Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, cooking, make-up, travel, art and the occasional rant!


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Had a lovely vacation

Last month I went on a two-week Transatlantic cruise with my sister and her family on the Disney Magic from Miami to Barcelona. It was a great trip – VERY relaxing and smooth.

I have cruised before – six times – on other cruise lines. My favourite cruise line being Royal Caribbean which I’ve been on four times. While I did enjoy the Disney cruise, I will still rate Royal Caribbean as my preferred cruise line (note that it has been quite a few years since I cruised with Royal Caribbean.) As I am, ahem, “mature” I don’t require all the family and children oriented extras. Even though I don’t need them, they are amazing on the Disney line! If you have kids (and can afford it) I would definitely say take a Disney cruise, but for me, as a single adult, other options suit me better.

The trip was a gift so I actually did not pay for the cruise – I just covered my airfare and all my own expenses. If I had been paying for the cruise – I would probably NOT have gone on Disney. It is expensive. And… we were Concierge level which is VERY expensive. When I look at the cost of that vs. the cost of other cruise lines it just doesn’t seem to be justified.  Not to say being Concierge wasn’t awesome and amazing, BUT for me the cost of that extra service level wasn’t necessary to my enjoyment of a cruise.

My cabin was very comfortable and the room host/steward, Jojo, was always around and making sure things were good. Cabin was a huge upgrade from my first cruise cabin in 1988! The bathroom was actually split into two – on room was the shower with a sink, the other a toilet with a full vanity – nice as the shower didn’t steam up the mirror!

Compare the above to this shot from our 1995 Mediterranean cruise!

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Having the veranda was great.  I was never really impressed with the idea of paying extra for a veranda, however on this trip, I loved it.  Probably would not be such a great extra on a stormy crossing or trip where you were off the ship everyday, but for the long calm days at sea I sat out there often.

And it was great to watch docking and view the ports from too!

It was wonderful having the Concierge staff available (Alina, Blanca and Emanuela were fantastic, as were the rest of the staff) to take care of things like getting tickets, picking up passes, confirming flights, and making sure I had heavy cream available for my coffee in the lounge, etc. I could manage do that myself and save $$$$ on a trip; that would be another whole vacation paid for! And having the private Concierge Lounge was super nice – always had drinks and snacks available, indoor and outdoor deck seating where you could sit and read or in my case, draw and paint.

It was a great trip. Minor hiccups aside.

As this was a Disney cruise they had the characters out and about every day for photos ops and roaming the decks. Not ALL the characters, but the main animated and top princesses. I was EXTREMELY disappointed that there were no superheros… VERY VERY disappointed. However, they were running ALL the latest Marvel and Star Wars movies, along with other Disney owned titles. We even had the premier of Solo, complete with red carpet on board on opening night. Saw Infinity War too.

My nephew and I challenged each other before we boarded in Miami – Who could get the most character photos.  He inferred I would never beat him. Little did he realize just HOW competitive I can be. As we had seven – yes, SEVEN – full days at sea the photo ops were constant. As I had nothing pressing I went from location to location getting photos with all the characters on board… EVERY SINGLE ONE… Multiple times! Mickey and the gang had different outfits for each day or theme, so of course I had to get photos of all. Sometimes I had to ask people in line WHO I was getting the photo with as I wasn’t familiar with the character! I made lots of friends in line – and the lines were never long. There were more adults getting photos than children. I ended up with 207 professional photos taken, along with the ones on my own camera. My nephew… Zilch.

