM has been searching for new ways to adapt and tweak our existing programming to be better suited for the new world we find ourselves in. One of the things we miss the most is being in-person with our teachers and students during Artist Workshops or Curator Talks. They’re some of our favorite parts of our Shared Walls Art Programming and are so often filled with realizations, new connections, and creative activation for us and our students alike.
That’s why we wanted to create a virtual Artist Workshop, as a creative solution to the constraints of the pandemic and e-learning. We immediately thought of IPMM Partner Artist and friend, Shawn Smith aka Shawnimals. After months of brainstorming, development, and filming, we are proud to announce the IPMM x Shawnimals Character Design Workshop, available to CPS teachers as part of our Shared Walls Programming.
(Although in exciting news, this workshop will soon be available to teachers nation-wide, so stay tuned!)
The Wonderful World of Shawnimals
Shawn Smith is everything that we champion at IPMM. He’s an artist, a designer, a human connector, and a true believer in the powerful potential of art and art education. As Shawnimals, Shawn creates prints, plushies, keychains, stickers, buttons, and more. His work is bright, friendly, and incredibly accessible, inviting anyone to appreciate and divine joy from his ninjas, dumplings, and other creatures.
Shawn is the Art Director for Threadless.com and has his Ninja Town games on iOS, Android, and Nintendo DS platforms. He has also had several of his designs released as designer toys by Rotofugi and Kidrobot. Despite all this, he maintains a fundamental love of art, play, and creativity. He sells products on his own site for very affordable prices, allowing lovers of Shawnimals to collect and enjoy his merch without having to have a ton of money. We’re passionate about making art accessible to everyone, and maintaining a core practice of daily creativity, both of which Shawn and Shawnimals totally embodies.
Shawnimals is first and foremost about storytelling and character design. Shawn’s creatures hail from over 20 different fantastical lands, including Bean Village, Grungle Jungle, and Hotdog Kingdom, amongst many others. His over 450 characters and creatures span a wide array of shapes, personalities, and abilities. Each character is unique and interesting with a backstory that Shawn publishes on his website. We are eternally wowed by his attitude for narratives, creating worlds, and animating each of his characters with an individual life of their own.
That’s why we thought a workshop about character design would be a perfect way to channel Shawn’s talents and teach our students something that they would be delighted by.
Shawnimals’ Character Design Process And Our Virtual Workshop
The IPMM x Shawnimals Character Design Workshop is a four part video workshop with an accompanying lesson plan guide and four art activities to complete at the end of each video segment. This workshop runs at about 1+ hours of instruction and includes 2+ hours of engrossing art activities. This is our longest Artist Workshop yet, and it’s chock-full of value. The workshop takes us through the Shawnimals Character Design process, inviting students to come along for the ride and develop a character of their own to share out about at the end of the workshop.
Shawn is a fun and encouraging teacher, and uses examples of his own work to illustrate the process. We’re super excited to have created a workshop that uses very specific instruction and a gradual process to create a finished product that is something students will be proud of.
This workshop is also a great way to introduce an interdisciplinary connection in art class, as the entire process revolves heavily around storytelling, narrative arcs, using descriptive words, and building new worlds. Perhaps it can be integrated into a Language Arts or English class or taught alongside a Creative Writing Unit. The possibilities are endless!
Why We Believe In Providing Teachers WIth Innovative and Valuable Resources
At IPMM, we understand how challenging it can be to find good resources for teachers and classrooms. We know that so many public school systems are chronically underfunded, and that arts educators are left to fight over the crumbs of any school’s budget. We are dedicated to creating truly valuable, flexible, adaptable, and scalable lesson-planning and curriculum resources for art teachers and their classrooms, whatever they may look like.
Shawn understands the importance of this mission as well, as he’s married to an art teacher and is only too aware of the struggles, shortages of resources and funding, and the heavy workloads that our art teachers face daily.
Although this workshop will initially only be available to our CPS partner schools through IPMM’s Shared Walls Arts Programming, we hope to make it available nation-wide as soon as possible. Virtual workshops like this are exactly what’s needed to rekindle the excitement and engagement of students in a year of virtual learning that can make art class seem removed or disconnected.
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