Shannon Fennell's Blog

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

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Just for fun

Painting licensed characters and/or emblems is often something we, as face and body painters, get asked for – from Spider-Man to the Hulk to Sponge Bob to Winnie the Pooh to NHL logos.

Spider-Man has long been a staple of EVERY face painters repertoire. Can anyone, who has been painting professionally for any length of time, claim to have NEVER painted a Spider-something??  It is sort of a right of passage to  being able to call yourself a “professional”!!

I try not to use licensed characters in my promotional material, but I will paint them if asked AND I know how or the customer can produce an image for me to copy from.  Face paint washes off and I don’t do pay-per-face so I’m not too concerned about the Disney police – although, I don’t paint many Disney characters!  But now that Disney own the Marvel stable of characters, INCLUDING Spider-Man, things may change.

I have painted cartoon characters for contest purposes…. including [whispers] Disney…

This is my Lady and the Tramp (Disney) design that won the 2006 Fantasy Worldwide Face Painting Contest in Belgium, the theme was Movies:

Here are a few I did for the 2006 UK Face Painting Convention photo competition – the theme was Cartoons:

Pinky and The Brain (Warner Bros.):

Batman (DC Comics): 

Road Runner & Wiley Coyote (Looney Tunes):

Those were all done for competition (and some also subsequently published in various magazines).  I don’t show these on my display boards when working… as replicating designs in detail is way too time consuming.

When asked for, I paint Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… I find them not too hard to do quickly.  I stick to G1 Optimus Prime though, other versions get too detailed!

On kids I skip the  mouth opening and make it a solid white mask as shown in this clipping:

Have to keep the line moving, you know!

I also have to admit to basing some designs for theatre on Disney’s versions… [sigh] What else could I do when the costume designer made Baloo a  BLUE bear????

I avoid doing sport logos… they are too fiddly and time-consuming.  Have you SEEN the Edmonton Oilers logo???

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What a weekend

I am sitting here with HORRIBLE leg cramps… my right calf has been seized up since around midnight Friday and it is now after dinner on Sunday… I cannot work it out, I’ve taken every drug and home remedy for leg cramps I have available but it won’t let go…  I’ve decided ice cream and left over Christmas chocolate might work… well, they can’t hurt can they?!

It’s been a pretty busy, Snow White wrapped up with a matinée today.  It was fun.  My next show is Driving Miss Daisy – get to age a 20 something actress for Miss Daisy and have study up on aging Hoke properly.

Friday night I was hired to paint zombies for the local college’s student association – they were having a Post Apocalypic Party.

I was the “professional face painters on site”… it was fun.  Lots of people came with make-up already, but had me “fix” it, others were in normal clothes, others in costumes.  There were some absolutely amazing costumes!  The best, IMO, were the zombie fighters – there were some great get-ups.

I did some really cool stuff… one great skull thing that I really REALLY liked which, of course, I didn’t get any photos of.  I already have Naomi booked to come in for a painting session to replicate it.

They had gone completely overboard on the decor… sheets of plastic, haz-mat suits, barricades, military security with weapons, barrels burning… it was great.

I was booked from 9 to midnight, and had the option to stay if I wanted.  However, by midnight I was done… this getting old crap sucks.  But in my defense, I’d done a full-day (9 hours) at the day-job, 2.5 hours at the theatre, then headed over to the college… and my back and legs were killing me.

It was fairly steady all evening… then… about 20 minutes to midnight, after chatting with the organizers about staying vs leaving and saying I was going to stop at midnight… a HUGE line forms of people wanting to get painted… the ones that needed a few drinks to work up the courage, you know… THOSE ones? LOL

I sped up for the last bunch doing single wounds and such… and then started to pack up when these wasted guys came over and wanted done, one claiming it was his birthday… so I told him if he could prove it I would paint something “small”… so he produced his drivers’ license… yup, it was his birthday.  So I gave him a small cut.