I really have to say that the performers were AMAZING. Truly wonderful at being the characters in all situations. AND had astounding memories too as you could continue conversations started on one day with any princess a couple of days later and they honestly seemed to remember it. I loved Rapunzel and Stitch, in particular. And Chip and Dale were great – on my first photo with them Chip stole my camera and started taking photos/selfies…

Then Stitch did it too…

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I think that may be my favourite photo of the trip! LOL

The food was good. And our waiter Guiseppi was wonderful as he really understood my dietary issues – his wife was also diabetic and followed the same dietary restrictions as I do. So he was anticipating and actually bringing me things that he knew I could eat without being asked. I did, however, get heartily sick of shrimp/prawns and seafood by the last couple of days of the cruise. I found things to be under seasoned in general, AND numerous times I would get excited about an entree option only to find it was prepared in a way I could not eat: cooked in wine (loathe it) or breaded (don’t eat carbs) or rubbed/sauced (don’t eat sugar). The excitement I felt the night we had rack of lamb and it WASN’T breaded was unbelievable!

There were three restaurants for dinner – Lumiere, Rapunzel’s and Animator’s Palate. We rotated to a different one each night with the same serving team going with us. Was okay. They really hype this rotational dining – was always being mentioned by the cruise director.

I do have to say, in all honesty, that I have enjoyed food more on a Royal Caribbean cruise (they did have the Executive Chef of the line on board that trip though… might have made a difference!) How I judge this is that I can still name and remember multiple specific things we ate on that cruise back in 1991! I would be hard pressed to remember anything specific from this latest trip.

Crispy bacon was hard to get – only twice did it actually come in proper crispy form. Sure, I could have sent it back, but I had other things to do.  Also, two mornings my breakfast orders were messed up. Only at dinner, on Disney, do you get the same serving team; breakfast and lunch you get whomever is waiting the section they seat you in.

I always went to the main restaurant to be waited on. Most people ate at the cafeteria style and other places on deck, etc. as they had longer hours and were self-serve. I don’t like that, I want to be waited on and not have to guess what is in the food.

The crossing of the Atlantic was unbelievably calm. Like glass most days. This is rare. We were told by the captain that this has never happened in his career. And experienced “crossing cruisers” also said this has never happened to them either. I was actually looking forward to a little North Atlantic weather (I like it stormy) but, this was really pleasant! The grayest day of the entire trip was Miami when we boarded.  And there were many great sunsets and sunrises!

I took advantage of the professional photographers and had lots of photos taken. What the heck! I was buying the package of “all photos” as narrowing it down to just 10 or 20 was impossible. So I took every opportunity available. Solomon, one the photographers knew my name and cabin number by heart by day two, and even sent me a special thank you card and print of a princess! LOL

That last photo above… well… That was the day after Cadiz. When boarding after the shore excursion I did a face plant on the gangplank… hard hits on knees, both wrists and my head. Had multiple ship security personnel and a ranking officer on me immediately telling me not to move. Long story short… left wrist had a “possible fracture.” I had a dent in my head for a few days and my right knee finally doesn’t hurt to touch anymore.  I went for more x-rays after I got home to confirm whether there was a fracture or not (the ship’s x-ray capability wasn’t high-resolution and they weren’t sure) and it was a bad sprain only thankfully.

Ports of Call were the Azores, Lisbon, Cadiz, Malaga, Ibiza and final stop in Barcelona. Really nice tours – Azores was a bit damp and cloudy but pleasant, weather everywhere else was nice and sunny. I’ll do another post about what I saw and did, including fun  shipboard activities! This one is getting pretty long.

 

 

 

 

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The long summer has begun

Last day of classes was April 27th. Now on the long summer break and was lucky enough to get one of the student summer employment positions at the college. I started this past Monday and will be working as a clerk in the Recruitment & Admission department full-time until the end of August.

When I say I “was lucky”, I mean it.  I’ve been looking for a part-time job since I arrived in Ontario back in mid-October. I applied for over 80 jobs – in person, online, etc. however the posting required. I was applying for retail and service jobs mostly as it was part-time I needed because of school.

I did not get a single callback on any of those applications. Not one. I had a hard time with that. I’ve never been out of work more than a couple of days in my life – and I have always taken what was available in order to have a job to keep things going. Aside from my main careers of office administration and self-employed make-up artist, I’ve worked retail (ladies fashions, grocery store, convenience store, department store, cashier, stocker) and food service (coffee shop, cashier,counter service, line cook, waitress, banquet staff and prep cook.)

