KAWS – From Media Inspired Cartoons to “Sacrosanct” friends at the AGO by Irene Faiz

 In Directors, Elementary, Executive, Irene Faiz, Lessons and Ideas, Resources, Secondary, visual literacy

AML is once more pleased to offer new Grade 11 Visual Arts curriculum from Director Irene Faiz, a Visual Arts teacher at Weston C.I. in Toronto (TDSB). Here is an example of how media literacy concepts such as “Media have unique aesthetic forms”, “Media construct versions of reality”, and “Media contain values messages” can be seamlessly woven into other subject curricula.

Here is an excerpt from Irene’s introduction to the project based on the KAWS exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario:

“In the following curriculum unit a grade 11 visual art class in Toronto was led to reflect on the toys and cartoon characters that they identified with to create their own “sacrosanct” friend.  Life has been challenging for our 16 year olds over the past four years.  Finally we are back at school following daily routines that we have longed for.  

They named their characters:  Power, Isolation and Loneliness and Good vs. Evil.  Or, Cute, Brave and Funny.  Bold, Rash and Independent.  Flexible, Fluffy and Compact.  

They translated their drawings of their creations into a series of four-colour reduction prints and credited  these “sacrosanct” friends to “help them with; the overwhelming amounts of artwork” they had to do.  They wrote about how these friends were reliable, kind and funny.  Faithful.  Someone to talk to while being able to joke around.  A protector.  A friend who cares for me, understands me and likes things that I do.

What did this class learn about the creative process?  “I learned that making art is not easy and not everything will look the way you want it.  But, that’s just like life.  You make mistakes and you learn from them.”  Another student articulated, “I learned that art doesn’t have to be perfect and that mistakes can make your art more unique and beautiful.” Yet another student wrote,  “I learned that using your favourite memories from the past can be a way to express yourself.”  They also commented on the techniques they used,  “I really learned to appreciate the steps and effort it takes to draw and print out these characters.  Alongside the creativity it took to give these drawings life, their personality is really coming through with the different colour combinations I can use in printmaking.”

[See below for Irene’s worksheets and full article.]


Irene was also inspired to add two more assignments:

“One was to put their sacrosanct friend in an action pose and turn it into a sticker.  This sticker was to be attached to an item that they value and use regularly.  One student made her sticker “live” on the front and back of her sketchbook.  Some students made the stickers for their cereal box cover.  KAWS made his characters as stickers on top of cereal box designs as well

The idea for the buttons actually came from my viewing of the Keith Haring exhibit at the AGO as well. Haring is known for his Pop Shop.  So, I thought that the characters inspired by KAWS’ characters could be featured on buttons as well.”

Here are some samples of the students’ work:



Stickers:                              Buttons:






*Please credit Irene Faiz & this resource when citing her work.

Click here to read the full text of Irene’s introductory article.

Click here to read the worksheet Irene’s students used to develop their “friends”.

*Note this curriculum is scalable from K-12.

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