Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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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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Latest work – “Under Threat”

The latest assignment in our Drawing 4 class was a group project for a site specific work. Our professor put us into groups. She specifically chose to put certain people together so it wasn’t random at all. We had to go find a location at the school where we would put up our work, and then design something.

We all had to do rough ideas separately, then pool them and choose what we wanted to do. We had actually all enthusiastically decided on one idea but the professor was a flat “no” on it. Her reason was that we were all excellent drawers and that idea was not going to showcase anything about our abilities.

So we went with Plan B. Which was a sketch of a coral reef. It actually worked out really well as we divided up the creatures between us and worked on them separately.

This is the write-up posted by the installation:

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Valentina did the Sea Turtle, Puffer Fish, Giant Clam, Clown Fish and the schools of small fish; Zoe did the Angel Fish, Manta Ray, Dolphin, and two large reef fish; I did the Reef Shark, Eel, Anemones, all the corals and rocks, and the small reef dwellers (Blue Ringed Octopus, Blue Shell Crab, Snail, Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Sea Cucumber, and Starfish.) I also made the seaweed on the sides and the large fern coral that weren’t drawn, and added the pearl to the crab. We made a mobile out of the small fish to hang up as well.

We are VERY happy with how it all came together. And we choose a great spot in an alcove where it is highly visible to people – right across from the main Tim Horton’s!  I keep finding people taking photos of it and with it when I stop for my morning coffee, which is cool!

This photo was right after we finished installing everything.

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We mounted all the larger items with 3M picture hangers (the velcro ones) and used glue dots to attach others on top of already mounted drawings. They are holding up pretty well. Some of the smaller fish were put up with painter’s tape – hopefully they all hold on. We are leaving them up as long as possible but they have to come down by April 18th which is the last day of term.

Two days after we installed it my starfish was gone… probably got swept up by the custodians. He was on the bottom sort of hanging partially over the baseboard.

This I took after the starfish disappeared… someone stuck a quarter behind the big blue reef fish… hilarious! I left it there.

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Here are some of my work in progress shots. We all worked at home and together in class as well.

The amount of time spent on this project was massive.  The eel alone took me around 13 hours. Everything I did was sketched out, then drawn with micron pens and then coloured with watercolour paints. Then, cut out and mounted on heavier paper or cardboard so it wouldn’t curl when we mounted them.

The items I made that weren’t drawn – the seaweed and the large fern coral, took a bit of time as well. I made the seaweed out of sheer ribbon, wire and Modpodge. The fern coral was plastic fern (I stripped three picks I bought at Dollarama) mounted on corrugated cardboard semi-circles I cut out, in three layers. It looks pretty authentic and added some needed volume to the reef.

I basically volunteered to do the coral… not sure why I thought it would be “easy.” I know better now.

Here are detail shots of my specific pieces in the final display…

All three of us are completely thrilled with how it turned out. We did have other ideas that we were going to incorporate but as we started the installation we scrapped them. Originally we were planning to mount blue cellophane across the front of the alcove to give the impression of underwater viewing…. but that would have muted the colours a lot. And once we saw it all up we decided we did not need to add it.


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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.

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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!


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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.

Chickadee edited

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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.


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What I did on my vacation…

On my vacation last month crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the Disney Magic I wasn’t too ambitious, it was a vacation after all!

We spent a total of seven days at sea and the ports we stopped at were Ponta Delgada in the Azores and Lisbon both of which are in Portugal, and Cadiz, Malaga and Ibiza in Spain, we disembarked in Barcelona and were taken straight to the airport.

Other than accumulating as many character photos as I could (I explained that in my previous post here) I took it pretty easy. I saw a bunch of movies – Infinity War, Solo (the premier!) A Wrinkle in Time, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and did some crafts and activities.

I went to several of the 3D craft sessions and made things – pre-printed paper and you cut it out and put it together.  One was Pascal from Rapunzel (I painted him with my watercolours) and another was a parrot I wore on Pirate Night (pinned him to my shoulder which worked pretty good – at least it did long enough for photos. He got a little floppy later!) Also built a VERY complicated paper Cinderella but never took a photo of her!

Played 80’s Music Trivia in one of the pubs teamed up with my sister and brother-in-law – we only missed one out of 50 (only thanks to Iain) but there were two teams with perfect scores.

Saw several live musical productions and shows – they were only 45 minutes each but very good. Their cast is very talented – obviously all the musicals were Disney themes!

Did some shopping on board – a couple of shirts and small things. I am not a big shopper on trips – my souvenirs from the ports were fridge magnets, some tea from the Azores (really nice tea) and a couple of postcards.

I did a few paintings and drawings. I had taken my pencils, ink liners, and watercolours. And did manage to do some work.

I went to the “Animation” drawing classes on board – they were fun BUT… the way they had us draw Stitch was wrong. My niece wasn’t impressed. The ears are wrong, the size and shapes are off… I tried to fix it later and coloured it, but it still doesn’t look like Stitch. I did it exactly as shown – so had no other reference at the time.

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I also drew several Disney characters on my own – Ed and Ursula were a couple of those.

As thank you gifts to our Concierge team I drew each of them and then added watercolour – they were all really pleased. I was too – turned out really nice in my own humble opinion!

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On Pirate Night they had fireworks at sea. It was a decent night to be out on the deck. I actually managed to get some decent shots, even with my little Sony Cybershot!

One day my brother-in-law booked us on a Galley tour which was interesting. It was actually a lot smaller than I thought it would be! There is one station with a dedicated chef for preparing food for people with allergies. I have to say they were extremely diligent about food allergies – they have your information on file and ALL the waiters would come and ask you questions. When you are seated in the restaurants – even at open seatings – they ask your cabin number and print off the notes they have on your dietary needs.

Deck 3 where two of the restaurants and most of the adult spaces (pub and clubs) had huge portholes – was fun to look out while waiting in lines! This is mid-Atlantic Ocean – just look at that sea! Like a mirror.

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I caught this little princess while we were in line for dinner.

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They also produced “deck dance parties” which were short shows on stage on deck with characters and extremely loud music. I only went to two – the first welcome one and the Pirate Night show. They also showed movies on that jumbo screen – mostly classic Disney and the newer Pixar stuff.

It was a very relaxing trip.

I will post about the port visits in my next blog – lots more photos to share!