Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


A short trip to Amsterdam (Part One)

One of the reasons I was looking forward to moving to England was the proximity to Europe. When you live in Western Canada getting anywhere other than the US, Caribbean or Mexico can be extremely expensive and exhausting. Heck, even visiting other parts of Canada is expensive and exhausting! Being able to take short trips at a low cost to visit dozens of countries is amazing.

The pandemic delayed me, and as it still isn’t showing signs of being “over” I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I need to get going while I still am healthy enough to do the walking, stairs, etc. The places I want to see tend to contain a lot of historic buildings, ruins, etc. and I need to be able to physically handle the demands. Amsterdam was a great first trip… it is completely flat!

I wore an N95 mask on the planes and in the airports, and my regular masks while I was roaming around and visiting museums, etc.

I flew over from Bristol on Sunday, caught the train from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal station, then walked 3 kms to my hotel. The weather was glorious.

I got the routes for walking everywhere I needed to go off Google, and had a laminated street map as well that I marked up (I do not use a cell/mobile phone.) Honestly, the walk was way simpler than the written directions and maps made it look. There were around 29 separate directions for the walk from Amsterdam Centraal to the hotel… but it really should have just said: exit main entrance, walk straight ahead until you get to The Dam, cross the square veer right, cross four canals, turn left, then right immediately after you pass a small bridge on the left, cross four more canals, cross the street, sign for your hotel will be visible. I was constantly stopping to peer at street signs, trying to follow the printed directions which was more confusing than it should have been.

I was staying at Hotel De Hallen – which was built at one end of a converted trolley/street car station. It was interesting – there were still tracks in the floor of the restaurant and the patio. The rest of the large complex was a huge food court and commercial spaces.

My room was… well…”industrial” is the word I would use. bare concrete floor, no mats at all for your feet. They did supply hotel slippers but they weren’t comfy to walk on cement with. I was originally put in an inside room with no windows, but there wasn’t a fridge (there was supposed to be one – the desk manager was completely confused about that) so they moved me to this room which had natural light. Which means the entire “outside” wall was glass. I was ground level. My wall was not an exterior wall, there was an alley of sorts between it, and the exterior wall of glass where pedestrians and bike riders were constantly going by. Couldn’t leave my drapes open to get the natural light! And the chairs were… not clean looking and really dated. I put a towel on them if I needed to sit in them. But at least the TV remote worked and I could get BBC and lots of American channels (with Dutch subtitles.) And there was a Nespresso machine – they left two little pods a day but I went to the front desk and the guy gave me two handfuls of them!

And I have to say that the Dutch really know how to do bathrooms. All of the hotels I’ve stayed in in the Netherlands have had phenomenal bathrooms. This shower had a one of those huge rain shower heads on the ceiling and a handheld on the wall, and the doors swung in and out! Sink was large and deep – great for washing out things.

I needed the fridge to keep my groceries in. There were two supermarkets within a block of the hotel, so I picked up cream, meat, cheese, pickles, a roast chicken… that’s what I ate the whole time. I couldn’t find fresh cream so had to settle for the long life stuff… I survived, but it is definitely an acquired taste!

Getting to the Museum District was super simple from my hotel. Just out the entrance, go right, cross one canal, then right and straight on until you get to the museums. I figure I walked a minimum of 15 kms a day… probably a whole lot more if you consider the size of the museums!

Monday was the Rijksmuseum, which included the Vermeer Exhibit (this was the reason for the trip in the first place.) When I booked my trip the Vermeer tickets were already sold out from the first release, so I bought the regular admission ticket online for 9 a.m. entry. Eventually the museum scheduled more opening hours and released more tickets to meet the demand for them… I spent two days sitting at my computer, constantly hitting refresh, as their site was crashing due to volumes, mid-morning the second day the purchase page popped up! So I got my ticket for the Vermeer Exhibit for 4 p.m. on Monday! I was really excited to get it for the same day as my regular ticket.

Tuesday was the Van Gogh Museum – my entrance ticket was for 9 a.m. After I was done there, I decided to go to the Stedelijk Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which was just across the path from the Van Gogh Museum. They weren’t busy and I bought my ticket at the counter – student discount! Then, when I was finished there I went to the MOCO Museum which is also contemporary art and was on the other side of the Van Gogh Museum – for a ticket I had to go to a kiosk down the park about half a block, bonus, it was cheaper than the museum website! And was also for the next entry time in 10 minutes. So Tuesday was a rather intense day of absorbing art.

The Van Gogh Museum comprised two buildings, you entered the round one, then down a level to a gallery, and then across to the other building where you exited when done.

The Stedelijk Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art also was two buildings, but they were totally connected at ground level. The one facing the park was modern and the one on the street was huge, old and ornate. The entrance and exit were through the modern side. They had the street side closed and the foyer was a gallery space.

The MOCO was a big old house, NO LIFT, original staircases all the way up and down. Was a bit of a struggle for me as my left knee decided to quit, but with the lovely staff member who, without being asked, got in front of me going both up and down, kept people from cutting me off, it wasn’t too awful. He disappeared too fast for me to thank him properly.

