Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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I’m not always a stubborn Luddite

I’ve been “working” on redesigning my website for a year at least, officially, longer if you count thinking about how I was going to do it. It was old fashioned, clunky, too much text – compared to what the norm is now.

I’ve had my site and domain for 15 years and in all that time had only done one complete overhaul. I had originally used my service provider’s “Page Builder” program, and then “Site Builder” which was a download from them, that I used on my computer, then uploaded to the net to publish.

As you can imaging (or saw if you had ever been to my website before yesterday) it was dated looking to say the least.

As I am now  concentrating more on fine art I was researching what artists’ sites look like.  Most of the ones that appealed to me were very clean with white backgrounds and minimal clutter. Successful artists know to keep it simple and focus on the art.

I was attempting to use the program I had been using but the templates, etc. weren’t really modern looking. So I had started with blank pages and manually inserting all the functionality. It was tedious.

I had some hiccups with my email accounts connected to my business page over a week back and in the process of trying to find how to fix it discovered that there were online website builders connected to my account already, that I have been paying for all along. Well, duh.

There you go. Easy peasy. So I spent some time on Monday sorting out photos to use on the new site, chose the templates I liked and got the initial site set up. Then yesterday went in and populated it. Then published it!

I’m pretty happy with it. I just can’t figure out how to get the WordPress icon added to the social media bar… the program didn’t have that icon on the options.

I’m continuing to tweak as I am catching little typos, or deciding to rearrange or add something else. I am going to keep it simple.

Check it out at www.shannonfennell.com

Website Screenshot

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Final Project for Contemporary Drawing

The final assignment in my Drawing 4 – Contemporary Drawing class was “We are what we eat – a self-portrait.”

This is the assignment:

Our relationship with food is pronounced. Studies have shown that not only does food effect our bodies, but there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut. The bacteria in our gut effects our minds, moods and emotions.

What we consume can nourish, stimulate, depress, bring focus, numb, nurture, confuse, poison, or refresh. We use

food to empower or sabotage ourselves, have fun with, show resistance, exude control, make political stands,

celebrate milestones, follow traditions and express joy etc. Think about your relationships with food. (we have many!)

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Draw a self-portrait which incorporates your likeness with food/drink in some way. You must be recognizable, and must cover 3/4 of Composition – meaning you must be the main focus of the piece, but also there must be some connection with food.

Portraits are NOT my thing, definitely not self-portraits. But I have a lot to say about food!

Food is a huge issue as I am a type 2 diabetic and strictly follow a low-carb/protein emphasis diet to control it. I have managed it so well that I am off medication and have completely “normal” blood sugar – normal meaning, my levels are considered “non-diabetic.” If I had known earlier in life that sugar and carbohydrates were so damaging I could have cut them out decades ago and avoided the mess I am in now. So… yeah, I have strong opinions on food.

I wanted to incorporate my food choices into my design. We do brainstorming to get our ideas sorted out and our professor checks us on each stage of the process.  I did a quick written list of ideas while in the middle of the last project as we were still heavily involved in it.

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Professor needed more descriptive written ideas or thumbnails, so once I was done with what I was doing, I did some really fast thumbnails. At the time I was partial to “my relationship with food” hence the conversation with the cow sketch! But, professor wasn’t impressed.  She zoomed in on the food crown/Byzantion Icon idea. 

I started out to do a detailed thumbnail working on the food crown idea… but it went so well, I actually used it in my final project instead of re-doing it. Micron pen drawing and coloured with pencil crayons. Did stippling with the microns for shading. The foods I drew in the crown and collar are what I eat. I included pretty much everything, or examples like the unidentifiable fish, of what my LCPE diet consists of.DSC07904

Then I rough sketched out how I wanted to work it into the look of a Byzantine icon. I was also thinking of doing it as an Incan crown or even Ukrainian and Russian crown/headdresses. I googled a lot of reference images before deciding to stick with the Byzantine icon style for the finished work. The food crown looked very like the Ukrainian headdresses without me having looked at an image at the time I drew it.

Then… the worst part of the whole thing… self-portrait. In the assignment she wanted us to use a mirror, but no. Not happening. I would have to change my glasses constantly, and it wouldn’t work. We were allowed to “refer” to photos… so I used a headshot I had from a couple years ago. I sketched it out in pencil and then used microns to do a really basic outline drawing of the head and features. I then used watercolours – did an underlay of grey shading, then went over with a muted flesh colour and some pink in the cheeks, and of course, tried to get my eye colour right. I wasn’t trying for a hyper-real look or solid colour – this is in the style of a very old painting so the colour is very faded looking.  I had thought about trying to do it in the style of the old icons but that was beyond my confidence – it was stressful enough trying to make myself look like me without trying to stylize it and make it still be recognizable as me.

Then I got a large sheet of heavy watercolour paper to be my base. I traced a large circle (used my trash can!) that was larger than my food crown, traced in the shape of my head and painted in the halo, leaving the white space for my face to fit in.  Then I used my large ruler to outline the “rays” out of the halo and painted them black, and filled in with red in a splotchy wash. I created texture using black acrylic paint in a small squeeze bottle to outline the halo and rays – it is essentially the same as piping icing and stays the shape you squeeze it out in. Then using Mod Podge I added goldleaf over the black. It is deliberately blotchy to look try to look aged like so many of the icons that are still around.

