Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


Halloween Part Deux

Today I had a few appointments…

First one was a big SFX job… my regular customer, Chris (who won best costume on Saturday at The Shark Club with face paint) had purchased four foam pieces that he wanted me to apply and finish.

We had originally scheduled the appointment for 6 a.m. but since neither of us had to go to work we changed it to 8 a.m.

The job took about three and a half hours.  His plan was to roam around town scaring people and then go to a club that was having their costume contest tonight… It is early yet and I haven’t heard if he won again.

This afternoon I had an appointment for a person who was going to be part of a haunted house in a town north of here… said to be scary and dead.  So this is what I painted for her… she’s wearing a veil (she’s a mourner at a haunted funeral home).

And another regular stopped by for me to apply a wig and a bit of styling.

Now I am sitting here watching for trick or treaters… so far 25.  They like the full size KitKats.

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Halloween – the most wonderful time of the year

Ah, I love Halloween… I’m sitting here after my usual manic Halloween party weekend blitz of work.  The snow is falling outside (has been for a week now) and will be continuing.  The weather forecast for Halloween Day is -10 for a HIGH and -24 for a LOW… should keep the “tricks” to a minimum this year.  That is why costumes are designed to go over snowsuits up here.

The last time we had this much snow this early was 2006.  I didn’t get a chance to rake the front yard or clean up my flower beds so will have to deal with it in the Spring.  I did get the planters emptied, but had to bring them into the garage to thaw out first before I could get the dirt to come out.

This year I had some appointments booked Friday night, my usual Saturday morning down at the park painting up the haunters for the Haunted House, then back home for appointments the rest of the day till late, then a birthday party booked for today, Sunday… This year I promised myself that I would take photos of EVERYTHING…. I almost managed it.  I let one really cool Neon coloured monster leave without getting a photo… bummer ’cause it was really cute!  I’m hoping to stalk a photo of it down on Facebook!  And I didn’t take any photos at the birthday party.

My regulars have all booked for next  year already – and their friends too, so I am almost fully booked for 2013 and it isn’t even Halloween 2012 yet.  One wants body painting so we’ve blocked off two-hours for him – he was a last-minute Avatar last year and this year had a photo of some tribal warrior body paint that he wanted which I rushed through with Vinny’s help… Vinny had only booked “face painting” for four people, so I didn’t book enough time to do a proper job… it was okay but could be much, much better as I could make sure to have other products to make a better job of it. It still looked pretty good.

And Chris, who comes twice every year – he won best costume at Rock City last year with the Evil Jester make-up I did, won best costume, again, but at the Shark Club this year!  He stopped by to give me half of his prize money this evening… he was so excited.  He is already planning next year’s costume.

So here are photos from this weekend – please keep in mind that customers bring me images of what they want and many are copies of other artists’ work.  I paint what the customer wants.  Some are done without references but others are exact copies as that is what the customer insisted on, so, thanks to the original artists for the great ideas for some of these designs.

First, this is Chris, who won best costume at The Shark Club last night:

He had three photos he’s found on the net and I picked the one I liked the best and painted it.  He had his hair seriously spiked AND had gel nails put on and filed to points – he goes all out!

Next is a friend of Chris’… didn’t get his name  but we called this a Kabuki Skull… I started out going for a half skull due to his beard but it ended up looking like a kabuki mask so I added the red:

The next ones are Vinny’s group.  Vinny comes every year with his posse… this was the first year he actually made an appointment!  He booked for four face paintings but one of them wanted body painting… I lectured them about telling me about it in advance so I can schedule enough time to do a proper job.  Vinny helped me with the body painting on Colin to get the base on while I worked on details… for a rush job it turned out pretty close to what Colin wanted.  And he booked for a body painting for next year on the spot.

First was The Reaper – he had a specific image he wanted with the really wide mouth and he wanted the eyes on the lids:

Then Vinny got painted as a wolf – in this photo he is posing in a way that I think he meant to be “sexy” … hmm, not sure about that but he is dressed in a sexy Red Riding Hood costume with glow sticks inserted in the hood.

And here are Vinny and I painting Colin… you can see Colin is holding a tablet with the image of what he wanted on it so we could refer to the image.

And here is the finished painting… he added a wig and cloak later.

I also painted a couple of scary clowns:

This next one is Manda who is a regular… she’s also got some sfx wounds and gore… after she left my place she was going to be trashing the costume and dousing herself with blood… I thought the costume was great as it was but she’s into the splatter.

