Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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Animal & Pet Portraits

I finished my latest commissioned pet portrait and it has arrived at its new home in Alabama so I can share it.

This is Snowy:

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It was commissioned as a companion piece to another one I did of her “brother” Joseph:

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I do these freehand – sketch in pencil and then finish with Micron pen. These two were done on 7 x 10″ 98 lb Canson Mix Media paper.

The difference in the background colour in the images is because the top one was scanned and the bottom one photographed.

Here is a work in progress shot. Sketched in and starting the pen work.

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I am working on my animal drawing skills. I’ve always been pretty good with it, but practise always shows a huge improvement in my abilities. Capturing expression is the biggest thing – that is what makes a pet look like YOUR pet!

This is another cat portrait I did – this is Honey, my sister’s cat. This is also Micron pen, then coloured added with pencil crayon.

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I do dogs too. The breeds have so many variations that it can be a bit more challenging to work on, but I am improving with practise.

This is my buddy Brian. This one was done for one of those on-line challenges, which that day was “use only words”. So, all of the marks on the paper are words – written or printed words. The close-up of the nose shows this clearly. It was a fun challenge.

This one was done in my usual method, sketch in pencil and finish with Micron pen. This one was over two years ago when I decided to start working more seriously on improving my skills.

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This is Brian in “person”

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I keep practising doing different creatures and adding colour. So far sticking with pencil crayons and watercolour. I really want to learn how to use the pencil crayons to create super realistic work – and that is a steep learning curve! I’ve been watching YouTube videos which is very rare for me, but it is something I need to see being done to figure it out. I’ve also picked up some excellent books at the used book store.

I am hoping to be able to work on lots of animal drawings over the summer. My plan is to take masses of photos on my trip to South Africa, eSwatini and Mozambique (I leave in two-weeks!) that I can then draw and paint. I hope all the creatures will cooperate.

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May Day

It is the first of May! Wow… that was a fast first four months 2019.

With college done for the summer I am looking for a summer job. I’ve been making the rounds, scouring the job postings, dropping off/emailing off applications, had appointments at some agencies about temp work.  It is a bit frustrating at the moment as I leave on my volunteer trip to Africa in two weeks so won’t be able to work a long term assignment or start work on a full or part-time job until I get back. I was hoping to have been able to get some day-to-day or week temp assignments but it took some time to get processed at the agencies. I might still get something temp before I go – fingers crossed.

I carry resumes with me and if a business has a help wanted sign out, I stop in to apply. I have experience in administration, retail, food service, event organization, volunteer management, amongst other things.

There have been several positions that are for the summer only that start after I get back from Africa, so have applied to all of those when I find them.

Ideally, I was looking for an official “Summer Job” in an Arts organization but all of those positions have age restrictions – you have to be between 18-30 years and returning to school in the Fall. I call that age discrimination. I am a full-time student that wants to get experience in the field I want to work in. I still sent off applications, but had to disclose I was over age 30.

There have been several jobs that I have found in my searches that would be ideal – if I was looking for full-time permanent work! If only I was at the end of my program rather than the middle of it. But that’s the way the world works so much of the time.

So enough about that – unless you have a lead on something?! I’m game for anything in Durham Region, Ontario.

The Annual Student Juried Art Show gets installed next week at the Station Gallery in Whitby. I will have three pieces in it. I was at the College on Monday getting them framed/mounted and wrapped for transportation. I shared photos of them in my last post. It will be open before I leave on my trip so I will be able to actually go and see them this time. Last year I was away the entire time of the show and don’t have any photos of the display.

My last Drawing project got tweaked after I posted in my last entry – the professor critiqued it at the beginning of class so I took her suggestions. She said a hard line of the black in the halo would make the detail of the food crown pop more, and that the rays needed black for balance. Here is the before and after – she was right. It was hard painting over the gold leaf though – emotionally, not physically!

Another project I’ve been working on wasn’t a class project, but was at the college. The First Peoples Indigenous Centre has all sorts of craft workshops and you can drop in to work on them when you can. I noticed a sign on the door back in March about the beading workshop. So once I was finished with my Work/Study employment for the term I stopped in. I learned flat beading and how to wrap a cord to make a necklace.