The rest of the project was assembling it. I use Mod Podge – it is my version of Frank’s Hot Sauce! I put that ***t on everything! I used it to attach everything, then sealed it all with a couple more coats.

After it was all assembled and touch-ups done, I removed the tape and trimmed the edges. Final dimensions are almost 12″ x almost 18″. I could crop to make it almost 12″ by 16″ if I needed to, but I’ll just leave it for now.

I showed it to friends and one dubbed it “Saint Shannon”… that had never crossed my mind during this whole process! Damn… not really what I was going for. Oh well… Now I’m thinking I should add in a hand waving a blessing! A low carb blessing.

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Last week of this semester!

Just finishing up my third semester in my Fine Arts – Advanced program! Actually, the semester isn’t over until this Thursday, April 18th, but I’ve finished all assignments, projects, papers and tests. Only have one drawing to hand in on Tuesday which I finished yesterday.

I admit to being hyper-organized: I plan out my time to complete everything based on course descriptions. Anything that I can do in advance gets done to allow time towards the end of term to work on the art projects which consume massive amounts of time! Particularly as I tend to take them a couple steps beyond the stated requirements.

The Coral Reef installation that I blogged about last post got tweeted out by the College President last week! We are super stoked.

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We chose such a good location for this, lots of comments on the “guest book” that is mounted beside it and we always see people taking photos of it as we walk by.

Our first paintings of the semester in Painting Studio class are now on display in the college. Mine is the “Blood Moon” with the ghost ship. These will probably stay up for a couple semesters – based on the previous displays.

The submission forms for the Annual Juried Student Art show were handed out last week. We can submit up to three pieces each, created within the last year. Last show I entered my Serpopard sculpture. This year I am entering a painting and two multi-media pieces.

I’ve mentioned before how I am not sure I have a style… I am beginning to think the multi-media thing is it.

I have a tendency to use materials at hand to embellish my work, regardless of the medium/technique the assignments call for. I’ve got decades of experience in creating props, costumes, accessories, wearable art and competitive body painting. Doing those projects involves building embellishments using recycled material, odd items that I have lying around and repurposing previous work. In the ladder collage I used old watercolour paintings and pencil crayon drawings from other projects, as well as work specifically done to use in it.

I used a lot of materials and techniques in my projects and have had to explain to some of my studio instructors what I am doing. I’ve used acrylic paint in a small squeeze bottle to create dimensional textures on flat work; used dryer sheets to create 3D items in a form of cloth-mâché; paper tole work in multi-media pieces; I’m always using Mod Podge for various purposes; and even applying gold leaf. I’ve even used make-up because I had a rocking metallic colour pigment that I couldn’t find in artist brand paints!

This photo shows what paper tole work is. You cut out multiples of the same image, and then layer them with spacers (I recycled heavy card stock from another class project for that in this one!) When you get to the height you want, you then start to cut out sections that you want to add more dimension to. In this I cut out the wing, the legs/feet and eye, to create another level of depth. It is fun, but extremely tedious! Hand cramping is always involved.

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I find it satisfying to use what I have on hand and make things in a different way than expected.

In my final drawing project I have, again, gone multi-media. That will be my next post as I haven’t handed it in yet.


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Progression

As usual, the year is progressing quickly. I am scared to think about how fast time will pass in a few more years! Truly, as you get older it just whips by and soon I will be afraid to sleep for worrying about waking up to find a week has passed!

I completed the first year of my art program in December, and have transferred into the three-year Fine Arts – Advanced program as of January. I received my certificate for the one-year Foundations in Art and Design program from the college last month. I wasn’t expecting to just be told to go and get it from the information desk. I thought I would get it at Convocation in June.

I made the College Honour Roll for both semesters, and the President’s Honour Roll for the year.

Foundations Certificate edited

Things are ticking along for Year Two. Mid-term marks came out last week and I’m happy with my 98.2% average.

I’ve been working on school projects, personal stuff AND have commissions! Very excited for the commissions.

This is a personal project I’ve just finished up. I suppose it is multi-media as it isn’t normal paint – I used up a lot of old nail polish! It consists of eight 5″ x 5″ mini-canvases, that I’ve mounted together on a board for display. The smell lasted for weeks but finally has dissipated. I also managed to get a massive blister in the palm of my hand screwing it all together yesterday. Due to the reflective qualities of the nail polish it was difficult to get a photo that shows it as it actually looks. But it is pretty cool.

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This drawing was actually done for one of my General Education electives! The course is called “Making Monsters” and explores how and why we create monsters, the use of propaganda, dehumanization, etc. It is a really fascinating and fun course. The assignment was to create a monster that expresses our own fears – and we had the option to write or illustrate. Of course, being an art student I chose to draw my monster!

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We live right next to a nuclear power plant… so my fear is based on that!

