Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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2018 is a wrap

Another year has gone by at warp speed. And just like people say, time goes by faster the older you get. It really does.

It was a pretty packed year.

In January I started working towards a degree in Fine Arts. I am attending Durham College in the Fine Arts – Advanced program, and plan to finish my degree in Ireland. The Ontario Colleges have agreement with the Irish Schools where they accept the Ontario Diplomas for full credit, and I can finish an Honours BA in one additional year. That’s the plan I am working on.

I enjoy being a full-time student so much. I’ve always enjoyed school which explains why this will be my sixth – yes, SIXTH – post secondary diploma! I have used all of them in my career paths too. And the Fine Art one will be a great addition to my skill set.

I am working really hard to make sure I do the absolute best I can. I am on the College Honour Roll with a GPA of 4.94. I actually ended up with the exact same GPA in both semesters – in each, I had five A+ and one A. I know there are some that say the grades aren’t important, but they are when applying for scholarships, funding and programs at other schools!

This is some of my work this year – seven were school projects and the other two were not.

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I was approved for the College’s Student Employment programs and have been working in the Admission office since May. It is a great job as they are completely accommodating to class schedules and activities. In the summer I worked there full-time and during the school year part-time.

In May the family went on a Transatlantic cruise on the Disney Magic, from Miami to Barcelona. It was two weeks long and we were at sea for seven of those days. I was expecting to hit some heavy weather but it was amazingly calm the entire crossing! Even the captain said he’s never had such a calm crossing.

This photo I took from my balcony mid-ocean – like glass. And this was one of the cloudy days! I’ve been on cruises that caught the back end of a hurricane and still enjoyed them as I’m a good sailor as the motion doesn’t bother me at all, but this was amazing.

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I connected with Theatre On The Ridge in Port Perry and helped out with some shows over the summer working on props and wigs. I took on a project of re-purposing a red Chinese Dragon into a blue/green Lake Scugog Monster for one of their productions.

The original colours are in the first photo, then finished painting the parts, and finally the finished costume in use as the Lake Monster.

It was a fun project. I made hands, feet, created a whole mouth full of teeth, more horns for the head, there was copious amounts of flake glitter….

This year I continued to receive treatments on my eyes. Early in the year I had injections in my right eye, and in the Fall in my left eye. I really hope that at some point they will both stabilize so I can stop requiring the injections. I am doing everything I’ve been told needs to happen in order for it to “get better.” At least I don’t need the treatments every month to six weeks now, so I guess it is getting better – but it is taking so long! The vision issues do impact my work at times so it adds a fair amount of stress to my life.

In the make-up area there were workshops taught, face painting jobs, Halloween private clients and theatre. As I am concentrating on full-time school and a part-time job, I made a decision not to push hard to build-up my make-up business in my new location. Quite a change from the last two decades for me where a normal week consisted of 35 hours at the day job and up to 40 working for myself! I am still available, just not to the point of impacting on my school workload.

I’m incorporating my fine art and decorative arts into my business, in addition to the make-up/costume/prop building that I do. I am in the process of re-designing my website and social media to reflect this comprehensively.

It has been a great year overall and I am looking forward to 2019!

I’ve got a trip planned to Africa in May to Volunteer with an organization called VESA – Volunteer Eco Students Abroad. I’ll be visiting South Africa, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Mozambique. I’ve been fundraising for that trip by selling original art greeting cards and have a fundraiser on Facebook which you can check out here.

The second year of my program starts Monday and I’m back to work at the college Wednesday. It’s been a long break and I want to get back at it.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and all the best for the upcoming year!

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Year One – Done!

Today our final grades were officially posted online. I’ve now completed year one of my three-year Fine Arts – Advanced program at Durham College.

My GPA is 4.94 this semester, same as last semester. I am definitely consistent! So that is my GPA for the year. This semester I received an A+ in Drawing I, Communication for Design (which I challenged back in September successfully), Ideas & Images for Art, Digital Resources for Art & Design, and Studio Practice I (2D Art & Design). And an A in Photography.