I also did a couple of sugar skulls.  The first wanted exactly like the image she provided which was a black and white photo of a stylized half skull:

And then there was this one.  She had a photo of a red one that she wanted that she showed me but I didn’t refer to it as I painted… I did it, showed her the mirror, she liked it, I took photos.  Then suddenly this afternoon I was sitting here and I though OMG I forgot to …!!!  Can you see the mistake?

It would be an easy fix … but I am so embarrassed!

Then I did a grey zombie which I quite like – it was done to match the wig cap he had:

This next one is another of my regulars who brought his significant other with him this year – they are a Corpse Bride and Groom.  He’s long dead and they met when she was buried so she is fresher.  I hope to see photos of them in costume at some point.

And here is a pretty spider witch.  She had some photos – one of Lynne Jamieson’s spider crawling out of the mouth that seems to have gone viral lately.  She decided that it wouldn’t last until the evening so opted for a spider on the cheek:

The next two I painted for the annual haunted house down at the park:

A zombie:

A blue witch:

At the party this afternoon, which was all girls, I did a lot of matching costumes and the rest were all glamourous eyes.  One little girl had a gorgeous Grecian gown with typical Greek patterned trim.  She just wanted her eyes done, so I did gold with black liner and replicated the pattern from the trim on her dress…. then, of course, I did about a dozen more.  But they were all different.  All of the children were in costumes, really great costumes, and not one duplicate.  Really impressive.

It was -12C when I left to go to the party… and about a foot of fresh snow.  I had to park about a block away and struggled to drag my rolling trolley through the snow.  Had just as much fun getting back to the car too.

And, the best part is… tomorrow I go to the bank!

I love Halloween… and I still have a couple of bookings on the 31st!

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The President’s Ball

Last night was the GPRC President’s Ball.  I was hired to face paint the entertainment, staff, volunteers to fit the theme of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and then my assistant, Naomi, would arrive later on and paint the guests with me until the end of the booking.

I have no idea how many fairies I painted!  LOL…

There were the older girls who were fairies, then later a group of the smaller girls they called the Sprites arrived, there was a boys choir who were all tribals (except the one who insisted on the brightest pink butterfly I could do, and one who wanted the forest theme,) the ticket sellers who were adult “sexy” fairies,  many of the volunteers who were working the event, the stilt walkers, the Fairy Queen and then paying quests.

I was there before 4 p.m. to get set-up and started painting at 4:30, I was going non-stop until close to 7 p.m. when Naomi arrived, then the Sprites and boys choir arrived so we both carried on painting.

This time, I did remember my camera.  I even set it out on the table…. um… yeah, I forgot to take photos.  At least until Naomi arrived.  She’s great… without asking she grabbed it and took some shots of me painting, and of me!

They had made this awesome sign for the face painting!  The photo they used is one of mine I took of the faerie court from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I did back in 2009.  Pretty cool, eh?  And they let me keep it!

Here are some shots of me painting one of the guests (she was the host of the party I painted at last weekend and I did her wedding make-up.  We first met when working on She Stoops to Conquer in 2001.)

As you can see, I am holding an LED reading light in my left hand so I can see what I am doing.   I did specify that we needed proper lighting, and they did have a spot aimed at our table, but, nothing for our chairs.  I carry these LED lights in the pocket of my make-up chair as I always end up using them when painting at the clubs or at these types of gala events.

Oh… d’you like the butterflies in my hair?  We both dressed as fairies (for an extra fee, of course!)

And here is the finished design… I copied her jewelry.

I really, truly meant to take photos of the fairies… really.  I get into the zone when painting and do not feel that I have time to stop to take photos, particularly when I am being paid my hourly rate to paint.  I feel like I am taking time away from production.  So, I just forget to do it.

I did chase down one of the small groups of fairies and sprites that were working the room to get a group photo…

And these following shots were taken by the lady in the photos above – her daughter was one of the sprites.

The event is an annual fundraiser for the college’s scholarship fund so there is a silent auction, a live auction, raffles, and all the value added activities require a fee.  There were many things going on.  They were charging $20 for face painting.  We did some of the guests after they had finished the live auction, and then there was a lull.  We had been booked until 10 p.m. so as we were quiet at that point I went and checked with the coordinator.  There was a provision that we would stay if there was a demand, but as we had no one waiting at that point it was her call.  And she called it.  We packed up and were headed home by about 10:40 p.m.

I did manage to paint a quick design on Naomi as well using one of those small TAG split cakes… which I did not realize were SO small.  Too small  –  they need to be about 1.25 inches to be optimum size for me.