At one point I had four jobs going at the same time, so I am not opposed to working tight schedules or odd shifts.

It was pretty demoralizing to not get a single call. Even from the companies that I had previously worked for in other locations (with good performance records I might add!)

And only ONE even bothered to email a computer generated response to acknowledge my online application.

In talking to other students, this apparently is completely normal for this area – lots of advertised jobs but nobody gets a foot in the door.  Many of my classmates were anxiously looking for summer jobs too.

So getting approved to be able to apply for the Summer Employment Program at the college was a huge relief. There were nearly 100 jobs available to students throughout the college and many were administrative/clerical which is my area of expertise (other than make-up, but they didn’t have any openings for that skill set.)

I sent off my applications for all the jobs I was qualified for (my skills fit AND that were open to all majors) and got several interviews scheduled immediately. And was offered a position as a Recruitment and Admission Clerk. HUGE RELIEF!!

Pay is good, the people are very friendly, and there is a good possibility that the position would roll over into part-time once classes start – I was told this yesterday. They like to keep on the summer students as “work study” students as it saves them having to train new clerks. So I will do my best to impress! Would be excellent to work at the college as the work study positions accommodate your class schedule – you only work when you aren’t in class, and it is regular business hours so no weekends or nights. And I already have a parking pass.

Another huge plus – I get to work in air conditioning during the hot and humid southern Ontario summer! Bonus.

 

 

 

 


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Making a Serpopard

Bet you are asking… What’s a Serpopard?

I didn’t know myself until about a month ago.  I was getting a bit of a head start on my final 3D Studio project by googling “mythological creatures” as we had to do a large sculpture – had to be four-legged and a “real” creature from any culture’s mythology.

I was looking for something unusual that would fit the parameters and a Serpopard or Serppard image came up in a search.  I thought that was pretty interesting. The image has been found in Ancient Egyptian artifacts and in Mesopotamia of a big cat and snake combination creature – long snake neck and lion or leopard head and body, with some variations in design among the images found.

There were photos of the artifacts and other ancient depictions, and also quite a few artists’ renderings on Deviant Art and other places too.

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According to what I read, experts aren’t sure exactly what it was meant for – the representations are old and there is no explanation accompanying them, so it is guesswork about the purpose of the creature.

I did some sketches to figure out my version and roughed-out the structure of the armature. It was to be done using Sculpey which is a polymer clay that you bake in the oven.

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I used steel wire to make a basic structure then wrapped it with about an entire roll of aluminium foil to bulk it up and get the basic shape built. It needed to be pretty close to actual size and shape as you don’t want to have very thick and/or uneven coverage of the clay. Optimum is about 1/4 inch thick.

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I started to think about how to do the details – I wanted to make scales. I looked at photos of cobras (very Egyptian!) and their scales look just like sunflower seeds! So I bought a bag of sunflower seeds and sorted through the entire bag, I looked at EVERY seed, to find the perfect one.  Then I made a mold by pressing it into a disk of air-drying clay. All my scales would now be perfectly uniform and the proper profile.

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When I was ready to sculpt I started with the basic creature shape getting the profile right and building up muscle. Then I did the leopard head. For the ears, to make sure I didn’t break them off later, I used small bits of flexible metal mesh, made them the exact shape I wanted then covered with a thin layer of clay.

Then I carried on with attaching the scales, ONE AT A TIME. It looked awesome and just like cobra scales! I did the initial patch on the back… later I went back and added more to chest, and patches on the tail and neck.

I also wanted to build the Ancient Egyptian jewelry separately and attach it to the finished animal, so that it looked worn instead of a solid part of the sculpture. I went and bought coloured Sculpey – turquoise, red, gold, blue and black.