I am very happy with the A in Photography as I really struggled with it. I have vision issues and can’t read the camera controls nor see the focus clearly in the display, so a lot of my assignments consisted of me shooting around 300 images to get ONE to hand in. I managed, but it was stressful. I will now return to my little point and shoot Sony Cybershot that I use fully on Auto! It was interesting, but I am not going to be investing in camera equipment!

For the final Photography assignment we had to do a Portfolio. My theme was composition straight out of the camera. I shoot things the way I want them framed so most of the time I do not crop (unless I have to for a size requirement.) I submitted these two photos as part of my portfolio. These were not cropped at all. I just did a bit of light and clarity adjustment to them.

The statue is Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre Museum, and the other is through a cannon port in a fortification in Essaouria, Morocco. I took these on my travels. We had to have class assignment photos in our shortlist/contact sheet, but only needed to print our three favourites for class critique – my favourites were not from class! I was ecstatic to get 100% on the portfolio assignment! Got to go out with a bang.

In Drawing I my final grade was 100%. Last semester in Drawing II (Figurative) I also received 100%. I took the semesters in reverse order as I started in January. I like Drawing. Next semester I will be in Drawing IV (Contemporary) – still out-of-order! Eventually I will be in the right order, in year three!

These are the last three Drawing classes’ marked work. Still life in colour, glass rendering and metal/plastic rendering. I used chalk pastels for all of them. We could choose our media most of the time and I really like the chalk pastels.

My final assignment for Digital Resources is a multi-media piece incorporating collage, paper tole, markers and piped on acrylic paint for texture. I had to use digitally manipulated versions of my own original art for this, which came from the previous assignment that was to digitize our analogue art.

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Got 95% on this one, which I am very happy with.

For Studio Practice (2D) my final Design Assignment was a stop-motion animation. I can’t post animations in this blog apparently, but you can see it on my Facebook page here (it is a 13 second GIF.) My mark was 100%. It was fun, but fussy to do. My little character was only 10 cm high so managing to articulate him was a very long process. But he worked very well!

For the Art part of this course my final project is a 20 x 38″ painting based on photos I took on my trip to Morocco in 2017. This is not the finished painting, but gives you an idea of it. This was three hours work, I spent another five on it after the photo was taken. It was left at school for marking so I won’t see it again until January. I was given 96% for a grade on it. I will probably work on it a bit more later.

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Next semester I will be taking Painting II, Drawing IV, Website Development and general education courses – one history class and the other still to be determined.

I’m in the process of completely redesigning my website (it is taking a long time!) so the Website Development course should be useful. The course description says we’ll actually be developing a site, so potentially I might be changing everything.

I know I’ve said this before, but I am LOVING being in school. I really think the once you’ve had some life experience, mainly having to work for a living, you really appreciate the opportunity to be able to learn and absorb in an academic environment. And… paying for it yourself makes a massive difference too! I’m not here to waste my time and money, and am working extremely hard to do the best I possibly can.


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Art – projects on the go

Two weeks left in the Fall term and have final projects/assignments in progress for all classes.

I just submitted my Photo Essay for Photography class online. There is still one more assignment but it is just putting together a portfolio from existing work – we don’t have the details yet. The Photo Essay was a bit of a challenge but it is done! I took 282 photos and ended up with 16 usable ones! Mainly due to focus issues. I can’t see well enough when shooting manually to know if the focus is perfect or not. So I get them on the computer then look for ones that are in focus. Hard way to do it, but is what works to get my assignments done. Luckily I am pretty decent at composition, so the ones in focus are generally good enough.

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Working on a multi-media piece for my Digital Resources class. It is the final part of a two-stage project. The first part was called ADD – we had to choose some of our work (analogue – hand created work) and digitize it. Then produce a digital output – printed or projected, etc.

For part one I took photos/scans of nine of my watercolour paintings and ink drawings and made them into a collage in Word. Yes, Word – it is what I know really well. Impressed the professor with that. It was a bit tedious – I made the first collage with the full images on one page, then saved as a PDF, then converted to a JPG, then cropped the JPG into multiple pieces, then made another collage in Word using the pieces. Then repeated that process about a half-dozen times. The assignment said to make at least five prototypes and choose the best one to submit. So each stage was saved as I went along.