Tomorrow Night’s Event

Tomorrow I will be painting, with my assistant Naomi, at the Grande Prairie Regional College President’s Ball!

The theme is A Midsummer Night’s Dream and we get to paint fairies and forest spirits all night!  I’ll be starting at 4:30 p.m. to do the staff and entertainers, then we start painting the paying guests after dinner.  I am really looking forward to it as I LOVE painting adults!


Bad news, good news…. Autumn 2012 edition

The last couple months have been a bit of a roller coaster for us.  Some major upheavals in our lives and it isn’t over yet.

First, the owner of the company that I work for in my day-job passed away in August.  There had been meetings and assurances from him and the heirs that operations would continue, we didn’t need to worry about our jobs, etc.  But I was pretty sure things would be changing at some point as none of the heirs live here.

They’ve been actively marketing some of the different companies in the group so we knew they were downsizing.

Last week my boss/supervisor, the “operations manager,” gave three weeks notice – she was head hunted and offered a job which suited her life and stress levels so she accepted it.

Then this week I got a call from the owners.  I was told that they were turning over the commercial properties that we manage over to a property management company.  And if I would stay until the end of December they would give me a bonus.  I won’t say how much but I make more in one weekend face painting.  I was honest and said while it was a nice “bonus” it was not an incentive to stick around if I found another position.

Needless to say workplace morale is currently non-existent!  There are three of us – the operations manager who is leaving on October 26, which leaves me and the bookkeeping assistant (she was just hired in July so she is thrilled to bits as she had turned down another job offer when she accepted ours!) who is trying to learn everything the manager did in order to keep operations running.

We both are actively looking for work elsewhere.  So if anyone in Grande Prairie needs some very excellent office staff – there are two of us here needing a new position as soon as possible!

So that’s the bad news.  Now for the home life…

Mom’s full-time aide gave us eleven days notice on September 1st by phone, which was the Saturday morning of a long weekend.  Oh great.  So I posted the ad on Kijiji, and emailed it off to the college nursing program (I usually hire nursing students as our casual aides).  We were willing to hire multiple part-time people if we had to.

I got some responses and we interviewed.  I hired one to start, full-time, on Thursday, September 13.  She came to work on Thursday and Friday, left saying see you next week.

Guess what?  She was a no-show…

I was sitting here, waiting… called her cell at 7:50 a.m. to see where she was (she was supposed to be here at 7:45)… went to voice mail so I left a message asking what her ETA was.  I called work to explain why I wasn’t there.  Swore a bit, then reposted the ad on Kijiji.  Emailed the no-show saying “I hope you are okay and nothing has happened but as you have not shown up for work, and have not contacted us, consider yourself terminated.”

Within 10 minutes of posting the ad on Kijiji I had a response from a decent candidate so I phoned her to see if she could come for an interview right away.  She was there in half an hour, was willing to start the next morning, her references checked out, she was very sweet, tall enough for mom’s comfort.  So we hired her.  She is bloody FANTASTIC!!!!  We think we may be dreaming her.

That’s the good news!

Unfortunately while the good news is very good, the bad news is going to keep my stress levels pretty high until I find another day-job!  I have some truly excellent gigs coming up, and Halloween is always a great earning week, but reality is that we need the steady income from the day-job.

On another, happier note, tonight I have a great gig and I hope to have some photos to share tomorrow!


How to make a brick stamp

I’ve had several body paintings where a brick design was needed.  Being able to create a nice looking brick wall, quickly, is a really good thing.  The best way I know is to make a stamp that will create a nice, even, uniform pattern.

First, you’ll need cellulose sponges – those cheap sponges that are hard, but swell up when wet then dry hard again.  Buy a big bag at the dollar store – you’ll find them useful for other designs too!  Or washing dishes… (do people still wash dishes by hand?)

The texture of these sponges is perfect for bricks as is so it is just a matter of getting them sized to the scale you need.  If you need a single large brick, just trim the sponge to the right size and you are ready to go.

Generally I want to create a brick wall fast so I will cut my sponge into a pattern that will interlock so I can work across a body in a minute by stamping the repetitive pattern over and over.

What you will need:

– Cellulose sponges

– a straight edge – a metal or hard plastic ruler will work, or edge of a tin or cutting board

– a lino knife or box cutter (I find the heavy-duty ones easier to use as the blades don’t curve)

– scissors

– water to wet the sponge

First step is to figure out your pattern size.  Then, lay down the straight edge for the first row and cut along it… you want to cut no more than half way through the sponge so set your blade before you start!