Wednesday I had my ticket for the Rembrandt House Museum for 10 a.m. opening time. That is in the historic old town, further away and a different direction than the Museum District. So I had my map out to figure out a route – Google wasn’t much help with that. As I’d already figured out the maps were a bit deceptive, I decided on a route that traced my walk to the hotel from The Dam, then from there I just stayed on the same street as it curved into the old town. I did overshoot the museum and ended up really confused on a university campus, I’d walked right by it without noticing. After studying the map I retraced my steps (as I had been on the right street) and this time really looked at the buildings… as it was a house, not a purpose built museum, it didn’t stand out. Well, except for the house-sized banner on the building beside it which was the entrance! You entered that building, then down to the basement level, where you then entered the actual Rembrandt House.

As I was walking back after the Rembrandt House, I stopped at one of the Ticket stores to check out canal cruises (it was still before noon.) There was a one-hour cruise available in about a half hour, and was about a kilometre walk away. So I bought a ticket and headed to the terminal – which was right in front of the Centraal train station.

Thursday I headed home. My flight was later in the day BUT, the weather had turned to a thick drizzle so I stayed in my room until check-out time then strolled to the train station, shopping a bit on the way (bought socks – Girl with a Pearl Earring and Starry Night!) Got to the airport way too early – my flight wasn’t even on the board yet. Was a long rather uncomfortable afternoon. It could have seemed less long if I’d been willing to remove my mask and kill time in a restaurant, but I do not remove the mask. Eventually I got through security and to my gate area. All the other flights were updating on the board – not mine. Boarding time came and went, no update, no plane. An HOUE AFTER IT WAS SUPPOSED TO DEPART, the board updated to say DELAYED. No shit? Turns out that it was coming from Nice… the French air traffic controllers were on strike that day… so getting over French airspace was, apparently backed up big time. They could have told us way sooner. Eventually the plane arrived and was a quick turnaround. But didn’t actually get home to Plymouth until 12:30 a.m. on Friday.

NOT my plane. It was dark by the time mine arrived.

I’m going to cover this trip in three posts… don’t want to make them TOO long. Part Two will be site-seeing and Part Three will be the art I got to see. I had real problems with focus on my camera in the museums – combination of my deteriorating vision, really dim lighting, bad angles due to crowds, etc. So I need to do some editing… on 556 photos… not all of those are going to be worth showing.

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Life does have its twists and turns

Getting older is a right pain in the behind. There are some benefits, if you are lucky enough, but generally the physical side of things just steadily deteriorates. The only variable there is the speed of the deterioration!

That said, onto some other stuff!

As my vision is not what it used to be I’ve had to rethink my Master’s proposal. My ability to focus visually is essentially gone now, and isn’t stable even on a good day. Doing anything requiring fine attention to detail and working with sharp objects is no longer on the table. On a really good day I might be able to read a label, with my prescription glasses only; most days I have to ask someone to read them for me. So reading warning labels, instructions for mixing materials, etc. is not possible. Why oh why do manufacturers insist on printing instructions in a font size of 0.002?

I’ve discovered that monoprinting is something that I can do without having to be concerned about my ability to focus! I can get assistance from the in-house studio technician to find the ink colours I need (as I can’t read labels and actually can’t tell brown from purple anymore, amongst a few other colour identification issues.)

Also monoprinting is something that doesn’t need precise detail; it is a more intuitive process of creation. No two pressings will be the same, no matter what you try – and that, I am discovering, is exciting about it. What I’ve made so far I like and am stoked to continue to create in the technique. I plan to incorporate mixed media into a lot of my work too, playing with different mark-making methods, media and collage. It is getting my enthusiasm levels back up to where they used to be when thinking about my upcoming projects! I didn’t realize how much of that excitement has been missing.

Back in November and December I did the induction workshops for the Screen Printing studio and the Printing studio and I blogged about those here. And next week I will be doing the induction for Collagraphic printing as we didn’t cover that in December – now that I am interested in exploring it more.

I’m planning to do most of my experimenting at home, and then use the studio for the larger formats and scaling up ideas I tested at home. Also, printing the backgrounds in the studio is a lot faster and smoother.

I like utilizing uncommon methods to get an end result. Usually involves using craft materials or techniques to make “fine art”… to me it is all art. It is the creative process that is used to create something to been seen that is the “art” part to me.

We have a lot of crafting equipment and supplies at home. While I had to disburse all of my lifetime inventory when I moved to the UK, my friends have TWO lifetimes worth of stash which I now can access! I’ve already been utilizing the die cutting machines to make the cutouts to use with monoprinting. There are also embossing machines, cutters, a Cricut, thousands of metal dies, many types of paper and cardstock, stamps, inks, markers, adhesives, fabrics, fibres, stretchers, ribbons, floral crafts, wire, beads, and a lot more. There is an entire room in the house that is floor to ceiling art/craft supplies.

I’ve also managed to accumulate a fair amount myself lately – those art and craft box subscriptions are helping with that. I’ve now got a fair stash of lino blocks, cutters, screens, printing inks, rollers, markers, bookbinding supplies, as well as the usual paints, etc. So I have MANY ways of making marks.