I used the flexible metal mesh to build the collar and head-dress – they needed the interior structure and had to support the weight of the clay. One piece of mesh cut and then folded and/or twisted into shape that was then covered with the gold clay very thinly. Then I rolled and cut all the teeny tiny rectangles in the coloured clay to inlay, and create the designs. Oy, I do like to make things difficult for myself! I also used real beads and one small lapis disc to make a scarab on the collar.

I was using King Tut’s mask as my inspiration so… I wanted to do the crown of the combined kingdoms which has the Vulture and the Cobra on it.  Teeny tiny little Vulture and Cobra heads, on the forehead of the Serpopard. So I twisted up some craft wire as they needed to be reinforced to prevent breaking off later, then covered and shaped them.  My hands are not designed to work on this small a scale! But, I think they turned out pretty cool!

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I had bought a board to use as a base for it, so I rolled out all my leftover gold clay, and enough of the flesh coloured to fill the board. It looks quite cool, like sand, so I left it as is and didn’t paint it.

I attached the jewelry and checked it over for flaws, mounted on the board and then into the oven to bake!

I spent about 3 hours building the armature at home, 11 hours plus on it at school, then brought it home again and spent 16 more hours on it which included the baking time. After it cooled (and I ate dinner) I started the painting. I did a double layer of white as a primer over the creature’s body, and then mixed up a cat body colour base and a base colour for the scales and applied them. That was all I managed before heading to bed.

I had to take it back to school and finish the painting there, and handed it in after spending almost 4 more hours doing the final painting. It was graded (don’t know what I got yet) and I did the paperwork to enter it in the end of year Juried Art Show, and left it with the instructor.

I’m really REALLY pleased with how it turned out and I put it in the show marked For Sale.

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End of term is looming

Hard to believe that my first semester at college is over next Friday. It really went by fast!

I’ve only two works in progress left, everything else has been completed and/or already handed in and marked.

I completed my film editing yesterday for my Fundamentals of Video/Audio Production final project, and submitted it. We will view them in class on Monday, and be given a final quiz.  I will share it on my Facebook page once it has “premiered” in class! I am hoping for laughs… oh god, please be funny.

I finished all my Sociology course assignments ahead of time and it has all been marked, so I am just attending the last couple of classes to get the “participation” marks.

I’ve got everything finished for Digital Drawing. Final project is complete, printed and ready to present next Friday – this Friday I’ll be twiddling my thumbs, I guess, as I have it all done and the class was to be a work period. I will probably spend some time using Photoshop on work from my other classes and tweaking some images.

In 3D Studio Practice we are doing our final large sculpture and have 10 hours of class left to work on it. I am well ahead on my build and will start on fine details tomorrow. We are working in polymer clay so have to bake it when done, and then paint it, to have ready for the last Friday for marks. Last week we handed in our recycled book project and are waiting for the grades to be posted.

This was my “Exquisite Corpse” small sculpture – it is 4.5″ tall, for 3D Studio. It was drawn in three parts, by three different people who didn’t know what the others drew. I had to sculpt it by interpreting the drawing – it had to stand on its own. Luckily mine was pretty easy, lots of students ended up with mermaid tails or tentacles!

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This was also for 3D Studio – a relief mask sculpture of another student. This was done in an air-drying clay.

This is the one Taylor did of me…

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We traded – no point in keeping one of someone else!

We handed in our Portfolios today in Presentations & Portfolio Techniques, and our final project is due next Tuesday – a detailed drawing of footwear. I’m about 1/4 of the way on mine so will be working on it over the weekend.

In Presentation & Portfolio I did these two drawings for Projects 1 & 2. The first is a vulture wearing a gas mask – I altered the image (took out lettering) after marking. And the second was to draw our own hand holding something – I call it “I miss the Rain”(let me know if you get the reference!) These were both done in liners and water-colours.

We had to do hand studies before starting the hand… I really like the little red pinky finger! I did it all in pencil crayon (three colours) and I think I might finally be getting the hang of it.

We had our last class of Drawing II (Figurative) yesterday. I am sad about that, it was so much fun.