The final collage is what I submitted. I printed off five versions so I could have a look at them and the final one was the most processed and I liked it! So did the professor – he gave me 95% and commented “Outstanding!”

Final graded

Part two is called ADA. We need to take something from the first assignment that was digitized and then use it to create another analogue artwork. That is as specific as the assignment got. So, I took all my digitized printed collages, and made a collage of them by ripping and cutting them up, and using Modpodge to attach to a canvas. Then I took one of my ink drawings – decided to use the Chickadee – and scanned and printed off a dozen copies of that to create a paper tole, which was then mounted on the canvas collage. I’m still working on it – planning to use the 3D pen to create some interesting details.

Chickadee edited

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I’m really enjoying this assignment! I am not really a digital process artist, but finally, this is fun! Using the digital to create parts that then get used to create hands-on art is pretty cool.

In Painting I have my canvas stretched ready to start my final painting. I got the last one finished – I showed the work in progress in my last post. Here that one is in almost final form – I did go back to punch up the rock in the top right as it was a bit too flat looking, but haven’t taken a photo yet. I’m pretty happy with this!

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The final painting is big and I am still trying finalize WHAT I will be painting – it is supposed to be based on something out of the art journal we’ve been working on for this class. So… I’ve been sketching and doodling like crazy to have ideas in there I actually WANT to paint!

In 2D Design I am just getting the shooting done for a stop-motion animation. Had to create a “zombie” character (in the loosest sense) and a story board, then make a paper “puppet” to photograph. We need to create a 10 second GIF ultimately. I’ve got everything ready and the camera is on the tripod. Just need to set-up my light box and shoot. That’s my plan for tomorrow. Then editing of course!

For the Design Idea class we have to come up with a solution to the Bee problem. As bees are dying off and several species have been declared endangered we are supposed to be creative and produce a fix for it. We were just given the assignment on Thursday. I’ve got two pretty good ideas but which I go with will depend on timing. Due dates are how I prioritize and other projects come first. Once I get those done, I will know how much time I have left.

Drawing class doesn’t have homework assignments – everything is done live in class. I really enjoy that. This week we’ll be doing negative space and the last class the week after is a bonus class where you can increase your mark or make up for an absence. I go no mater what as I don’t miss classes unless I have medical appointments I can’t schedule otherwise.

I reached maximum hours on my work/study job as of last Wednesday so I get those 12 hours a week back to work on my projects so I should have no problems wrapping up the term. Back to work on January 2nd, and back to school for the winter term on January 7th.

Next term I will be taking Drawing (Contemporary), Painting, Web Development and “A Short History of the World” which is a general elective. I probably will be adding in another elective but have to see what is available when time-table additions/changes are permitted.


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Works in Progress

I suddenly realized this week that it is ALREADY mid-November. What the heck happened to October?? It is time to start sending off overseas Christmas cards and presents and I haven’t even started thinking about that!

I’ve been busy, and if you take into consideration how fast time seems to move as you get older, I’m almost living in the future! LOL

School is going great. There are only four weeks left of this semester which bums me out. I really enjoy the whole process.  But my next term starts on January 7th, so won’t be long till I’m going again!  I officially transferred into the Fine Arts – Advanced program this week so another two years here, then I’ll be off to Ireland (I hope!) to finish the BFA.

This semester I have had a chance to do some painting as well as design and drawing, photography and installation art. So it has been fun, and challenging at times.

For one class we had to do a Guerrilla Art Installation somewhere in the college, without permission. As this class would do this every term I’m sure the powers that be are complicit, but the professor made it out to be all black ops! LOL We could do anything we wanted, anywhere we wanted, in any media we wanted – we just couldn’t do it in stairwells for safety reasons nor deface or damage property.

I expropriated a locker and created this display – read the artist’s statement to see what I was illustrating…

For another project in the same class we had to illustrate levels of meaning. This is my completed assignment. I call it “End of Days”, micron pen and watercolour, 9×12″.