Then I needed to go… well, the place was locked down!  I had parked where I thought it would be easy to get out – the closest possible spot in the whole college to a door… but that area was secured at midnight and no way to get there.

One of the crew snagged a real security guy to escort me out… he took my trolley and led me out the long “tunnel” to the gate where there was real security, costume military security, barricades… then we stopped at the campus security office where another guard took the trolley and escorted me outside, around the building, up the hill to where I parked… this is when my right leg charley horsed…

I got the car loaded, then stomped around, trying to stretch my calf muscles as I was not going to be able to drive with a charley horse!!  The cops cruised by as I was doing my strange dance… but decided I wasn’t drunk or dangerous I guess.  I was almost at the point of calling home to ask mom’s sitter to come over to get me…. but it relaxed enough so I could drive.

Then Saturday I had a birthday party booked for 1-3 p.m.  When it was booked I had asked how far out-of-town they were and was told about 25 kms.  Well… I had figured my travel time based on that… 43 kms later.  Oh well, just a couple of minutes later than I had said I would be there to set-up.  So 86 km round trip – in the snow.  They lived right on a highway that was in really good condition – the road is higher than the surrounding land so the wind keeps it dry and clear… however, when I got to their property I couldn’t tell where the driveway was… so I guessed and turned to line up with the garage… no idea if I was on the driveway.

It was a nice party… Dad and Mom both got painted, so did Grandma and some aunts… Dad was Kermit, Mom and Grandma butterflies, almost all of the party guests were…. wait for it… butterflies!

Headed home afterwards with less time than anticipated so I wasn’t able to stop to pick-up groceries… Only had an hour at home before I had to get mom ready to go to the theatre as she and her aide were coming to watch the show.  I rushed to feed us and then got mom dressed and loaded – her aide was meeting us at the theatre.  When mom comes to a show she has to come with me, so then gets stuck hanging around for 2 hours… I can’t leave to go get her later as I am busy back stage.  She brings books, puzzles, etc. to keep occupied and we are able to park her in the theatre ahead of time.

Got to watch the show… the dwarfs(ves) were cute, the Dark Queen was really great… her laugh was awesome and the audience loved it.  She got the biggest round of applause at the end too.

After the show we stopped to get groceries – the always needed milk and eggs.

Then today was the last matinée… call was 11:30 and we got everyone done and then cleaned up, packed up, took some photos, loaded the car and came home… stuff is still sitting in the foyer. I need to carry it all down stairs and clean my brushes, but… it can wait.

Grabbed some shots of Snow White with a couple of the dwarfs(ves).

So I’ve got a bit of downtime now to clean kits and catch up on housework.  And hopefully get rid of this damn cramp!!


Book Review: Fantasy Makeup by Becstar Anthony

I received my copy of Becstar Anthony’s book, Fantasy Makeup, in the mail yesterday.

Rebecca “Becstar” Anthony is a YouTube star in face painting circles.  I have not actually watched any of her YouTube tutorials (I choose not to watch ANY tutorials) but have seen her work in Illusion Magazine (she was the cover artist of issue #11) and other images floating around the internet.  She also teaches workshops around her home country of Australia.

And, of course, I checked her website and Facebook too!  She does beautiful work.

She has just released her first self-published book and is selling it through her website. As I am a book person – I love to look at print photos, the smooth glossy paper, the smell… er, ahem… I decided to order a copy for myself.

The price was on the high side considering the size and content:  AUS $29.99 + $5 worldwide shipping = $34.99 which converted to almost $40 CAD for me.  The book contains 13 designs on 32 pages (including covers) on glossy paper with cardboard covers, coil-bound.  Compare that to the Nick & Brian’s (Wolfe) Faces of Fantasy book which has 15 designs on 32 pages, all on cardstock, coil-bound which sells for $15.00 CAD… that is a HUGE difference.  Granted Becs’ book has written instructions and some technique information at the front but if looking at number of designs vs cost it is about the most expensive book out there for face painting designs.