I haven’t been back to the glass studio since before Christmas – which is when my eyes started to get bad. Hopefully, once I’ve got my school work up-to-date (was totally unproductive for most of January and all of February due to my eyes) I can get back to that, carefully though – blood can spill quite freely working with glass.

I picked up the prints I did last Friday in the studio yesterday – quite a few aren’t dry! I was a bit heavy handed with ink as I was using a palette knife to apply it as well as the rollers. I did 21 prints in total and about half are still sticky – I had them laid out all over my room, trying to balance them near the radiators. Then I had an epiphany… bought a two pack of those wire drying racks that sit on the radiator! Perfect! I’ve got two – one on each radiator in my room… Fits (just) on the radiators, sits behind my table so no contact with anything to transfer ink onto. The other one is also blocked from any contact. So glad that occurred to me before I started playing with wet inks at home.

I think my drying rack is actually better than the one in the studio! What do you think?

Monoprinting means you get one impression, and subsequent pressings (the “ghosts”) are faded versions of the first. I mess around with the plates after the first press, moving things, adding things, removing things, even re-inking parts, etc. And you NEVER know what you will see when you pull the paper off the plate. That’s the really exciting part I’ve discovered.

Here is what I produced last week – some will be used to create mixed media works, others I am going to leave as is as they are really cool (at least I think so!) I used cardboard cutouts and die-cuts, and pampas grass (the curly stuff) and plant parts I’d collected while walking the dog.

I am partial to the ones that are messier looking… I think because the results are more of a surprise. Once I get more familiar with the whole process I may be able to better predict what I will get, but, maybe not. That keeps it exciting. Right now, the predominantly yellow ones are my favourites – might be because of the contrast as I can see them better.

I’ve collected a lot more grasses (the pampus grass grows all over the place here, and I just love the curly strands,) spent seedheads, twigs, and other things to use in my next batch. I’m also pressing flowers to use in the mixed media aspect, or maybe even in the printing process if they lose their colour when dry.

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Not my best month

Three weeks ago my vision tanked. To the point that I can’t read – even with high magnification, in intensely bright light, in any of my prescription glasses or reading glasses. When I look at text I see fragments of letters – takes a very long time of concentration on a single word to determine what it is. When reading new material it just isn’t manageable.

My eye treatments are usually four to five weeks apart so I should have had one around the 13th or 20th of January… I called the eye clinic around the 24th to check on the status and was told there was a two to three week backlog and that I was on the waitlist for an appointment.

On Feb 6th I called again because my vision was getting worse and I couldn’t even see people’s faces (just a blurry blob). I was told to call Urgent Care… but that was a day of job action and no one was answering the phone – just a message saying to call again later. Couldn’t get an answer until the next day.

Then had to tell them that I had been told to call them as they needed to triage me to get moved up the waitlist. Was told a nurse would call back. Several hours later the nurse called and said I should have called the number on the form I got after my last treatment – I HAD. that’s who told me to call them! -, said as I was a patient in the clinic they wouldn’t see me in Urgent Care, BUT she had moved me up the list and booked me an appointment for Feb 24th – that was the earliest that was possible (17 days!)

Meanwhile, I can’t read anything, I can barely make out objects, people are fuzzy blurs, I keep slamming into railings and door jams as my depth perception is total crap. My right eye has a large void in the field of vision – best way to describe it is like an over exposed photo where no details can be made out.

It is playing havoc with my course work – I wasn’t able to complete the assignment due on Feb 9th. I had all the components pretty much ready to assemble and edit into a presentation (containing video, slides, narration, etc.) But I wasn’t able to get it finished as I can’t see to do the editing or read the narration! I’ve got an extension, so I am hoping after this Friday (which I assume means I will get my treatment!) I will be able to scramble over the weekend to get it put together to hand in.

And to top it off my right eye is really irritated and was quite red yesterday (so I was told as I can’t see it!)… which I am worried might delay treatment. It is usually irritated but not to this extent – I’m hoping it was just because I got some dust in it or something.

I have access to software and services through the University for accommodation for my vision – software that converts any form of text files to audio is one. Only issue with that is that it converts EVERYTHING on the document/file to audio… headers, footers, page numbers, sidebars… academic papers and articles are frustrating to read when you can just skim through them quickly to see if it is pertinent. That is really impossible with an audio file!! I’m stalled with research right now. I managed to convert a bunch of papers and articles, but it adds up to close to 40 hours of audio… not sure I can cope with listening to the computer generated monotone voice reading for than length of time, particularly as I don’t know if the information is even going to be relevant for my project.

I really hope to get back on track after Friday and hope to hell that this current backlog at the Eye Infirmary will get dealt with. I can’t wait this long between treatments as my condition is NOT stable, even after seven full years of treatments.

I booked a trip to Amsterdam (leaving April 2nd) to go to the Vermeer Exhibit at the Rijksmuseum… I need to be able to SEE the art!! I really really hope that I don’t have to cancel that.

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Subscription boxes… this could be addicting

I’d heard about, and seen posts, from people who subscribe to various subscription boxes. People I follow on social media would post “unboxing videos” of whatever boxes they were subscribed to. I thought it was a neat idea but didn’t really think it was something I would necessarily be into.