End of Days

This is the Artist’s Statement for this one:

My work entitled “End of Days” uses the imagery of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as foretold in the Bible, Book of Revelation 6:1-8. The White Rider is Pestilence, the Red Rider is War, the Black Rider is Famine, and the Pale Rider is Death. In the Bible they are triggered by The Lamb of God opening the first four of the seven seals on the scroll held in God’s right hand.

The Horsemen are a metaphor for the end of humanity, or God’s Punishment, depending upon your point of view. They each represent one aspect of humankind’s mass destruction – disease, war, famine and death – any one of them can trigger the others, causing a cascade effect. Pestilence shoots arrows poisoned with disease, War causes humanity to kill each other, Famine starves those who aren’t killed by disease and war, and Death ultimately takes them all.

I added images of recent history that could be leading us towards the end, in my opinion: nuclear weapons, mass destruction of conventional weaponry and a few individuals in positions of power who have contributed to bringing us to this precipice.

In Drawing class we have been working on the basics (I started mid-year so my second semester is actually semester one of the program): perspective, texture, shadow, etc.

In Design class we’ve been doing a lot of things in Illustrator – using forms and grids, etc.  This image is the final submission for Project 2 called Exploring Point & Line. We had to cut out a bunch of circles and lines, the lay them down to express certain terms and relationships (like balance, contrast, chaos, etc.), photograph them (needed 25 different ones minimum), then edit in Illustrator, lay them out in the prescribed grid, correct white and black balances, print, mount on board with a cover… I got 100%.

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The final project in Design is creating an animated GIF using cutout drawings… ack! I’ll definitely be posting that when it is done!

In the Painting section we’ve been doing studies outside of the ground in the woods, then working on a painting based on those using colour theory to create earth tones, etc.

I’m still working on the main painting from that exercise, so this is a work in progress shot. It is done in acrylics but I am thinning them out quite a bit and building up the colour in washes. It is on a board, not canvas.

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Photography has been extremely challenging for me – issues with my vision make it really difficult to read and see the camera display and controls and I also have difficulty holding the DSLR (there is a reason I love my little point and shoot!) So when I get a good shot to meet the assignment I am really happy. This is one from the project using window light for portraits.

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In photos Pod (short for Prince of Darkness) usually appears as a black void, so I was really pleased with how the sunlight illuminated him – and he was a very good model!

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I know I keep saying it, but I am loving being in school and learning, and creating while I learn.


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I am fund raising to go Volunteer in Africa

Last month there were information sessions held at my college for Volunteer Eco Students Abroad. I only found out about it the day they were happening as there were flyers on the reception desk as I went from classes to work in the admissions office.

VESA logo for t-shirts

I saw the words VOLUNTEER THIS SUMMER! on the flyer so I grabbed one to read at my desk. I have always been an active volunteer and have been looking for more involvement here.

I was very happy to have discovered that flyer as the last session was at 4 p.m. that afternoon which was when I got off work!

The organization was founded in Australia and operates pretty much worldwide. They have projects in South Africa, Laos, Fiji and Ecuador (Amazon). They are geared for students 17-24 years old but anyone can sign-up.

It is a self-paid trip – you pay your own way and spend a week volunteering, and then there is an adventure travel excursion included before you leave. VESA strongly encourages all participants to fund raise to cover their expenses.

I was most interested in the South African project and the Southeast Asia/Laos project as both involved endangered species. The Laos project was at an elephant sanctuary, and in South Africa a portion of the volunteer time is at two conservation parks (one for crocodiles and the other for cheetahs and wild cats.)

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The total costs of the program and travel expenses will probably be around $4000 – I don’t have the exact costs for the travel yet as they provide a group rate by the end of the year that you can opt in for, or make your own arrangements. It is close to my tuition costs for one year – but how often will this sort of opportunity come up for me? I decided after my mom died that I was going to do things and have adventures while I still could – and this definitely is an adventure.

I applied for the African project and received an offer within two days. I accepted it!

This is what I will be doing next May: We will be building/renovating buildings or facilities, assisting in the school and daycare/orphanage and then working at the conservation parks. All the participants will get to work in ALL the areas.

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This is a link to the Season Reports for Africa – it tells about the work that the volunteers have done.  African Project Season Reports

I started fundraising as of yesterday.