I know that self-publishing is a hugely expensive endeavour – most people don’t have the capital to invest in a print run big enough to keep the cost in the $15 range (usually 10,000 copies) so I know the price is higher to cover her costs.

My first observation is about the cover image (shown above) of the blue and white sugar skull which is what she has called a “bonus feature” which is the last design shown in the book.  She refers to it as “bonus theatrical makeup look”.  As a professional theatre make-up artist I have to take issue with calling this design, which is absolutely spectacular by the way, theatrical.  This design would never read on stage… the details are too fine, too subtle and the impact of the bling would be completely lost in the distance from the actor to the audience.  The products she used and described in her step-by-step are professional grade theatrical brands which I can only assume is why she has called this a “theatrical make-up look” as it has been done WITH theatrical cosmetics.

Each of the 13 designs are shown in five step-by-step photos with very brief written instructions under the first four photos.  The brands and colours of the products used are noted at the top and Becs has also included a photo of the specific paints used, which in all but two designs, include split cakes.  This is helpful for painters, I think, so that we can choose a similar colour if we don’t have the one listed.

In looking at the designs included in this book I would classify it as an intermediate level.  This is due to the complexity of Becs’ line work and details.  While most of the designs are relatively simple in that they are not extensive full-faces (in fact there are only two full-face designs out of the thirteen in the  book) the designs she has provided on have a lot going on.

Most of the line work demonstrated is very skilled, and beginner face painters would require a lot of practise to be able to emulate the exquisite detail Becs has shown.  While there are written instructions they are not specific about which brush was used in her examples or what type of brush technique was used – this information is important to beginners.  Intermediate level painters will be able to assess what is required by looking at the results.

Personally, I found the selection of designs rather repetitive.  There are: two butterflies, two brow designs, a one-side eye design which is butterfly-ish in shape and style,  two forehead/eye designs, two asymmetrical butterfly-ish eye designs – all well done but very similar in general shape and style – and also a one-stroke dragon (shown on an arm and then on a back in the final photo), a full-face tiger and the full-face sugar skull.

While the designs are similar, very similar, Becs does use a variety of colours and different brush strokes within them.  All are beautiful and extremely well done… I just would have liked more variety in the choice of designs, particularly for the cost of the book.  All the designs are on females, and in looking at them, there are three that I would call unisex – bat brow, dragon and tiger.

The designs provided in this book are beautiful, and with some practise of the detailed brush work, most face painters should be able to use them on the job with great results.  With the techniques mastered most should be doable in under five minutes.  If you are a raw beginner it will take some time to get to this skill level.  But as an inspirational tool this book will deliver as it does make you want to try to get the same results yourself.

The title is Fantasy Makeup but it doesn’t really demonstrate that in my opinion, except for the cover design. Something like “Glamour-Eyes” would have been more descriptive of the content which is 75% eye designs.

If you are a fan of Becstar you probably will love this book.  I like the book, but, for my money I would have preferred a wider selection of designs or ideas and a little more content, but nonetheless, it is a nice addition to my library.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(ves?)

I’m currently working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Grande Prairie Live Theatre.  The show opened this past Thursday and runs through the 22nd.  We’ve got three matinees too (two down, one to go… I am not fond of matinees as they kill my weekends!)

I haven’t seen it yet (we are going Saturday).  It isn’t the Disney version but it is child friendly.

The dwarves are all children, age range of 8 to 13.  Two boys and five girls who are all “male adult” dwarves.  I’m having fun making them look like fairy tale dwarves!  Here is a before and an after of them all:

I’m doing really basic “character” make-up on them using Kryolan and Snazaroo… The bases are being applied by my assistants while I finish up The Queen, Snow, and Gretchen, then I slap on the line work, beards and moustaches, brows and one uni-brow.  It is really quite effective on stage.   And taking a sweet pretty little blonde eight year old and making her look like a cranky old dwarf her mother wouldn’t recognize is really a lot of fun!