Beading is extremely time consuming! I spent, I estimate, between 50-60 hours on this. I’m very pleased with it given it was the first time doing these techniques. It isn’t perfect but I will wear it proudly! And I have lots of plans to incorporate beadwork in future art projects.

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My fingers are full of tiny holes from pushing the beading needles through leather and cord, but they were such tiny holes I only really bled once…  Next time, I will use thimbles.

I will get back to the job search now – have a list of sites to check out and see what new postings have been added overnight to the usual places I check. Tomorrow I will again go out in person to hunt – I do it by area, for example a large mall, or strip malls in a row – so I park in one spot and walk around.


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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.” We had to incorporate food into a self-portrait.

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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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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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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Year One – Done!

Today our final grades were officially posted online. I’ve now completed year one of my three-year Fine Arts – Advanced program at Durham College.

My GPA is 4.94 this semester, same as last semester. I am definitely consistent! So that is my GPA for the year. This semester I received an A+ in Drawing I, Communication for Design (which I challenged back in September successfully), Ideas & Images for Art, Digital Resources for Art & Design, and Studio Practice I (2D Art & Design). And an A in Photography.

I am very happy with the A in Photography as I really struggled with it. I have vision issues and can’t read the camera controls nor see the focus clearly in the display, so a lot of my assignments consisted of me shooting around 300 images to get ONE to hand in. I managed, but it was stressful. I will now return to my little point and shoot Sony Cybershot that I use fully on Auto! It was interesting, but I am not going to be investing in camera equipment!

For the final Photography assignment we had to do a Portfolio. My theme was composition straight out of the camera. I shoot things the way I want them framed so most of the time I do not crop (unless I have to for a size requirement.) I submitted these two photos as part of my portfolio. These were not cropped at all. I just did a bit of light and clarity adjustment to them.

The statue is Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre Museum, and the other is through a cannon port in a fortification in Essaouria, Morocco. I took these on my travels. We had to have class assignment photos in our shortlist/contact sheet, but only needed to print our three favourites for class critique – my favourites were not from class! I was ecstatic to get 100% on the portfolio assignment! Got to go out with a bang.

In Drawing I my final grade was 100%. Last semester in Drawing II (Figurative) I also received 100%. I took the semesters in reverse order as I started in January. I like Drawing. Next semester I will be in Drawing IV (Contemporary) – still out-of-order! Eventually I will be in the right order, in year three!

These are the last three Drawing classes’ marked work. Still life in colour, glass rendering and metal/plastic rendering. I used chalk pastels for all of them. We could choose our media most of the time and I really like the chalk pastels.

My final assignment for Digital Resources is a multi-media piece incorporating collage, paper tole, markers and piped on acrylic paint for texture. I had to use digitally manipulated versions of my own original art for this, which came from the previous assignment that was to digitize our analogue art.

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Got 95% on this one, which I am very happy with.

For Studio Practice (2D) my final Design Assignment was a stop-motion animation. I can’t post animations in this blog apparently, but you can see it on my Facebook page here (it is a 13 second GIF.) My mark was 100%. It was fun, but fussy to do. My little character was only 10 cm high so managing to articulate him was a very long process. But he worked very well!

For the Art part of this course my final project is a 20 x 38″ painting based on photos I took on my trip to Morocco in 2017. This is not the finished painting, but gives you an idea of it. This was three hours work, I spent another five on it after the photo was taken. It was left at school for marking so I won’t see it again until January. I was given 96% for a grade on it. I will probably work on it a bit more later.

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Next semester I will be taking Painting II, Drawing IV, Website Development and general education courses – one history class and the other still to be determined.

I’m in the process of completely redesigning my website (it is taking a long time!) so the Website Development course should be useful. The course description says we’ll actually be developing a site, so potentially I might be changing everything.

I know I’ve said this before, but I am LOVING being in school. I really think the once you’ve had some life experience, mainly having to work for a living, you really appreciate the opportunity to be able to learn and absorb in an academic environment. And… paying for it yourself makes a massive difference too! I’m not here to waste my time and money, and am working extremely hard to do the best I possibly can.