Well… let me tell you about my last 12 days…

While randomly bopping around my feeds, in particular, YouTube (as I do subscribe to some artists’ channels,) some unboxing videos popped up for Artful subscription boxes.

Hmmm… Well, as you may know if you follow my blog, when I sold my house, and then eventually moved to the UK, I had to “get rid of” my lifetime accumulation of art and craft supplies and equipment. The hardest was when I was packing to move over to the UK – I only had three suitcases and a backpack to contain my entire life.

I arrived with minimal materials – some needlework items, a few sketchbooks, my watercolours, brushes, fine liners, pencils, pastels… Well, I suppose that doesn’t seem like I’m deprived, BUT, as someone who always had everything possible and stashes of scrap and reusable materials on hand, it is a bit of a challenge!

When I got here I went and bought new acrylic paints as I didn’t think packing used tubes was a good use of my luggage weight limitations (and what if they leaked in transit?)

So on Saturday, January 14th… I started Googling art and craft box subscriptions… just as a survey you understand, to see what they were like, and how they were rated. That may have been a mistake… or not? Jury is still out on that.

I checked out some blogs that ranked the various subscription boxes, looked at the websites, checked out a lot more videos of unboxing and artists using the materials from the boxes, and some of the instructional videos the various companies had up.

The Artful box subscription looked pretty good – the boxes looked to be good quality, containing everything you need (for the most part) and the value/cost looked very reasonable to me. They are a quarterly box, and there was a coupon if you subscribed to their newsletter. There was also an option to pick your first box, or go with the current box. So, I subscribed that day for one year (four boxes)… I chose the Gouache box for my first one. I’ve never actually used gouache so that seemed a good one to start with, to get a feel for how comprehensive it was – materials, instructional videos, etc.

I also ordered the “upgrade kit” for the Gouache box which contained a ceramic mixing tray and more brushes, and a few other things from the Artful store site – Ohh Deer.

Then, on Tuesday, January 17th… sigh, I started looking at craft boxes. Oh man… Again, I looked at reviews, videos, etc. Cosy Craft Club looked good. (BTW, these are all UK based companies that I was looking at due to postage costs!) All these companies have “old” kits available for individual purchase, so I ordered five kits from Cosy Craft Club: 2 x Mini Junk Journal Kit, Twine Basket Weaving, Loom Weaving, and Softcut Lino Printing.

I was impressed with the customer service from both Artful and Cosy Craft Club. The owner of Cost Craft Club immediately makes contact and engages in conversation via email which I thought was great. Artful responds quickly to questions and issues too, resolving them promptly.

The first order to arrive was Cosy Craft Club. It arrived around noon on Saturday, Jan 21st. That is one thing I love about the UK – Royal Mail delivers on Saturday. I immediately unpacked the shipping box – then had to open up each kit to check them out and, of course, took photos…

I immediately started on my Mini Junk Journal. I had to email Cosy Craft Club as I couldn’t get the link to the instructional video to work and she responded right away! As I said above, I am really impressed with her customer service!

I watched the video through once, then got going. I had done bookbinding in school, once, but it was a riveted cover. The instructions were clear, and everything needed was in the kit, including templates for the hole punching so no measuring of anything was required. The video was very thorough, and easy to follow through the entire process.

Each kit is put together by different artists – so branding varies, and they make their own videos. So far I am impressed with the instructions given in the two videos I’ve watched.

I really enjoyed this kit! I made a few “mistakes” – I think I flipped the template on one of the three signatures as it is out of alignment with the other two, but it is a learning curve, and I am really pleased with how it turned out. When I was finished I went downstairs to show it off… and it was 8 p.m.! I had no idea how much time had gone by.

As this was a “junk journal” the included papers were a little too messy for me – tea stained printing paper, odd sized scraps of lined papers, etc. So I replaced and added to it – artist paper mostly. Also, I created some pockets using card making supplies. On the artist who created the kit’s YouTube she had videos of other journals and books she made and many of the larger ones had pockets, etc. so I decided to make some for mine. There is a roll of funky tape included in the box so I used that for the edges/sealing of those pocket pages.

I haven’t tried the others yet. I passed along the Twine Basket Kit, as after watching the instructional video, I realized I won’t be able to manage it as I’ve some arthritis and RSI issues in my hands, and it requires at lot of tension, grip and twisting with your hands/fingers.

I was having such an enjoyable time with the book binding that I got back on the computer… oh yeah. I did a thing. So on Sunday, Jan 22nd I ordered a “Complete Bookbinding Starter Kit” from Learn Bookbinding, and several (as in five) refill kits – with the two included in the starter kit that is seven books! That is next Christmas sorted! They are really responsive to inquiries too.

The next delivery was Monday, Jan 23rd, first thing in the morning. It was the additional order from Ohh Deer (Artful’s store). This was the Upgrade kit for the Gouache and a couple of Papergang stationery boxes.

The Eden Project Stationery box contained a “Grower’s Journal” which was why I ordered it… it was a disappointment. The print was light grey on white and in a microscopic font size. I simply could not read it. However, their return policy is great – return it immediately and they’ll reimburse postage. I emailed them about why I was returning it and they immediately responded to thank me for my feedback on the journal. I sent it back by mail on Tuesday, Jan 24th.

