Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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Day 107…

Today is the 107th official day of the Pandemic. Well over three months and still going strong. I am staying in isolation as much as possible and wear a mask every time I leave the house even if it is just to take the garbage out. Time is actually going by surprisingly fast, which I didn’t expect. Not sure if that is good or bad, though.

I’ve been puttering with art projects, particularly the series of 35 paintings I started a couple months back. I’ve decided that all species will be threatened or endangered in the wild.

The base coats are acrylic paint, brush blended. Then I do the white outline in acrylic, then alcohol inks for the actual creatures. Once I get to larger surfaces I will probably start using acrylics for the creatures’ base colours.

 

This set of six 2×3″ is complete. These are, from left to right, top to bottom: Acadian Redfish (endangered), Chevroned Butterfly Fish (decreasing), Mountain Inago Pygmy Chameleon (critically endangered, possibly extinct), Golden Mantella Frog (critically endangered), American Burying Beetle (critically endangered), and Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (endangered.)

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I started the next set of four, which will be plant species. These are on 2 3/4 x 4 1/4″ wooden ovals.

This is the Stenogyne Kanehoana which is native to Hawaii and known only on Oahu – it is a flowering climbing vine that is a member of the mint family. It is thought to possibly now be extinct in the wild – the last time one was seen was in 2004, when cuttings were taken.

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I took a break from that project, with 10 of 35 paintings done, and did some other work.

I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself about systemic racism over the past several weeks. And it is sickening. As a Canadian there is nothing that makes our society any different than any other Eurocentric/White dominated culture. I am continuing to research and read everything I can. After I got into all of that I had to do something to work out my emotions and process the information, so I created this drawing. I’ve actually been continuing to add more items as I learn about them since I took this photo of it. #BlackLivesMatter

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This next one was an exercise in learning about my Derwent Procolour pencil crayons, and how to use the Blender pencil. It turned out well, I think, and I like how they blend so smoothly. I will be doing a lot more with them.

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And this one is one of my regular “doodle art” relaxers. Drawn in Micron pen and coloured with watercolours, gel pens and felt pens. I just grab the pen and start making shapes. There is never a plan, that’s why they are doodle art.

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We’ve heard from the college and Fall semester is going to mostly be remote, but for those of us in Fine Art it will be a combination of both remote courses and in class. We have to have our studio classes – Painting, Drawing and Fabrication – in person as we have to use the equipment, materials and need the space. We won’t know details until we get there I guess.

I’m not a fan of online courses. When choosing my electives I never took online only courses – even if the subject was one I really wanted to take. I just don’t see the point of a class without live interaction. And I am not really comfortable with the live online group thing, not in the least. If I need to do a course online, just put all the information and assignments there and I’ll work my way through on my own. I can deal with the hybrid classes where you attend class, but your work is all online – I think they call this a “flipped classroom model.”

This is my final year for the Advanced Diploma program. Then I will be going to another institution to finish a Bachelor’s in Fine Art.


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Hey world, are we done yet?

So… here we are.  What, 35 or 36 days since the pandemic was declared? I’ve been self-isolating since March 16th, just venturing out for food, an eye appointment… and this week called an ambulance (called the doctor who told me to get to the ER immediately) and spent most of a day in ER. I’m okay, but could have been something serious.

Ontario is staying “closed” for another month, at least. Which takes us to mid-May. My summer job was supposed to start May 1st on campus. Pretty sure it isn’t going to be available now. But in the good news category, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit was expanded (announced today by PM Trudeau) and I will now qualify! So that is a relief – usually earn my tuition for the year over the summer. The benefit will at least let me keep up with things.

Watching shows on YouTube – musicals. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Universal are running a production every Friday for 48 hours. First week was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with Donny Osmond) and last Friday was Jesus Christ Superstar (with Tim Minchin as Judas and Mel C [she was Sporty Spice, right?] as Mary M) which was excellent! This week it is Phantom of the Opera. Right now I’m listening to the Les Mis 10th Anniversary Concert. I love that show.

I started posting travel photos on my Instagram – it is fun to go through all my files and find nice shots I’ve taken on our travels around the world. Taking many trips down memory lane while I click through them.