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Art – projects on the go

Two weeks left in the Fall term and have final projects/assignments in progress for all classes.

I just submitted my Photo Essay for Photography class online. There is still one more assignment but it is just putting together a portfolio from existing work – we don’t have the details yet. The Photo Essay was a bit of a challenge but it is done! I took 282 photos and ended up with 16 usable ones! Mainly due to focus issues. I can’t see well enough when shooting manually to know if the focus is perfect or not. So I get them on the computer then look for ones that are in focus. Hard way to do it, but is what works to get my assignments done. Luckily I am pretty decent at composition, so the ones in focus are generally good enough.

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Working on a multi-media piece for my Digital Resources class. It is the final part of a two-stage project. The first part was called ADD – we had to choose some of our work (analogue – hand created work) and digitize it. Then produce a digital output – printed or projected, etc.

For part one I took photos/scans of nine of my watercolour paintings and ink drawings and made them into a collage in Word. Yes, Word – it is what I know really well. Impressed the professor with that. It was a bit tedious – I made the first collage with the full images on one page, then saved as a PDF, then converted to a JPG, then cropped the JPG into multiple pieces, then made another collage in Word using the pieces. Then repeated that process about a half-dozen times. The assignment said to make at least five prototypes and choose the best one to submit. So each stage was saved as I went along.

The final collage is what I submitted. I printed off five versions so I could have a look at them and the final one was the most processed and I liked it! So did the professor – he gave me 95% and commented “Outstanding!”

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Part two is called ADA. We need to take something from the first assignment that was digitized and then use it to create another analogue artwork. That is as specific as the assignment got. So, I took all my digitized printed collages, and made a collage of them by ripping and cutting them up, and using Modpodge to attach to a canvas. Then I took one of my ink drawings – decided to use the Chickadee – and scanned and printed off a dozen copies of that to create a paper tole, which was then mounted on the canvas collage. I’m still working on it – planning to use the 3D pen to create some interesting details.

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I’m really enjoying this assignment! I am not really a digital process artist, but finally, this is fun! Using the digital to create parts that then get used to create hands-on art is pretty cool.

In Painting I have my canvas stretched ready to start my final painting. I got the last one finished – I showed the work in progress in my last post. Here that one is in almost final form – I did go back to punch up the rock in the top right as it was a bit too flat looking, but haven’t taken a photo yet. I’m pretty happy with this!

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The final painting is big and I am still trying finalize WHAT I will be painting – it is supposed to be based on something out of the art journal we’ve been working on for this class. So… I’ve been sketching and doodling like crazy to have ideas in there I actually WANT to paint!

In 2D Design I am just getting the shooting done for a stop-motion animation. Had to create a “zombie” character (in the loosest sense) and a story board, then make a paper “puppet” to photograph. We need to create a 10 second GIF ultimately. I’ve got everything ready and the camera is on the tripod. Just need to set-up my light box and shoot. That’s my plan for tomorrow. Then editing of course!

For the Design Idea class we have to come up with a solution to the Bee problem. As bees are dying off and several species have been declared endangered we are supposed to be creative and produce a fix for it. We were just given the assignment on Thursday. I’ve got two pretty good ideas but which I go with will depend on timing. Due dates are how I prioritize and other projects come first. Once I get those done, I will know how much time I have left.

Drawing class doesn’t have homework assignments – everything is done live in class. I really enjoy that. This week we’ll be doing negative space and the last class the week after is a bonus class where you can increase your mark or make up for an absence. I go no mater what as I don’t miss classes unless I have medical appointments I can’t schedule otherwise.

I reached maximum hours on my work/study job as of last Wednesday so I get those 12 hours a week back to work on my projects so I should have no problems wrapping up the term. Back to work on January 2nd, and back to school for the winter term on January 7th.

Next term I will be taking Drawing (Contemporary), Painting, Web Development and “A Short History of the World” which is a general elective. I probably will be adding in another elective but have to see what is available when time-table additions/changes are permitted.