The other stationery box, The Menagerie, was nice. It contained a calendar that you can start for any year (I’ll save for next year as I have one up for this year already.) These stationery boxes have one main item that varies, an art print, a couple of note cards, maybe something else (this one has stickers for the calendar,) writing implement(s) and a pamphlet or booklet.

The upgrade kit for the gouache box (they call it “Paint Mixing Kit”) was nice. I like the ceramic mixing tray/palette – very heavy and won’t shift if you are working the colours and loading your brush. It included two brushes – a fan and a filbert (which are different from what is included in the main box!)

The Gouache Box arrived later on Monday, Jan 23rd. Which was amusing as I didn’t get confirmation it was shipped until the following day. I am pretty impressed with this box.

The amount of paint is great – proper sized tubes, not “samples.” And the magazine is full of examples and some instruction about gouache. The brushes are synthetic which is fine – I have a massive supply of natural brushes. They do appear to be good quality (there is a no. 1 rigger, no. 3 round, no. 3 angle and a teeny tiny 5/0 round) but I won’t know until I use them! An F pencil is good for sketching before painting – lighter marks. The pad of paper is nice – a full sized art pad (many other kits seem to only include a pack of small sheets for use.) The colour chart is handy, and fits inside the box of paints (presuming I’ll leave them in the box they came it – it is a nice box!) Apparently every kit has four blank note cards – I assume to make your own custom art cards using this month’s media.

There is a link in the magazine to “tutorial videos” on Artful’s YouTube page. These are private until a couple of months after the kits are sent out. I have to say I was underwhelmed with their “instruction” video. But when it finished, YouTube populated the screen with dozens of other videos from other channels about gouache – now THOSE were helpful!

The magazine does contain instruction and information about gouache. And includes a pictorial step-by-step of the painting of the art print that is included in the box (not sure why I’d want to paint that as they sent me a print of the original? I would have preferred a step-by-step of something else.) There are articles about multiple artists and examples of their work using gouache. So the magazine is very useful.

Here are the links to the places I’ve ordered these kits and supplies from:

Artful and Ohh Deer

Cosy Craft Club

Learn Bookbinding – I’ll post about the kit I ordered once I receive it! I’m pretty excited to make a “proper” sized book. ** Right after I posted this I received notification my package had shipped! Yay!

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A Retrospective

I was looking for a post on this blog about one of the competitions I had won… couldn’t find anything about it. Then realized… this blog started in 2009. My major award winning was prior to that!

So, here goes… to document some of the conventions I’ve attended, competitions I’ve done and awards I’ve received. Some images will seem familiar.

I started with online photo contests at Snazaroo USA Inc. This is a list of awards received from 2001 through 2013 (56 of them):

QUEEN OF THE HILL: July 20 to September 19, 2005

First Place: Sesame Street 2008 (Kermit); Dragons 2005 (Winged Dragon)

Second Place: Brian Wolfe Contest 2013 (Dragon); Halloween 2012 (Evil Jester); Birds 2009 (Penguin); Birds 2005 (Green Bird); Best of the Best for 2005 (Winged Dragon); Dolphins, Sharks and Other Ocean Creatures 2002 (Shark)

Third Place: Autumn & Fall 2005 (Chipmunk); Fish Faces 2005 (Jaws); Unicorns, Rainbows and Balloons 2005 (Rainbow Helmet); Painting with Powders 2004 (Holly); Working with Electric Colours 2003 Winter Tree)

Finalist: Halloween 2005 (Winkie Guard); Halloween 2005 (Full Face Burn SFX); Halloween 2004 (Alien in Space); Summer Free-for-All 2004 (Wolf); Summer Free-for-All 2004 (Lion)

Honourable Mentions: Halloween 2012 (Blue Ice Fairy); Halloween 2012 (Zombie Spidey); Butterflies 2009 (Blue Butterfly); Butterflies 2009 (Purple Butterfly); One-Stroke 2008 (Peacock Crown); Halloween 2008 (Bat); Summer 2008 (Green Cat); Flag Butterflies 2006 (Canada); Silhouettes 2006 (Bison); Silhouettes 2006 (Star); Halloween 2006 (Pinky & The Brain); Best of 2005 (Water Dragon); Painting Hands 2005 (Handgun); Halloween 2005 (Circle Monster); Halloween 2005 (Raptor); Halloween 2005 (Evil Clown); Halloween 2005 (Skull); Halloween 2005 (Cowardly Lion); Halloween 2005 (Evil Smile); Summer 2005 (Mutant Bunnerfly); Summer 2005 (Half Tiger); Summer 2005 (Rolls Royce); Summer 2005 (Phoenix); Summer 2005 (Fire Breathing Dragon); Power Rangers & The Like 2004 (Autobot); Holidays 2004 (Flanders Field); Halloween 2004 (Purple Dragon); Step-By-Step 2003 (Latex Burn); Painting Your Own Face 2003 (Butterfly with Flowers); Painting Your Own Face 2003 (Daisys); Halloween 2003 (Exotic Tiger); Dogs 2003 (Bull Mastiff); Butterflies 2003 (Purple Butterfly); Working with Electric Colours 2003 (Winter Moon); Summertime 2002 (Frog Catching Fly); Accents to the Face 2002 (Swan Mask); Out Of This World 2002 (Flying Saucer).