I set-up a personal fundraising page on Facebook. This is my fundraising page Volunteering in Africa – Shannon’s Trip Expenses if you would like to contribute there.

I can also accept direct e-transfers (to save on the processing fees!) if that is convenient for you. All of the funds through both methods will end up in the same account that I set-up specifically for the money raised for the trip.

I am in production mode creating Christmas Cards to sell – hand-drawn and coloured. I will soon have them up online. I am going to be selling them $5 for one; $24 for five, plus postage. Each will be a unique piece of art. If you would like to buy some drop me a message through Facebook or comment on this blog and I’ll respond! These are my first prototypes which will be one-off as I have actually come up with other very unique designs that I am still colouring.  They are on card stock with envelopes. I plan to have my complete supply read to ship within two weeks, in time for use this Christmas.

I got a couple coloured from the second set of designs – here they are. Drawn in Micro pens and coloured with Copic markers.

I am also thinking about selling my world-famous candy (brittles and barks) closer to Christmas – I sold off my excess last Christmas and it was very popular so, depending on my workload I may get that going. If you happen to be interested – I will take and make to order!

I am very excited about this trip – exploring different cultures, seeing a different part of the world, and just the whole experience of working in a group doing something to help others in their own environment will be so satisfying on a personal level.

If you are able to help me out I will be forever grateful! And any funds in excess of the travel and program costs will be used to buy supplies to take to the village I will be working in. VESA will be sending us lists of items that are needed/appropriate gifts that we can take.

Thanks for reading through!


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Hey, it is Inktober

I am once again starting a monthly challenge! Let’s see how far I manage to go this time!

My record isn’t the greatest on the daily art posting challenges – I have completed ONE out of several I’ve started. But I am really proud of that one.

I may get through this month being that I am actively a full-time art student and drawing everyday, and not just classwork. I carry pocket sized sketchbooks and fill them up while waiting to get into classrooms and studios.

These are the first three I’ve posted on my Art Page on Facebook at Shannon Fennell Art  (you should go check it out, and give it a Like while you’re there!)

So far these are in my pocket sketchbook. I’ll move to larger paper once I’m through with homework! I had a couple of paintings to get finished.


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School is in!

First week back is done. First classes of all courses attended. I am excited!

This semester I’ve got six classes for five courses:

  • The Art of Photography
  • Ideas & Images for Art and Design
  • Drawing I
  • Digital Resources for Art & Design
  • 2D Art & Design which is two 3-hour classes per week – one is Design, one is Painting each with a different professor.

There was also a Communications for Design course in the schedule, but I have challenged it. Just have to do the fourth part of the assignment which is an oral presentation with a PowerPoint presentation (it is scheduled for Monday.)

Ideas & Images for Art and Design looks really interesting. It is the first class in this program that is in a lecture hall. It is a little different than I expected, but am really looking forward to it. The seats are horrible and the table space is way too small… but I guess I will survive.

The college renovated the studio spaces in L-wing over the summer. Now instead of a couple of nice roomy studio spaces with lots of storage there are three smaller ones with no room to move around. The art studio has hideous lighting (hanging pot lights) that cast intense black shadows so that your hand’s shadow blocks out what you are drawing – just awful.)  The drawing studio no longer has a corner for the models to change in private, nor counters for the paper and equipment.  It is like no artists were consulted on what was needed.

I have a pair of magnifier glasses that actually have lights in them – I think I will take them to class to counter the shadows from the overhead lights.

I am also still in the Work/Study Program – full-time Summer job turned into a part-time job while in school. I am allowed to work up to 12 hours per week. The really great thing is you arrange your schedule around your classes and it is flexible if you have projects or field-trips, etc. I am so happy about being approved to continue in the program.

Tuesday morning was our first Design class and it started at 9:10 a.m. I am aghast at how many students strolled in late. Without even an apology to the professor, or even saying anything to her! The latest to show up was close to 11 a.m. Really? Way to make an impression guys. I know I am old and “things were different back in my day”… but… is this really how it goes now? I’m not sure how many are actually in the class (as they haven’t all appeared as yet) but, about a quarter of them were late.

No art to post yet, just getting started so maybe next week I’ll have something to share.