End of the semester is this Friday – I finished my last project yesterday, and have everything submitted. Now wait for marks, and then my final grades to post in a week or so. Got through it, but I am not a fan of online learning. Hope to hell they don’t decide to change the program after this “experiment” in doing everything that way.

I’m still doing the live watercolour paint-alongs on Facebook (missed the last few so need to catch-up,) and some online drawing classes, in between getting all my class projects and assignments done. Was challenging to get the final three paintings and a sculpture done in my room – most of my kit that I would normally use is still in my locker on campus which is on lockdown. So… improvisation was the name of the game.

Here is a bunch of stuff I’ve done over the last weeks – both the fun pass the time and school projects. All are watercolour, except for the apple. That is pencil crayon (aka coloured pencil.) I want to learn how to use them and did an online course with BluPrint which is currently offering all their online courses for free.

The diptych (the two paintings in the one photo) and the other geometric design were assignments (I was inspired by geometric abstraction/Orphism,) the rest are from the paint-along I’ve been doing – learning basic techniques and playing around! I’m happy with my Flamingo – I actually didn’t follow along on that one, I found my own reference photo and worked from that.

As I no longer have the school deadlines to keep me motivated… we’ll see how it goes. I plan to do some reading (need to read Atlas Shrugged – wish me luck with that!) and keep on working with watercolours and pencil crayons. And have a mural to finish designing for a commission – to be done once we are allowed out again.

Stay healthy everyone. Stay home!


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A little self-isolation

Well, the world is certainly a different place than it was two weeks ago. Not unexpectedly. Confirmed cases of Covid-19 are jumping and  death rate is climbing. Several friends around the world are now reporting family, close friends and neighbours are infected. There was also an employee from the college confirmed – travel related. So shit is getting real.

Here in Ontario all but essential services are now closed. People are to stay home, and only leave their homes to get food and medicine. You aren’t supposed to be within 2 metres or 6-10 feet of other people. Unfortunately a lot of people just aren’t getting it!

The government is going to start enforcing the stay home rules, and are already arresting people who break the mandatory 14-day quarantine after returning to the country.

People are still hoarding… really difficult to find toilet paper and disinfectants. Some stores are gouging – saw Ontario Premier Doug Ford on the news and he was LIVID. They will be enacting legislation about it tomorrow and he said they are going after the price gougers. Good. Hopefully that will apply to the cretins who bought up everything they could to resell.

I’ve decided to stay off Twitter – too much US news. It is terrifying to watch the damage Trump has caused by his inaction and greed. I firmly am of the opinion he was stalling as he was trying to figure out how HE could make money off of it.

It is nice to see some billionaires actually doing something – Dyson designed a new ventilator in 10 days and is building 15,000 for the NHS in the UK. Elon Musk has been getting shipments of PPE and other equipment to hospitals around the US for over a week, and is getting set-up to manufacture ventilators. Some corporations are still paying their staff after closing. Others are… well selfish bastards. Imagine the richest man in the world setting up a Go Fund Me to cover employees who can’t work??? Well you don’t have to imagine it because it is true! All this stuff is in the news.

My poor hands are so dried out I’ve scraped my face with the skin on them! Now… I know you aren’t supposed to touch your face, but my hands are clean! And how the hell do you NOT touch your face. I have to keep remembering to moisturize.

Trying to get groceries delivered or order for pick-up is not working for me. All the local ways to do that have about a 10-day wait, and that’s for pick-up of an order! It is nuts.

As I had to go to a eye appointment (not something I could put off) early on Tuesday, I decided to stop for groceries on my way home. I really did not want to go to a grocery store, but I needed fresh food. Luckily it was just after 8 a.m. and there were only a few people. Lots of fresh vegetables, NO frozen, none. Well, except okra but who eats that? I kept away from people and wiped down things when I got home. Washed and prepped the vegetable and put away.

The college is now completely locked down as of Tuesday. Up until then they were allowing individual access to the studios, labs and computers. But once all non-essential services were closed, they locked down. And the date they had given for return was cancelled, with no new date. So we won’t be returning.