I also won a few other sponsored contests from different forums and companies.

In 2004 I attended the Face and Body Art International Conference in San Francisco and participated in the Face Painting competition. The theme was “Space” I didn’t place but my score sheet had very high marks for originality and technique. And my costume was very popular. I bought a reaper rob and about $300 of dimensional fabric paint and spent most of a week decorating it.

I did get a couple of uses out of it. It won the costume contest at the local library fundraiser later than year – I had the hood up and my face completely blacked out, with a miniature Enterprise 1701 hanging in front of my face. I called it Space, the Final Frontier.

In 2005 this dragon design, painted on my brother (Neil died in 2006) won me Best Face Painter in North America from Snazaroo USA Inc. and also International Face Painter of the Year from the UK Face & Body Art Convention in the UK.

At the 2006 UK Face & Body Painting Convention I was teaching, I wasn’t competing live but won a special award for making the judges laugh. I’d let my friend, Anne, dress me and do my make-up (I was NOT involved in the design nor did I have knowledge of it in advance!) She dressed me up as Super Painter, complete with lettered t-shirt, utility belt, cape, etc. so I just went with it!

Also in 2006 (I flew over after the UK Convention) I participated in the Fantasy Worldwide Face Painting competition in Putte, Belgium. This was a live competition, the theme was “Movies” and we had two hours to paint and accessorize our designs. I won with my Lady and the Tramp design.

In 2007 I entered the US Body Painting Festival’s Body Painting Competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The theme was “Halloween” and we had to paint two designs, one each day of the two-day competition. We were allowed six hours to paint and accessorize our models prior to judging and a stage performance. I won Second in the Sponge & Brush category.

These are my design sketches – the final versions after several ideas were scrapped.

These are shots by the professional at the show. Day one was The Headless Horseman and day two was Bats.

In 2007 (yes, I travelled a lot that year) I attended the UK Face & Body Art convention and we won best costume. We meaning my friend Anne was body painted and dressed up by me, and she worked the room! I was a shrubbery.

In 2009 I was an instructor at Living Canvas, a convention held in San Jose, California. No competition but took part in the jams and had a wonderful time.

My mom had a stroke in January of 2010 so I stopped travelling for competitions and conventions. I still entered wearable art shows and participated in local competitions and collaborations, but no overnight travel (unless mom came.) I had planned to attend and compete at the World Body Painting Festival in Austria in 2010, but family first.

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And 2023 has arrived.

Turn your back and the new year sneaks up on you.

The entire household has been down with the flu – we had to cancel all Christmas and New Year’s plans completely. For several days over Christmas (23rd to 26th) no one here could manage to do anything. I was the only one still able to get out of bed at a reasonable time (by 9 a.m.) The others sleep until after 2 p.m., sometimes 5 p.m. The dog needed to go out and be fed so I did that each day, then crashed for a nap.

We still haven’t recovered. The housemate who brought it home (because she stopped wearing a mask!) is the sickest of all – she’s on week four of it, and still very ill. She passed it along to the rest of us, and at least one neighbour. I’m feeling better and have a lot more energy – I’ve been cooking dinner over the last week so we’ve been getting hot meals – but still need to sit down between activity. Making dinner is a big production as I do it in stages so I don’t have to stand at the counter for an hour.

As we’ve been ill, the glass studio and shop have been closed – which sucks as the Christmas trade is the biggest period of income for the year. But… at least I’ve got a head start on inventory for next Christmas (trying to be positive.)

I’ve got until the 12th when classes resume to be “better”… hopefully I’ll make it. We can Zoom if we can’t make it to class, but that isn’t ideal.

Before I got sick I did manage to get my candy made – brittles and truffles – for gifting. Although, a fair amount has still not been distributed. But it keeps.

I finished a portrait of Pippa the Morkie as a Christmas present – I call it “Pippa-rella” as she is in Cinderella’s dress. As you can see, it is a small painting. Done in acrylics.

For school, I finished my sculpture in polymer clay and baked it. Then started making the 2-part mold in the studio – I’ll be finishing the mold as soon as I can get back to the studio on campus (depends when I feel up to it at this point.) In my original timeline I wanted to have this finished and have at least one piece cast from the mold to work with over the holidays – obviously, plans have changed.

The mold is silicone with plaster reinforcement. These photo show the first side being made. That is how I left it. I had planned to go back the week before Christmas, but obviously those plans changed.

I don’t see much point in doing a “year in review” post for 2022 as it doesn’t have too much to cover. Other that starting my MA Fine Art and examples of art I’ve made, which have been covered well in regular posts.

I hope for and wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2023.

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What I’ve been up to for school

I’m finding working on my MA Fine Art to be a lot different from college/undergraduate studies.

I liked the structure of multiple classes running at a time (5-7 per semester), deadlines, due dates, assignments, lots of different professors/instructors to discuss things with, etc. In the MA we’re doing one course per year (it is a three-year part-time program.) We go on campus once a week for our seminars for that course. We have writing assignments for each seminar (the topic of which covers two sessions each at least) that are due before the second session.

