Shannon Fennell's Blog

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

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I’ve gone a little snowflake crazy this winter (and by “winter” I mean Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec… and it will continue until probably April…)

I’ve always done snowflake designs in the winter – when you have snow on the ground, typically, six months of the year it is a common motif.

I’ve usually done them freehand which can be a bit time-consuming, or done the cheater type with just flicks of the brush so they are more of a six pointed star.  This year I got smart – with inspiration from a friend (well, more like completely copied her idea with her help, I might add) I made stamps for snowflakes.

The actual reason for this was Frozen.

All of those little girls wanting “Frozen” or “Elsa” designs… which in face painting circles means a blue base and white swirls and snowflakes.  I was booked, back-to-back, in October for Frozen themed birthday parties… the snowflake stamp saved my life.


And we will NEVER mention “Olaf” again…. EVER!

My crew loves the snowflake stamps too!

Using the stamps also guarantees all snowflakes are PROPER snowflakes with SIX arms… not eight, not four, not ten… SIX!  As shown here in this gorgeous photo a friend and local photographer, Marilyn Grubb, took and captioned:


I got stuck in the rut myself when painting myself for jobs – it is just so easy.  Just vary the base colour, change the layout…





This is one of my winter masks with my “old” snowflakes – I’ve been doing it lots with the stamps instead.


And I have several different snowflake shapes – I just have the one in my stash that I paint myself with – I should probably change it out for some variety.





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Lots of ideas and inspiration

As Halloween nears lots of people are searching for ideas for make-up and costumes.  I know my Halloween clients send me images they’ve found on the internet of what they want me to paint on them.  Many are actually the work of artists I know!  Once… they actually sent me a photo of my own work!!!

We all know you can search the internet for anything – and end up spending hours going through thousands of images to find something that appeals to you.

If you are looking for make-up or face painting ideas I highly recommend the Snazaroo USA Photo pages.  These collections of images are a compilation of well over a decade of contest submissions from artists from all over the world… all sorted and categorized by subject and themes!!

There are quite a few photos of my work included as I have been sending entries in since 2002.

There are pages for Zombies, Skulls, Classic Monsters,  Pumpkins & Haunts, Clowns, Monsters & Demons, Pirates, and lots more!!  The Photo Index Page lists all the galleries.

If you are looking for ideas check it out!!

Halloween Ideas - Past and Present

Halloween Ideas – Past and Present

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Swan Festival 2013

Back on April 21 I face painted at the Annual Swan Festival out at Saskatoon Island Provincial Park.  This year they set up a tent for us… complete with straw floor!


It was a nice day, a bit breezy but nice… we were layered and did not need to take off anything.  I did have to put my hood up to protect my ears from sunburn… and got my first sunburn of the season on my hands.  I always forget the sunscreen… but it was April!!  I get one a year then I remember to put on sunscreen the rest of the year.

It was busy… my line was long but they were on the whole polite and appreciative.  One lady was telling mom how wonderful it was that she came and helped me as washing the brushes made the line move faster.  That was cute – true, but still cute.

This giant duck was eating children… I think.  But it could have been  a bounce house… I didn’t get close to it.


This was the first event that I used my new, lovely, acrylic palette at… It is great. The size of the holes work great for loading and barely any colour ended up on the edges as there was enough room that the sponges didn’t touch the edges.


I also used, for the first time, pink sponges that come from Always Wicked Art in Australia – mine came from Christina Davison of Amadazzle who sells them in North America.  Nice.  Very nice.  They are denser than my tack sponges and the Fantasy Worldwide green sponges that I like, and provide a very smooth finish.  And they are pink and sparkle in the sun!!  If I ever give up my other sponges (not likely, as my tack sponges are over 10 years old and look as good as new) I would definitely be re-stocking with these.


You can see the sponges in the bucket at the top right of this photo.  The amber ones are tack sponges, the green Fantasy Worldwide and the pink are the new ones.

As usual I was painted for the day… this year’s swan design:


After I painted them I realized I should have made their necks longer… my swans are geese.  And the flying one looks like a 767… LOL.

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Brushes – a new find

We face painters are always on the hunt for a better brush.  I have my favourites and will tend to grab the same brush over and over when I am working.  I always have several of the particular size (#4) and shape (round) and fibre (natural sable) that I like the best out on my table.

Whenever I am in Michael’s, no matter why I actually went there, I buy more brushes.  The least expensive small liners are around $4.95 each and I usually only get a month or two out of them before they splay too much and won’t go back to a point.

Brushes wear out, that’s a fact.  And I am not going to fiddle around trying to reshape one that has given up on me.  I just toss them and grab another.  It is a cost of doing business.

So… when someone mentioned that they had seen in use and then bought a set of Wilton brushes – for cake decorating – at Michael’s and that they loved them, I made a mental note to check them out next time I was there.

So… I was there last week, I went looking.  And there were three sets on the hook of the Wilton Deluxe Brush Set.  They had purple handles (apparently there are other colour handles, but not here.)


It is a carded set of seven different brushes for $8.95.  That is a really good price, if they work.