Here’s The Queen – beautiful and ugly versions… I whipped up the mask from left over Halloween SFX on really short notice for opening night… no one had mentioned it to me before second dress!

Here is Gretchen (the housekeeper, also known as Amy, my mom’s aide) and the two maids (can you tell they are sisters?)

As you can tell by the title of this post I’m a bit on the fence about the plural of the word DWARF… so I googled it… technically “dwarrows” is was it should have been but Tolkien used “dwarves” in The Hobbit and the rest, as they say, is history.  Me, I lean toward dwarves… ’cause half is halves, wolf is wolves, calf is calves, elf is elves… etc., etc.  And it isn’t wrong, so I’m right!


Business Tips for Face Painters, Body Artists and Make-Up Artists #1 – The Business Plan

In 2012 I will be posting excerpts from my e-book The Business of Face Painting once a month.  Of course, if you would like to get all the information included in my book right now you can find out how here.

The Business of Face Painting was published in September of 2009 and I am working on the final stages of the companion book The Art of Face Painting which we hope to have out sometime this year.

Since this is a start of a new year I thought it would be appropriate to discuss The Business Plan.  I just updated mine again and it is a great tool for focussing on the coming year’s goals.  I update my plan every three to five years and review it annually – if there have been big changes over the current year I will update, if things are ticking along as anticipated I just review.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Three of  The Business of Face Painting.


If you are starting a business, no matter how small-scale, you need to have a plan.  Obviously, planning to start a business is a plan but formalizing it into a document is a very important step and the process will cause you to think about all the aspects and risks of starting your own business.

Writing a business plan sounds daunting to many people but it is not.  The process of writing it and pulling all the information together can really help you to gain an understanding of your business and what is needed to make it the success that it is meant to be.  Being a professional face painter is really no different, from a business point of view, than being a plumber.

There are many tools available to assist you with drafting your first business plan: on the internet, from your bank or financial service advisor, from your local small business association or Chamber of Commerce.  I have provided a template at the end of this chapter which is the one that I used for my business plan and this was loosely based on one in a booklet from the bank I was dealing with at the time.  Once you take the time and effort to do it the first time all you have to do is periodically review and update it to reflect your current business operations and goals.

The business plan is just that – a plan.  It is not written in stone, in fact, it is meant to be updated and changed regularly to keep up with your business and your changing goals.  In many cases businesses write-up a business plan in order to use it to support loan applications and other requests for funding. But, I think that it is a tool that anyone starting a business should take the time to use.

A full business plan covers all areas of a business’ operation – industry analysis, opportunities for work, competition, description of your business, services, target markets, staff, equipment, contingency planning, risk assessment, business goals, marketing plan, sales forecasts, operations, inventory control and management set-up.

Many people start face painting without a real intention of it becoming a fully fledged business, then gradually they start to get paid for doing it, and then realize that they are in business without actually planning to be.  Once you are in business there are lots of things that you need to be aware of and by following the template for a business plan you will cover all the areas that someone starting or assessing their current business needs to consider.

There are different styles of business plans so if you don’t like the template I have included look around to find one that suits you… some are shorter, some are longer… it is all a matter of how much depth you want to get into.

I will go through the template point by point and provide some suggestions as to what sort of information fits with the headings.

–  Description of Industry:   Describe the services available like face painting, body painting, glitter tattoos, etc. the demand locally for the services, where you can sell the services, potential for growth, etc.  Then describe the competition in your area – do some research to find out exactly what there is in your area.  This information is for your eyes only so please be honest and accurate.  Economic factors are things like  recessions or booms – how much money do the locals have to spend?  If you are in a factory town and the plant shuts down then your economy will be slow as people won’t have extra money for face painting.  Social factors are things like religious prohibitions against face painting or lots of demand for henna tattoos for cultural reasons.  Technology and environmental factors are things like new equipment like airbrushes and environmental might be allergens or disposal of solvents.