The next cut will be to create the first grout line so it will be quite close to the first, then the next cut will be the width of the brick again, then the grout line, then another brick width, etc. until you have the whole sponge scored.

Now, wet the sponge and wring out the excess water.  Bend the sponge to open up the grout line and use the scissors to remove the narrow strips between the rows of brick.

You will have nice even rows.  It is important to have them deep enough that when you press the paint onto the skin that the grout lines stay clear.  Too shallow will allow paint to fill them and transfer while you stamp.

Once the cross-cuts are done, just repeat the whole process to cut out the grout lines.

Due to the design I was stamping I then cut my stamp into two parts… I had narrow areas to stamp the design on.

I trimmed the ends around the bricks so that I could interlock the design as I stamped it.

It is a low tech and very effective method!

When you are ready to use the stamp, wet the sponge and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.  It needs to be damp to work and be pliable!

To load the sponge I spread some cream Fardel on a paper plate and pressed the sponge into it, then tapped it on a paper towel to make sure the pattern worked.  Too much paint will cause you to lose the texture, too little and you don’t really get a look of bricks.  I use the same method to load liquid paints – spread some on a paper plate and press the sponge into it.

If you are using a cake you can load the sponge by either wetting the whole cake with a spray bottle and pressing the sponge into the cake repeatedly until you get all the bricks coated, or you can use a well loaded brush to paint the make-up onto the bricks.

Then line up the sponge where you want to start your row of bricks, press over the whole sponge firmly, then lift straight off (you don’t want to smudge it), then position carefully to interlock the pattern, and repeat.

The sponge will clean up easily and dries out to be stored for the next time you need a brick wall.

Here is an example of the results with the sponge I made above:

There are stencils for brick patterns, but they don’t provide the texture which to me is a very key detail.

Hope this is of use to some of you!  Let me know it you use this idea and share your results.

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Business Tips for Face Painters, Body Artists and Make-Up Artists #10 – Client Follow-Up

October 1st means it is time for the tenth excerpt from my e-book The Business of Face Painting.  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.

One step to make your clients repeat clients is to make sure to follow-up with them after the event.

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


Client Follow-Up

I use a Customer Satisfaction Survey that I will give to the client with the invoice, or will mail to them after the job if I did not give one to them at the event.   I always provide a self-addressed stamped envelope with the survey for them to use and this usually guarantees that they will send it back to me.  I have included my survey with the document templates for your use.  The survey is helpful to provide feedback on what people like or dislike about my services and gives me a source of references or testimonials that I can use in my marketing and on my website.

If there is a negative comment on the survey I will telephone the client to discuss the reason for their comment as I need to know what happened and if it is something I can fix or was it beyond my control.  Depending on what it was I will provide further information to them or apologize, perhaps sending them a discount coupon for a future event.

Customer satisfaction is very important as so much of you work will be word of mouth so you need to address any negativity immediately and offer a solution.  If the problem was a reaction to a product for example, offer product information, fill out your incident report form, ask if they had sought medical attention or took photos… be sympathetic and document everything.

I try to send a thank you card to the clients within a week of the event.  I use my postcards and simply say “Thank you for having me at your event!  Please keep me in mind for your upcoming functions.”

With regular clients I send reminder emails or postcards to confirm the next booking – annual events such as company picnics and Christmas parties.  If I haven’t heard from them I will say “Just double checking with you about this year’s dates.  Let me know the details and I will send the confirmation to you right away.  I am looking forward to seeing you again.”  Email is very good for this type of reminder.  I have regular corporate clients that do not call me but when I send this reminder they respond with the date and time and the booking is confirmed.

There is nothing wrong with sending a past client an inquiry about upcoming work.  You are being proactive about securing work and often the client just hasn’t got around to the details of their event.  Once you have made contact they respond and they can cross you off their To Do list.

I keep a Client List on my computer of all client’s names, contacts, addresses, telephone and email addresses and dates booked and rates I gave them.  This is a quick reference for when I get a call from a new contact for the client so I can verify all my information on the client and update as necessary.  And I can check if I provided any discounts or special deals in the past and why I did so.  Keeping this list saves me having to dig though my dairy and contract files to see what I did and who I spoke to.

I also use the client list to prepare regular direct mail reminders and notices.  It keeps all the information on your clients easy to access.  This is for MY USE ONLY.  Never ever share, trade or sell your client information.

The Arm Shark

© Shannon Fennell, 2009

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

and “Designs and Templates Volume 2” © March 2008