We also have, on the same day, either workshops, tutorials or critiques with the whole group or individually (they combine all three years of the program together for this.)

Not that there isn’t work to do, but it is self-generated – research and documenting what we are working on for our proposals. Is a but of an adjustment for someone who is timeline driven. All those years of working to deadlines has really conditioned me to want things broken down into a hard schedule.

Now that’s off my chest, I have been enjoying myself learning about new media and updating my skills and knowledge in others.

I’ve taken the “introductory workshops” in the studios for Mold Making, Ceramics, Screen Printing, Printing and Metal Workshop, and in February will also be doing Letterpress. There are many others available in technology – 3D printing, Photography, Green Screen, Film and Audio, Virtual Reality, etc. but I swore I was never, ever, doing any of that again once I got through the courses at college. And I’m sticking to that.

The studios here at the University of Plymouth are extremely well equipped with a full-time technicians there to instruct, advise and assist!

Mold Making was a bit of a refresher for me, but the great equipment, facility and materials are something I’ve not been able to access on my own! I am going to be using it to create the main work for this year’s art project.

The first photo here is the silicone mold – I’d sculpted a relief portrait of Pippa (my furry friend who wakes me up every morning) and the next shows the results.

We also made some coasters.

The next was the Metal Workshop – I was curious as I though I might use metalwork in some capacity, but this is heavy duty metalwork! Interesting, but not something I think I’ll dabble in. Too much physicality involved for this old tired body. Plus, using a forge and different types of welders are a little out of my comfort zone! Also, couldn’t use the electric powered arc welder anyway due to metal implants in my body… go figure.

Then I did Ceramics – we got to build a pot. I think it is being fired as it has been missing from the shelf in the studio for a couple of weeks. I hope to see it again soon. I intend it to be a garlic pot.

I will be using clay to create my main work, which is then going to be cast to make a mold.

The next one was Screen Printing. This was fun. I wasn’t able to access Photoshop (long story, would take a whole post up just telling it!) so made up acetates of a drawing (the single rose) by hand at home using black acrylic paint. I wasn’t sure if the image I really wanted to do could be done the morning of the workshop. Ended up the tech in the print shop/paper stores was helping everyone photoshop and print their acetates, so I was able to get my skull illustration separated and printed.

As I had two sets of acetates ready I was able to make the screens to do two different prints, which was great. I was able to try two ways of aligning the second colours – the second (on the single rose) worked way better for me.

The last workshop was the Printshop. It was a two-day workshop, but as I have a medical appointment on the second day, I arranged to go in last Thursday (just for three hours rather than all day) to cover it with the technician by myself. The first day was Relief (woodcut, linocut, etc.) and Intaglio (etching, etc.) – I’d done some linocut before. I didn’t find these techniques of much interest/use to me.

BUT… the second session was Planographic Monoprints. THIS was brilliant and I think I will be doing a lot more of it! The technician said I had “a flair for it.”

It is a very enjoyable process, creating the different impressions of the monotype. The only problem is cranking the antique press – my elbow is still extremely painful – the cranking was done on Thursday afternoon, it is now Sunday afternoon.

I hope to be able to work on my sculpture in the Mold Making Studio this week… I have my armature ready to go. I’ll use waste clay (texture isn’t important) to do the sculpt, then we have to cast the mold. I think it has to be a two-part mold, but all that is going to have to be discussed with the technician once I have the item in the studio to show her. I need to make at least six casts so the mold needs to be durable.

All in all I am having a great time. There is also a Woodshop on campus and I really want to check that out too.

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Christmas… it’s coming!

Today was the first day of the Buckland Abbey annual Winter Food & Craft Fair. Today was a lot quieter than the Friday was last year. Probably has to do with the economy and lack of disposable income. We are hoping for more traffic the rest of the weekend.

We like to have a lot of items that are priced so that people can afford them. Anne always stocks items that she says are “for the kids to buy as gifts.” Our Christmas ornaments start at £,2.50 – very simple but pretty – and go up from there.

I spent most of today in production mode – made stars and my first sheep and dog ornaments. Both kilns are on and I should have these out for sale tomorrow afternoon. I was going right up to the last minute as I wanted to completely fill the kiln with a few more critters, but Anne was turning the lights off on me!

Last week I did a couple load of wreaths (my best seller), many Christmas trees and lots more icicles. We are selling the small wreaths mounted on a handmade Christmas card.

Tomorrow I’m assembling a new “Icicle Swag” with large icicles and silver chain – it will have five icicles and be made to hang on a mantle or in a window. There will be a limited number available. I’ll share a photo once I get one put together. I’m quite excited about the design.

I’ve also made tealights and many scenic hanging ornaments.

Tomorrow I’m going to take a bit of time to take photos of all the different things I’ve been making. I am really bad at remembering to take photos as I make things.

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Getting started

I’m now registered, enrolled and paid my tuition for year one of my MA Fine Art at the University of Plymouth.

I was assessed as an International Student (as I don’t have permanent residency status – I have to be here five years before I would be able apply,) so the tuition is pretty high. Percentage-wise it is a lot lower than my old school in Canada. For my program, UK residents pay £500/10 credits, international students pay £850/10 credits; it is 60 credits per year so my annual tuition (remember, this is a three-year program) is £5,100 (approximately $8,104 Canadian at the time I paid it!) And next year it increases.