And… they work!  As a matter of fact, I love them!  Well, I love the two rounds I’ve used so far…the centre large round and the next to the right in the photo.  They are great – hold their point, rinse out really fast and completely, make great lines and points, and are holding up well to the alcohol I rinse them in while working.  I’ve only used them this weekend so far but will update later in the month after all the parties are over and I can tell how they will hold up to constant use.

But, for the price, it is a better deal than what I have been doing.  I’ll be popping into Michael’s with a coupon each week to get another set to add to my stockpile!

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Business Tips for Face Painters, Body Artists and Make-Up Artists #11 – Insurance

November 1st means it is time for the eleventh excerpt from my e-book The Business of Face Painting.  Of course, if you would like to get all the information included in my book right now you can find out how here.

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

Protecting yourself and your family assests is something a business person must consider.  If you are in business and dealing with the public you are at risk of a claim against you for a variety of reasons.

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



If you are planning to face paint as a business you should have personal liability insurance for your business.  This protects you against any claims made by others against you or your business for things such as damage caused by you or your staff (like stains on carpet, etc.) or for claims of personal damages such as reactions to products.  Not all insurance policies are the same so do a little research.

Decide what you need for coverage, how much you want to pay and then shop around to see what is available.  Personal liability coverage protects your personal assets and those of your family against claims made against your business operations.  If you do not have insurance there is the worst case possibility that you could be bankrupted should someone make a claim against you for damages and they win a court case.

Some painters feel that having liability insurance is not necessary, but, I personally believe that if you are dealing with the public and accepting payment for your services that you are putting yourself at risk so you need to protect yourself.  Once you have made the decision to start your business you need to think like a business person and protecting your personal assets from business claims is a major issue.

You can also insure your kit and equipment against theft and loss.  In most cases kit insurance has a deductible of $500 to $1000 so it is really to cover the complete loss of your kit due to theft or accident as replacing individual items is considerably less than the deductible.  But having your kit insured is worthwhile if you are transporting a large amount of supplies and equipment as it does not take much to make up $1000 worth of face paint and brushes – if someone picked up your kit box and walked away with it the cost to replace could easily be more than the deductible.

The cost of getting liability insurance is not excessive – $150 a year and up depending on the amount of coverage you want or need.

Some homeowners’ policies will let you add home based businesses to your coverage, make sure to inquire as sometimes operating a business in your home may invalidate all or a portion of your coverage if you don’t let your insurer know.

What are the risks you need insurance for?  Here are some examples:

  • Damage caused by you or your staff or equipment – such as spilling paint on a client’s white rugs or leaving water rings on wooden furniture or damage caused by your vehicle to lawns or structures…
  • Reactions to products applied by you onto people – rashes, itching, scarring in extreme cases.   Not usual, but possible…
  • Injury caused by you or your equipment – say you accidentally poke someone in the eye with a brush, a small child grabs the edge of your table and it topples over on them, your mirror breaks and cuts someone…
  • Claims against you or your staff for inappropriate behaviour…
  • Theft of your kit or loss in an accident or fire…

… these are possibilities that people could claim you are responsible for and your insurance should cover you for any legitimate claims and fight those that are not valid on your behalf.

Some large events and companies require you to produce a “certificate of insurance” for their event/organization.  This is a certificate that your insurance company issues naming the particular event as being covered under your liability insurance.  It provides proof that you have insurance and that the event has been specifically noted for any claims that might arise.

Insurance is a business cost and therefore a legitimate business expense for tax purposes so please cover your business and your personal assets against the risks.

© Shannon Fennell, 2009

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

and “Designs and Templates Volume 2” © March 2008


How to make a brick stamp

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

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

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

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

What you will need:

– Cellulose sponges

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

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

– scissors

– water to wet the sponge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a low tech and very effective method!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 1st means it is time for the tenth excerpt from my e-book The Business of Face Painting.  Of course, if you would like to get all the information included in my book right now you can find out how here.

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

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

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


Client Follow-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arm Shark

© Shannon Fennell, 2009

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

and “Designs and Templates Volume 2” © March 2008


About Brushes

Brushes are something that most artists cannot do without, and I am no exception.

I admit to being a brush junkie… a really bad one.  I can’t walk by a display of artists brushes without buying at least one… usually two or three… or ten…  And if Michael’s is having a sale (and they always are) I HAVE to buy a bunch!

I don’t stick to any particular brand  (as you can tell from the photos below!) My favourite brush was a Winsor & Newton “Cirrus” Kolinsky Sable Round #4 or #6 which cost around $32 EACH… but I can’t find them locally anymore.  So I pick brushes out of the display by the look of them… if they are the right size and shape I grab them.  If they are on sale, even better.  I like natural fibre (hair) better in rounds and acrylic or manmade fibres for flat and filberts.

I never want to run out so I always have a lot of back-ups on the shelf, just in case (note: these are just my face painting brushes… I also have make-up brushes, art brushes, craft brushes…)

I have a preference for #4 and #6 round sables, but will use just about anything.

I like filberts a lot and they are very versatile – small ones called cat’s tongues are fantastic for applying eyeliner  and for very fine line work, and the super large ones are the best for freeform body painting.