I’ve got a few more school projects completed but haven’t yet photographed them. Plan to do that this week – just have to remember to take my camera.

The latest completed project in Painting is a multi-canvas piece. I did a “quadtych” – so four canvasses that fit together to make an image. And we started on a 2′ x 2′ glass painting last week.

In Drawing I finished a multi-media creation that had to incorporate multiple techniques – drawing, rubbing, impressions, collage, etc. We had to use the theme of “Ladder” for it. I called mine the “Evolutionary Ladder” and drew a rope ladder and DNA strands, among other things.

Last Tuesday all the Fine Arts program years went on a field trip to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) in Toronto. The big exhibit on right now is “Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and More.” I love Impressionism and was very excited about this being open for our trip. There was one Van Gogh, lots of Luce, and also Degas, Cassatt, Seurat and Caillebotte.  Here are some photos I took of the DETAILS – the brushwork fascinates me.

I’m still sorting out all the photos I took to properly label the artists! I got carried away.


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Paintings

This term I’m in Painting 4 (I jumped over Painting 3, which I’ll be taking in September) and am having a great time.

First painting of the term is complete. We voted in class on the theme and it was a mash-up of Space and Ocean, and all the paintings are 24×24″. I did a ghost ship sailing into the blood moon which was inspired by the lunar eclipse a couple of weeks ago. I’m really pleased with it.

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All of the paintings from this year two project will be up in a gallery space in the College. Probably most of this calendar year based on how long the current paintings have been up. I will be getting photos of it on display! Hope to be able to get some as we are hanging them too.

This week we start the next project which is a diptych at a minimum. We can do as many canvasses as we want up to 52″ square per canvas. We are stretching our own and the stretcher bars available go from 20″ up to 52″ so we can pick our dimensions.

I’ve been scribbling down ideas for it and doing some research for images. I think I have a pretty good idea – I’ll see what the professor thinks in class on Thursday.

I am really not a fan of painting big canvases – not because they scare me, but I have no where to put them. I could just abandon them at school, like so many past students have, I suppose. But when I put an effort into something I like to know it is being appreciated somewhere! Leaving it behind seems almost like abandoning a child.

I finally finished my big painting started in 2D Art & Design last semester. I went in early on Friday and spent four hours working on it in the studio. I think it is done now. It is based on a photograph I took on my trip to Morocco in 2017. I settled on 20×38″ – that was as big as I wanted to get – I have a place to hang it, I hope. I measured and it should work. I’ll have to move some smaller works somewhere else, but that is easy.

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I’m not sure if I’m developing a style of my own. I don’t feel like I am. But I’ve always had a hard time seeing it in my own work. People would always comment on my style in face and body painting, which I didn’t see.  I would ask them to describe it to me! I can look back at my work and see it now, in retrospect, but I don’t necessarily see it while I’m actively doing it.

I hope to figure out what my style is by the end of this term.  Every time I start a painting that I intend to do in say, impressionist style for example, I suddenly realize while I’m painting that I swerved away from that intent. So, I probably DO have a style I guess. I just don’t know what it is yet!

 

 


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My first project for Contemporary Drawing class

So far this semester I’ve got one drawing assignment completed, one painting in progress, and a bunch of personal projects on the go.

In Contemporary Drawing our first assignment was to do our interpretation of an antique dressform our professor brought in. It was circa 1909, well over 100 years old.

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Everyone in class went in different directions with their ideas. We had to do a diptych or triptych using this prop.

My immediate thought was the metaphor of a cage keeping women from pursuing equality. Caging them within the constraints of fashion of that era – corsets, etc.

Our assignments always involve creating 10-12 thumbnail sketches of rough ideas, then doing 2-3 larger sketches – all of which we review with the professor before continuing. She provides feedback and suggestions (you can take them or go your own way, however… as she is marking this… )

My original sketches included a lot of suffrage symbols and slogans in the background but she strongly discouraged me from actually including them. So I left them out of my finished work. But I still like them.

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Then I got the larger paper (approximately 22 x 14″) to do the final drawings on. All told I spent around 20 hours on the final two drawings.

I took photos as I worked on them. The day they were due I put in three hours more in class adding depth and texture (after consultation with the professor) and don’t have photos of the finished drawings that were handed in, yet.

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I then added colour with watercolours.

I was going for an old book-plate look so wanted to keep the colours muted and sort of faded looking which watercolours are perfect for.

I wanted to add some shading or background colour so I took the photos of them without the colour and printed them. I played around with trying out different light sources or colours. I settled on grey and yellow washes and scrapped the idea of a directional light source based on those tests.

I painted in the washes with yellow behind and around the figures, and grey around the edges of the paper, framing them.

They needed something more, I felt, so I made a template to cover the actual drawings for protection, and then splattered a very diluted wash of the grey and yellow with a toothbrush.

After this stage I added in shadows underneath and a lot more texture and shading to the dressform and the figures in the cages.

I am pretty pleased with how they turned out and I’m excited to find out what my mark will be.


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2018 is a wrap

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

It was a pretty packed year.

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

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

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

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

2018 review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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