Generally, international students are not part-time because you can’t get a Student Visa for part-time programs. But I am here on a different type of Visa that lets me do what I want, as in work, study or not. Figuring out how to classify me took three departments! But as I hadn’t met the specifics of permanent residency, I’m considered an International Student.

Masters are quite a different animal from undergraduate programs. Massive amounts of reading and research, group discussions/critiques, one-to-one tutorials, totally self-directed as to media/accessing studios/project scope, lots of “optional” activities like workshops, artist’s talks, gallery shows. I’m taking it all in and adapting to it. In my professional life I am a task oriented person – I like having a brief to fulfill (provided by clients/employers/or survival requirements.) Here, I will be setting my own parameters, and getting guidance and feedback on what I am doing. A bit different than I am used to, but I am looking forward to pushing myself past my comfort zone.

Last Tuesday we had an introductory workshop in the Mold Making/Casting Studio – somewhat of a refresher for me as I have done life casting, but wow – so many materials and options are available in the studio! It has opened my mind up to ways I can incorporate it into my project. Now that I’ve had the introduction to the studio I can book time in it to work on my project(s) and get advice and assistance from the technician. We got to make some coasters for practise, and create a small silicone mold after sculpting something to cast. The coaster molds were provided, I made three – the two blue ones were ready to take home but the yellow hadn’t set enough to remove, and the silicone mold had to cure a lot longer. The studio tech said she would take the cast from our molds for us, and that the molds would be reusable. I might use mine in ceramics! I didn’t remember to take a photo of my sculpted item before pouring in the silicone. I really need to remember to take photo of processes.

Tuesday this week is the introduction to the Metal Workshop – which is something I’m unfamiliar with. It involves power tools… I’m not a huge fan of those, but I am interested. There is always a chance of collaborating with others in our projects so… finding out what the possibilities are is important.

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Back to School, again!

I am really excited to share that I will be starting the MA Fine Art program at the University of Plymouth next week.

After deferring my other offers to 2022, I ended up withdrawing my applications (even with a £5,000 bursary attached to one of them) as I was/am still not all that comfortable with the continuing pandemic and needing to live in student housing, etc. Plus the costs of relocating to Ireland or too far away to compute to in the UK added huge costs. As I now live in Plymouth I won’t have to add the additional living costs to my school budget.

I had budgeted for living abroad before the pandemic started, but it threw my plans off. Living with roommates who didn’t share my concerns was very stressful. It really isn’t all that comfortable now, either, as I appear to be the only person still wearing a mask everywhere I go, but I will continue to take the actions I feel necessary.

The program is part-time over three years which suits me. I can continue working in the glass studio, have regular semester and summer breaks, etc. Tuition and supplies expense will be spread out too, which will be convenient. The campus is a 20-minute bus ride from the stop right outside my front door as well, which is fantastic.

The program I am joining is a small cohort of only ten people which includes all candidates in the program – first through third year. I was told that most on campus sessions (one per week) would consist of fewer than ten. That will keep me happy about contact with the masses and I’ll still be wearing a mask – probably the only one, but that doesn’t bother me.

And interesting, to me, in both MA applications that I’ve done, they have been keenly interested in my make-up and theatrical work – this interviewer, right off the top, said she hoped I would be bringing in my prop and costume skills to the program. Wanted to know if I had stopped doing that, as in completely retired. I assured her I was still happy to use all the skills. My last production closed in February 2020 and I hadn’t worked in the field since due to the pandemic lockdowns. It wasn’t a choice I made, but rather one I was forced into by circumstances.

Since I submitted my application (which was on September 7 online – totally last minute) my mind has switched into creative mode – I’m keeping notes of all the ideas that are popping into my head for creations and what media to mix to make them. I submitted a research proposal with the application for an area of interest I want to develop and I’ve got some interesting concepts brewing. I think glass is going to definitely be playing a role.

Induction is next Thursday. I still have to get all the paperwork done – the professor who interviewed me made the offer on the spot at the end of the interview, and I accepted. But it all has to go back through Admissions to get me actually registered and enrolled, fees paid, etc. I’m just waiting for emails so I can get it all done.

I am really happy to be getting back to school… I can understand how people can be “professional students.” It is so much fun learning and being creative in ways you hadn’t tried before and interacting with others who are there for the same reasons.

I’m having to set-up a workspace at home, Last night ordered a shelf/desk combo from IKEA which will be perfect (had to measure the space available in my room first!)

The IKEA desk I’ve ordered

The desk won’t be delivered until October 2nd, and delivery cost a fair bit BUT they will carry it upstairs. That is worth paying for.

I have a certain amount of art materials, obviously, and access to many more in our household as there is a room that is JUST art and craft materials and equipment which I can utilize. I am silently repeating my mantra “repurpose, reuse, recycle” as in, DO NOT buy new stuff if there is a suitable alternative to hand. I put a moratorium on myself to stop buying make-up many years ago, and it worked, I actually started to make a profit with my business. I do have excellent willpower and believe delayed gratification is a good thing.

Orcas at Sunset