– Description of Business Venture:  Well, what IS your business?  Describe your business in a short paragraph or in point form.  Define your target market (this is covered in detail in Chapter Four.)  Explain your competitive advantage – why will people hire you over the competition. Describe you location and set-up, staff, equipment and supplies, and  a history of the business or your experience in it.

– Business Goals:  Where do you want to be after one year?  Two years?  Five years?  This can be a simple statement or a detailed breakdown year by year.  You can be as detailed as you want – I like detail as it is easier to breakdown into parts and projects that can be completed or scrapped depending on the market.

– Marketing Plan:  How do you plan to sell your service?  List every method you can think of and how you will do it.  That is everything from giving out business cards to buying advertising to direct mail to networking with soccer moms.  Distribution is how are you delivering the services and where, how far will you travel to do so?  Your pricing, promotional plans, any guarantee or warranties (these are mostly those of products,  our services don’t lend themselves to guarantees of any sort other than showing up and doing the work.)  How do you plan to track customers and results of marketing?  Methods of payment – how do you intend to collect your deposits and fees, terms for corporate customers, etc.  The marketing plan will be covered in a lot more depth in Chapter Four.

– Sales Forecast:  This is where you get to make assumptions and predictions.  State the assumptions that you are basing your forecasts on like “The first assumption is that more work will be offered as more work is completed from recommendations, word of mouth, repeat customers, etc.”  The current version of my business plan only has four assumptions.  You can forecast your bookings month-by-month for the current year – confirmed bookings and anticipated bookings from repeat customers, etc.  And   then forecast for the future based on your assumptions.

– Operations:  This is how you supply your business with the material need to conduct business. Where will you get your supplies, terms with vendors, alternative sources for emergencies, and how you will control your inventory of products and equipment?  Where do you store your equipment?

– Management and Structure:   How is your business set-up – are you a registered company or a sole proprietorship?  What is your legal and tax status?  Who are your key personnel?

– Risk Assessment:  What is your competitors’ reaction to your business? Are you friendly and refer work to each other or are they undercutting you?  This is just a statement of fact you don’t have to solve the problems here. List “What ifs…” for external and internal factors.  What if… you spill paint on a customer’s white rug?  What if… your wrist develops carpel tunnel syndrome? Explain how you plan to deal with the risks – insurance, taking care to avoid situations that could cause injury, etc.

– Environmental Statement: Explain how you are meeting environmental regulations, recycle containers, etc.  State any training taken like WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.)

– Action Plan:  The steps to be taken to meet the goals of the Marketing Plan and how the results will be measured – usually would be increased bookings, increased income, etc.

– The Financial Plan is simply statements and numbers.  Attach your financial statements and accounting information if you want to. Forecast your income for the coming year, two years and/or five years.  Remember that this is just a plan and you can change it depending on what actually happens.  Try to assess realistically where you want to be and what you can expect to achieve.

Don’t panic!  It sounds like a lot of areas to cover but once you start to make your notes you will realize that a lot of the information will apply to different areas of the business plan.  I am not saying that it is a quick and easy exercise, but, by taking the time and doing a bit of research to fill in the information in the template you will be giving yourself a fantastic aid to develop a successful business.

It is not a project that you will complete all at once so do not be discouraged if it takes you a few weeks or even months to actually draft the entire document.  But be assured that once you have completed it you will have a firm grasp of the business you are in and be able to go back to it annually to see if you are on track and to make adjustments.  Not to scare you but my current business plan is twenty pages long without the attachments – but all I do now is review it and update where necessary and do a major update every five years.

I updated my five-year plan for the third time a couple of years back and it was really interesting to read over my goals and plans from five and ten years previous… I was a bit surprised with how things had altered and progressed as reading over what I put down on paper for my business goals has changed so much.  It really is an excellent way to keep track of your goals and how they change with time.  Growth will cause changes to your plans, as well as changing interests that you have.

Another benefit to creating and keeping an up-to-date business plan is that it can help you to prove your business intent if you are ever audited.  My accountant highly recommended that I do one when I was first starting out in the make-up industry for this reason.