These are a few of my more recent sketches from Figure Drawing. The first is a two-minute sketch, the colour one is 20 minutes, and the group is of 30 second drawings.

I did this landscape while sitting in the hall between classes – was working on erosion and trying different colours in pencil crayons (still working on my technique with them.) My favourite is the big ridge in the back, I think I nailed that one.

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I am in the process of looking for a summer job – I’m able to apply for full-time summer jobs at the college and so far have four interviews out of ten applications (three were already filled, three I haven’t heard back from.) That makes me hopeful. I’m still applying for pretty much everything that I see as I need to work!

I’ll be back to school in September to finish my second semester of the program I am in, which is actually the first semester of the program. I was a January intake so I did semester two first so I’ll be with a new batch of students in the Fall.

I am really thrilled that I have been able to go back to school to study art! And, being mature, I value the opportunity and haven’t missed a class or assignment! Those marks are really important – I could get a scholarship to help with the costs to go on to more advanced arts education!

 

 


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Midterm Marks are in… Mom would have been proud.

I am really enjoying my art courses at college and am doing really well! Midterm marks were released this past week and I have five A+ and one A-. My overall average is 94%. My sister wants to know what happened to the other 6%. Um, well…

There are only six more weeks to go in the semester and there are a lot of projects required for final marks. In one class the current project is worth 50% of the entire grade and takes up the rest of the course. My Sociology class final research paper is worth 25% of the final grade. And the four other courses have major projects that are a bit less of the overall marks, but still need to be done well.

I completed one final project today – a presentation for my Figure Drawing course, so I don’t get jammed at the end. They are all due in April, so getting a head start is important.

Time management is a big deal and luckily I am pretty good at it.

Here are some gesture drawings from my Figure Drawing class with live models.

I find I can do these very quickly, and the 10 minute drawings are about as long as it takes. When we have 20 minutes or longer I get fussy and overwork things. All a learning process. Last week we worked on foreshortening. That is challenging.

In my 3D Studio class I am working on a small sculpture – an “exquisite corpse” which is something designed by three people – I drew the head, then it got passed around the class with two other people drawing the middle, and the legs. No one saw what the others drew. We had to build the armature for it, and then fill in with wire mesh and aluminium foil, so that the clay is a very thin covering. I actually got lucky with my end design, some of the others have real challenges to make their sculptures stand in a stable manner, which is one of the main goals of this project.

We have two more big projects after this in 3D Studio.  I really enjoy this class and will miss it. Once I start taking the Fabrication classes in semesters three through six, I can get back into building!

In our Presentation & Portfolio class our final project is to produce a portfolio – I’ve got to PROPERLY photograph the work I want to include. I probably have more to chose from than a lot of the students, but… some of the work I no longer actually have and the photos aren’t suitable. So… will have to pick things that are able to be done properly, and that were created within the last year. The fact that I have to do the photography is challenging. The instructor said something about “booking the studio”… I’m going to try to rig up something at home and see how it works.

For my Digital Drawing class we are supposed to have an online “sketchbook” of all the work done from rough ideas to finished piece – it isn’t necessary to post until the end of the semester for the instructor to review. I am really not a digital person and the work I have so far produced is basic. I did get a good grade but it was very stressful for me.

This was the Landscape I created for one assignment in Digital Drawing. I did it in Paint 3D. I was mid-pack as far as finished printed copy for class critique. I am hampered in that I started this program on the second semester, so don’t have the courses in digital programs that were taught in the first semester – I’ll be taking those in September.

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But, I got through it so far. Next project I should not have an issue with as it is not necessary to be digitized!

 

 

 


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Taking a walk along Lake Ontario’s shore

I finally remembered to take my camera when Brian and I went for a walk down to the lake. It is Lake Ontario and we live a couple blocks from the shore.

It is really beautiful here; neighbourhood is lovely with brick homes and lots of mature trees, and wildlife – like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums, deer, etc. We have to keep the garbage locked in big bins to stop the raccoons from making messes.