Everything is online now. Which is an adjustment for me. I am trying to keep to a routine. And make sure I don’t miss due dates which is hard when you have no idea what day it is! I am working through all assignments that are open for me to do now. I like to work ahead if possible. Then I don’t have to worry about forgetting or being overloaded at the end of the semester.

I’ve been making art – doodling and watercolour. I do have some assignments as well which I will get at over the next few days. This is some of the stuff I’ve done over the last week.

The doodles were done with really cheap dollar store felt pens – I thought they were ballpoint when I bought them a couple years ago. They are decent – lots of ink and really excellent nibs. They aren’t Copics or anything really excellent artist quality, but for what I am doing they work great, are nice and bright and don’t bleed.

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A friend in the UK is doing a daily watercolour class live on Facebook (7 a.m. my time) so I’ve been participating. A good reason to keep to my early morning schedule. Everyone is staying home around the world and having an activity do like this is a good motivator to get up and do something.

Here’s my worktable. The LED lamp date/time is wrong. I had finally figured out how to set it but the power went off a couple weeks ago, and I can’t be bothered. My radio is precariously balanced to the right of it against the wall – and leans on the base of the lamp. Took two-days to find a spot in the room where the reception was steady so I have no desired to move it now! It is actually lying on its side as that is the only way to get a signal. The volume control is underneath now, so it stays on all the time.

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I am posting daily on my FB page in My Pandemic Journal. Just my observations about what is happening in the world and my life during the crisis. If you want to check it out it is linked. Nothing earth shattering, just daily ramblings and images.


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New year, new semester, new challenges

Happy New Year. Ten days in now, but hey, still a valid wish to everyone. Regardless of the crap that is going on in the world, let us all think happy thoughts and do what we all can to make this world a better place for everyone and every creature on the planet.

I usually do a year in review post annually, but this past year was a bit of a blur. A lot went on, and when I look back it is hard to believe that ALL that happened in just the last 12 months.

The most notable things for me in 2019 were:

  • My trip to Africa in May for almost a month – I visited South Africa, eSwatini (the country formerly known as Swaziland), and Mozambique (I blogged about that here – that’s the first of eight posts about my experiences.)
  • The Year End Juried Art Show at the Station Gallery in Whitby, Ontario – I won a prize for one of my mixed media works! That was exciting ( I blogged about that here!) I helped with the show set-up for a week before I left for my trip too, which was a fantastic learning experience.
  • I spent 79 days over the summer working as a residential camp baker/cook at a camp at the south end of Algonquin Park, Ontario. I had to leave for the job one day after I got back from my African trip. I did not blog about that. It was exhausting with regular 16-hour days with only three actual days off the entire summer (that was NOT how it was supposed to be!) I baked, I cooked, I prepped, I cleaned, I slept. That was the extent of my daily activities. I lost 30 lbs in the process. On the up side, I invented some awesome vegetarian meals, and vegan, gluten free baked goods. And my bread and soups were legendary. But I had to have others taste everything I made as I couldn’t myself due to my dietary restrictions.
  • I had a 5.0 GPA for the Winter (Jan-Apr) 2019 semester, and 4.91 for the Fall (Sep-Dec) 2019 semester. Did some cool stuff (posted here, here, here, and here about some of them.)
  • And, tragically, lost Brian in August. I was at camp and wasn’t there when he passed over the rainbow bridge. It wasn’t completely unexpected as he was old for his breed (Samoyed) and had been declining – the last time I saw him in July he didn’t seem to recognize me. Not being there to say goodbye was, and is, upsetting and I still cry.FennellWideIMG_5377 8x10crop
  • I had to move, unexpectedly, at the beginning of October and now live in purpose built student housing across from the College. It isn’t a residence, but a private development. I share a three-floor unit with four other females. It is actually very comfortable – all rooms have ensuites and maglocks on the doors. That was my big issue with student housing/residences – security and privacy. All appliances including washer/dryer are in the unit, and the rent is all-inclusive. And being directly across the street from school and work is awesome. It did require downsizing even more than I had when I moved to Ontario – I now live in 126 square feet with EVERYTHING I own (except for the car – it is outside!) It is actually quite liberating to get rid of stuff.DSC00834

2020’s plans and activities include:

  • I am working on setting up to sell my art online. I just have to figure out the best way for me to deal with it. I need to start working on a business model for myself for the art. I was very successful running my make-up business for twenty years, but this is a bit different and I need to get my mind around marketing tangible goods rather than services.
  • I’m working on a production of Pride and Prejudice with the Oshawa Little Theatre which opens at the end of this month – hair and make-up, of course.
  • Classes started this week for my fifth semester in my Fine Art program. I have five courses this semester: Special Topics in Sociology, Ethics in Your Daily Life, Fabrication Studio II, Painting II, and Art Survey – 1900 to current.
  • I am having hand surgery on Monday … it is day surgery and I was told there is no down time. We’ll see. It is my left hand and I am right handed so hopefully I’ll manage okay.
  • No travel plans this year – I hope to go to school in Ireland (fingers crossed) in 2021 so my budget is tight. Depending on what summer job I get I might take a road trip to visit friends that are a day’s drive away – will have to see.
  • I started an art challenge January 1st. Art everyday – which I am posting on Facebook, Instagram, etc. I’m keeping things small so I can complete them in one sitting! I tend to lose the plot on the monthly challenges and really want to carry through on this one. Below are some of the items I’ve made so far… All are for sale! Except the Corgi, he’s already sold.

 

 


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Birds, and feathers

I’ve been painting  birds. There are seemingly infinite varieties of birds, with an infinite array of colour and appearance. I find their beauty fascinating and I really wanted to try to capture that.

As I lean towards realism I am trying very diligently to be as accurate as possible in how I portray the species that I am painting or drawing.

I am very lucky to know several photographers who take amazing wildlife photos, including birds, that have given permission to use their photos as my inspiration and reference images.

Some of my earlier work that featured birds include these drawings. First was done in many years ago (possibly in high school).

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Then a couple of small Micron pen drawings from a few years back of a chickadee and an Adélie Penguin.

The vultures were for a school assignment. The Turkey Vulture was a study in graphite as I was trying to find the right vulture for the assignment.

I settled on the African White Backed Vulture – who I drew wearing a gas mask because it was for an illustration. This was in Micron pen, with the watercolours added later.

Then most recently I was playing around with my new, high quality Derwent pencil crayons so found a bright coloured Finch to draw.

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I like to work small (I get bored easily!) With the exception of the foot, all of these are less than 8 x 10″.

I had to create a diptych (two related paintings) for an assignment, so I asked permission from my photographer friend, Marilyn Grubb at  Chipabirdee Images by Marilyn Grubb Photography & Digital Art to use some of her photos.

These are my two paintings based on her photos – a Mountain Bluebird and a Yellow Rumped Warbler. Both paintings are 8 x 10″ on stretched canvas.

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Below are detail close-ups of the two little birds.

As they were so small I didn’t get the feathers right on the Warbler – he has a LOT more wing feathers than I painted. Also… I think the Mountain Bluebird may have modelled for Angry Birds.

I decided to go bigger in my next bird painting. Again using one of Marilyn’s great photos as my reference. This is a Barred Owl, 20 x 24″ on stretched canvas. It took me 30 hours – most of that was spent on the feathers.

I took progress shots as I worked at the end of each painting session. First was after many layers of gesso to get a smooth surface and doing a rough sketch in a wash of acrylic paint. Second, I did an underpainting in burnt umber of the colour placement on the owl, and roughed in the background in bright colours, then I started adding the detail from the bottom up – I stopped after getting the tail feathers done as I was getting tired.

The next session I got most of the long wing feathers and the fence post done. Fourth session I managed to get the wings finished. The fifth session I finished the head, did tweeks on the whole owl, and painted in the background.

And, after my sixth session which involved adding some detail/depth, some colour washes on the background and cleaning up the edges, the finished piece.

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Below is Marilyn’s original photo that I used as my reference. I also checked on the internet for other images of a Barred Owl as I wasn’t sure if my colouring was going to be right but there is a lot of variation in the browns and how much/little there is in proportion to the white.

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I see things I wish I’d done differently (common problem with artists!) but overall I am pretty happy with this owl.

P.S. The birds paintings are for sale!