There are lots of choices available – all have their good points.  Some are versatile, others are very specialized.  And figuring out which ones you like to use is going to be a matter of trial and error.  Angles or shaders, flat, washes, filberts, rounds, liners, riggers, daggers, deerfoot, wisps, rakes, the list is really long!

Brushes can be expensive.  And most of the time you get what you pay for – better quality does cost more.  There are some gems that you may run across on sale or very cheaply priced but, in my experience, the more expensive brushes tend to work better and last longer with proper care.  Cheap brushes start to deteriorate almost immediately – hairs fall out, they won’t hold their shape and start to splay, the handles break down and flake, etc.

One tip that I have for preserving your wooden handles is nail polish.  If the paint is starting to flake or crack, simply paint over it with nail polish!  It will completely seal the handle and lasts forever.

You can also cut down long handled brushes and paint the ends with the nail polish to seal the wood.  I usually sharpen the wooden end in a pencil sharpener before painting with the nail polish – there is a brush I did this to in the third photo from the top, the second brush down.  I find the pointy end comes in handy.

Nail polish can also be used to personalize or mark your brushes for ease of identification.

Taking care of your brushes means:

– Storing them upright or flat without bending or crushing the hairs/bristles (technically called the loofe).  I carry mine in a plastic bin which is transported standing on end so that the brushes are always upright.

– Cleaning them well and reshaping while wet to allow them to retain their shape, and allowing them to air dry while lying flat (I usually lay them along the edge of the counter so that there is no pressure on the loofe.)  You can sometimes rescue a brush by reshaping with a touch of soap, hair gel or starch to hold the fibres in position until they dry into their desired position.

– Never letting them sit in water to soak as it will cause wooden handles to swell and can loosen the glue holding them together.

– Treating them well when using them!  Don’t smash, scrub, poke with the loofe as you can damage the fibres.

Pretty much use common sense… treat them gently and with care and they will last longer and work better.

When I am working I put all my clean brushes in a small acrylic vase, and as they are being cleaned while I work they stand in the holes of my water well until dry.  This is the only time I stand them up like that to dry – simply for expediency.

And, if I pick up a brush that is shedding hairs I throw it out.  And if I pick up one that is splaying and won’t hold a point or edge, I toss them too.  I have others.

Brushes DO NOT last forever unfortunately.  And a good brush is your best friend as a face painter or make-up artist.  Take care of your brushes and they will take care of you.


Sleeping Butterfly

We were face painting yesterday at the Wembley Demolition Derby and this little girl dozed off completely while I was painting her.  Can I get an “awwwww”?

My newly recruited assistant face painter (a new co-worker at the day-job) came along as my second painter and for someone who is a complete newbie she did great!  Her work over the course of the six-hour day of painting improved immensely. And her speed was impressive considering most of the designs she had never painted before.  She is a keeper!

I had the kids stand between my legs to be painted while I sat this time.  Mainly because the ground was so uneven – we were set-up in a ball diamond dugout and my chair was on the cement but where I would put the other chair was off the edge and into a hole with no way to stabilize it.  So I set it aside and had the littles stand between my legs and I would stand up for the taller people.  Amazingly my back feels fine this morning rather than killing me!  Might have to do that more regularly.


Roses, one-stroke to be precise

I have a really hard time with one-stroke roses… one-stroke meaning the technique copyrighted by Donna Dewberry.  If you’ve ever watched her show on PBS or seen crafts painted using the technique you’ll know what I mean.

Using this technique with face paints was made popular by Rebecca Tonkovich of Arty Brush Strokes.  She developed the ABC (Arty Brush Cakes) brand of split cakes which were then picked up by one of the retailers/suppliers who started producing them commercially (they are now available from many retailers and similar products are now made by most face paint companies.)

The thing that really annoys me is that I can DRAW roses in pencil/ink… I can PAINT roses in oils and acrylics… but I cannot get the hang of doing them in the one-stroke style.

I’ve got books (including two of Donna Dewberry’s flower books), step-by-steps in magazines, have taken classes at conventions with Rebecca – she even spent a LOT of time with me, one-on-one to help me but…

I still feel I cannot do them adequately.  They are blobby and do not look like the ones I admire.  Gina Newsum does great ones and even did a step-by-step for one of the Snazaroo photo contests which she won, which unfortunately didn’t help me at all.

I’ve even watched several YouTube how to videos… and I still suck at them.

Now I am probably being super-hyper-unreasonably critical of my own work (which is not usual for me, I assure you) but when I cannot do what I want to do and make it look like I want it to look I get annoyed and just stop.  I tend to be able to replicate what I see easily so that is why I am so frustrated about this.  I just can’t get them to look as gorgeous as the others I see.

My attempt at some small roses on my hand using a homemade Snazaroo split cake

My attempt at a larger rose – resorted to black outlining to try to make it pop more

My attempt at a cabbage rose… added white outlining in another attempt to punch it up

And the thing is that I do get asked for roses… it would be great to be able to quickly create a stunning one-stroke rose with a few buds, leaves and glitter… would impress the heck out of the customers!  Unfortunately I end up making reddish blobs with leaves… glitter helps, but not much.