It was an overcast day but very nice for March. We went right onto the beach.

To the left (which is west) is the Pickering Nuclear Plant… I posted about that HERE. What I find interesting is that right beside a nuclear power plant there is a giant wind turbine.

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It is usually pretty breezy so the wind turbines would be a nice replacement for the nuclear but it is probably a real estate issue.

Brian wasn’t terribly impressed with the water part.

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I was trying to get a nice shot of him looking out over the lake.  So up on the ridge I hooked his leash on a tree… this was the best I could get. But it does show how fluffy he is!

Lake Ontario is the 13th largest lake in the world by area. The state of New York is across it – I haven’t been able to see it though, opposite shore is too far away.

The park along the lake shore is fantastic, paved trails, woods, grassed areas with parking and pavilions, picnic areas, play areas.  It is well-used and well maintained.

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As you can see there is no snow as we’ve had an unseasonably warm spell. Overnight we got a small amount but that has pretty much disappeared and the temperatures are staying above zero for the daytime highs for the next while. Plants are starting to show!


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I missed posting in February! Oops.

I try to post a minimum of once a month, or more, but it looks like I missed February 2018 entirely!  Sorry!

In my defense I’ve been pretty busy with school and other appointments. But I usually do find the time. So March 1st will have to suffice.

I am enjoying college a lot! So far my marks are pretty damn good. Nothing lower than an A at this point. One instructor hasn’t posted any grades yet, and that is the class I have the least confidence in, so hopefully it doesn’t come in too low.

I got 100% on my Sociology mid-term paper which was great – it was titled “A Sociological Analysis of an Advertisement Demonstrating Cultural Imperialism.” I like a buffer for when I miss something on the weekly quizzes. This is a general education course I had to choose, the one I actually wanted to take wasn’t available when I chose my timetable. But it is interesting so I’m good with it. But for the rest of the program I am going to go for easier general courses – maybe online options that I can rip through and be done with.

We are going on a field trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario next week which I am looking forward to as I haven’t been there yet.

3D Art is a great course – planning, designing and building things with different media. The first project was constructing a 3D Map of an imaginary province. I got 100% on mine. It was 20 cm x 22 cm and all of them fit together to make a “country”.

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“Crateria – a seismically active, uninhabited region with craters and lava lakes.”

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Mine arranged with others from our class – there are many more now added from other classes.

The other projects so far have been building a 3D cube out of foam core and a 12″ rolling “ball” using cardboard and negative space without any glue or adhesives – had to fit together dry. Next project we start sculpting with clay.

In the Presentations & Portfolio course we’ve had to tattoo a banana and do an illustration using a hyperbole.

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I was wondering why this was required… still not sure.

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And… The dog ate my homework.  No, REALLY!

The hyperbole illustration was fun, I really like how my drawing turned out. The first is my final submission. The second was one I was playing around with. I prefer realistic work so went with the more natural look to my vulture. Designing a gas mask for a vulture was an interesting exercise. Our finished work was photographed in the studio so we should be getting a portfolio quality image eventually. I just took these on my desk so they aren’t completely flat.

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Figure drawing is really enjoyable! We’ve now had both female and male models, and also worked on hands and feet. Hands are hard!

Fundamentals of Audio/Video Production is a challenge for me but so far I am getting excellent marks. I am working hard to get through the assignments and learn the software we have to use. It is getting easier, but more features are being presented at each stage so I have to keep figuring out the next level. I can see where my weaknesses are so that is a good thing – so I know where to concentrate on the next project. I posted my first project on my Facebook page if you want to check it out at Shannon Fennell Art.  It was a short video/slide show of my work with music and sound effects added.

I’m just about at the halfway point for this semester. Last day of classes is April 27th. Then have the summer off and back in September. I’m looking for part-time work that could be full-time for the summer months, then back to part-time in the fall. I’ve also reached out and put my name in to volunteer at two places which both responded positively, which is great.