© Shannon Fennell, 2009

with material from “Designs and Templates Volume 1” © November 2007

and “Designs and Templates Volume 2” © March 2008

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Looking forward … after looking back

So here it is, 2012.

I used to think about the future when I was younger and 2011 was way off in the future – the year I would be 50.  I don’t remember ever thinking about anything past that, yet, here we are on the first day of 2012 and I am well into my second half-century.

In Grade 5 or 6 we had a new textbook, for English I think.  In it was Mother Shipton’s Prophecy that had a verse that ended “and to this world an end shall come, in nineteen hundred and eighty-one.”  That stuck with me…. all through the 70s I was waiting for something to happen.  Then 1981 came… and Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States… I though uh-oh, here we go.

Well, guess the world didn’t end that year… but maybe something was started that will ultimately lead to it?  Or… maybe not.

I know now that Mother Shipton probably didn’t make that prophecy… when we were in England we were near where she was supposed to have lived and it was a theme park… and apparently all the “prophecies” were written well after the woman was supposed to have lived.  Oh well… another childhood belief tossed into the ditch along with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Toothfairy, the Boogy Man, the planet Pluto and the big black dog that ate my soother…

Things have changed… up until I was 5 we lived in a two room shack with an outhouse (with a can that my mom had to empty, not a hole in the ground), a pump for water, a wood stove for heat and cooking.  Then we moved to a house in White Rock… a rat infested beachfront house.  We weren’t allowed to play in the lower two levels of the house due to the rats.

On the upside… I had a pet Brontosaurus that protected me when using the outhouse!  Unfortunately, the Brontosaurus (which isn’t technically correct as what was named a Brontosaurus was actually a mismatched head and body so I guess my pet dinosaur was an Apatosaurus or maybe a Diplodocus?) is now in the ditch with the rest of them… [sigh]

I’m beginning to think I was deprived … d’you I never had a Barbie doll?  I saved up my babysitting money and when I was 13 (yes, I was in high school… so what!) I bought myself “Francie” who was a “cousin” of Barbie.  She had a blonde bob, hairpieces, a blue dress with white trim, and I built her a condo out of cardboard boxes… built furniture and everything.

On the other hand, many girls would think I was lucky because I had a horse.  We actually had lots of them… that needed feeding, watering, and care… and a stable… that needed cleaning.  I did love my horse Velvet … she broke my arm and would dump me every Spring.  Then there was Barney who gave me multiple black eyes and broken toes… I really should have worn boots into the stall, not thongs… [sigh]

I also had some frogs… well, sort of.  I only met them when I accidentally stepped on one in the bathroom… in the dark… You see, although the house we lived in on the farm was “new” – as in custom-built for us in 1970 – it was not really great… the contractor was a crook and it was sub-standard.  Anyhow, there was a leak in the bathtub plumbing so the ex-parental unit’s method of “fixing” the plumbing was not to hire a plumber to actually FIX IT, it was to pound a hole through the cement slab foundation under the tub, so that the water would drain THROUGH it, then he dug a trench so that the water would drain out and along the house out to the ditch that ran across the back… so, of course the wildlife liked to come in where it was warm and damp.  We even had those flat tree fungus things growing up the wall…  but I digress.

I remember watching the moon landing on TV, I remember the whole school gathering to watch the September 28, 1972 Canada vs USSR hockey game on a TV that the vice principal had brought in special for the occasion, I remember watching Challenger exploding on the TV at work, I remember watching the World Trade Centre live on the morning news on September 11, 2001… strange how our memories are of things we saw on television isn’t it?

Technology has made it possible for those with access to it to be a part of what happened… even if separated by thousands of miles and hours of time… we still feel at if we were there and were INVOLVED in the events.

I’m old enough now that I will say to people “do you remember when….” and most of the time I get a blank look.  [sigh] I gotta get me some friends in my own age group.  Sheesh.