Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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Day 416 (of the Pandemic)

And so it continues. We are back in a hard lockdown here because of record numbers of cases with the third wave of Covid, full ICUs, younger people dying very quickly from the variants… and a slow vaccination rollout.

I was able to get my first Pfizer vaccine on April 16 – I was really emotional about it. I had to wait 30 minutes after it and while I was sitting there I starting crying. Combination of relief and letting go of some of the fear I think. Also was the biggest group of people I’d seen in over a year.

School finished on April 16th – my three-year Diploma is complete. I am still working on my Thesis project in anticipation of our grad show, however, that may not be happening at the gallery – we don’t know yet. The lockdowns have caused the public galleries all sorts of issues so we don’t really know what will be happening. Our prof has called an online meeting with everyone for Monday. I still need to get mine assembled and photographed in the next week or so to submit to the BMO 1st Art! Competition.

Very happy with my marks again. This semester I received 100%, 100%, 99%, 97% and 93%. The 93% was 3D Printing which stressed me out a lot, so I am very pleased and relieved about that. Another 5.0 GPA – so for four of my seven semesters I had a 5.0, that makes my average GPA 4.98.

The two lowest grades I had were in my first year: 86% in Photography and 87% in Digital Drawing. I did not know any of the programs that people were using for Digital Drawing as I’d never done any (had zero interest in it and that has not changed.) I was pretty lost and, as we were told to “use what you know,” I ended up using the Windows photo editor, Paint, Word and Excel. It wasn’t fun but I managed to do the projects, but I wasn’t happy with any of them.

Photography was challenging due to my sight and hand problems – I can’t see the manual camera controls without my prescription and even then it is still difficult; and I can’t see the subject with my glasses on. I also can’t hold the camera and manipulate controls at the same time as I have grip problems. Was so frustrating. I would take 400-600 photos for each assignment and wouldn’t know if I had anything useable until I got them on the computer. I would just randomly change settings without knowing what they were until I could check the metadata and hope I’d used the right ones! By fluke I nailed a couple of the assignments and got really high marks, which made up for the duds. LOL Very frustrating as I can take pretty good photos… on AUTO SETTING!

When our final grades posted I copied and sent my transcript off to the schools that I have conditional offers from for finishing my degree. IT/Sligo, the Irish school, immediately sent a new unconditional offer letter.

With the state of the pandemic I am waiting to make a decision on my offers – I do not want to continue with online learning. While I did well, I did not enjoy it, nor do I feel I learned as much as I could have with in-person instruction and the interaction with other students. As a international student the tuition and fees will be very high (for instance, at my current school they are six times more than domestic students pay.) I want the in-person, hands-on, social interaction aspect to be there; it is a huge expense and I want the most I can get out of it. I will leave it as late as I can to make that decision, and hope that if I do decide to go that I can still find private living arrangements! If not, I will defer for a year.

It seems that most schools are anticipating a “blended” delivery model – some in-person and some remote. But things are in such a state of flux. Part of the issue is that the 18-24 age groups are not being targeted for vaccination in most places yet. Seems that the schools are looking at the number of people vaccinated on campus as the marker for how much they can open back-up.

I’ve got extensive lists of things I need to do preparing to move overseas, but there is an order that they have to be done in and getting the process going involves making the decision about which school’s offer to accept or defer for a year. I’ve got just over a month before processes have to start – visa applications, finding accommodations, making deposits… some things can be on pretty short notice (like booking flights… right now super easy) but others it can be a couple of months.

Here are some of the 41 paintings of 43 threatened species that are part of my final Thesis project. This part of the work is done, and now I start on the actual physical construction and assembly.

I’m really pleased with how these have all turned out. Of course I have my favourites, and there are one or two that I may actually not use in the final display as they didn’t translate as I had hoped. But I am happy with this body of work.


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Gallery Show and a prize

While I was off on my African Adventure five of my artworks were in the Annual All-Student Juried Show at the Station Gallery in Whitby, Ontario.

Before I left I had helped get the show put up at the Gallery. That was a great learning experience; seeing how much work goes into the process. Very physical and tiring. I went in every day for a week to do whatever I was asked to do. That involved unpacking and unwrapping the art, laying out the works in the various rooms, arranging them in theme groups, then moving things around, putting up the labels, etc.

Originally we were limited to entering three pieces, but for whatever reason, they opened it up and asked for more works. That’s why I ended up with five in the show.

The show took up the whole building which meant our art was in three main gallery rooms, hallways, lobby, etc. Was pretty impressive.

It was extremely exciting to see my art up in an art gallery. It never really gets old. I’ve had art in shows before but wasn’t involved, other than dropping it off, so this was a new experience for me.

Here are my works:

First are my two mixed media pieces, “My Chickadee” and “Evolutionary Ladder”, which had been hung together in the middle gallery.

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Then my acrylic nature study painting called “Autumn Reflection” was in the back gallery in a grouping with others of the same project/class.

Then my painting “Blood Moon” was in a hallway by the entrance with other fantasy works.

And finally, my ink blot painting called “Windswept Forest” was in the main gallery.

Hanging art is hard. Measuring repeatedly, deciding what goes together both by size and theme, mounting, hammering, repositioning… it isn’t like home, where if you are slightly off centre you say “good enough”… nope, take it down and start over.

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When I got home from my trip on June 6th, there was mail from the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington – it was a cheque that said “Durham Art Show Prize”! I was very excited but there was no notation to tell me what it was actually for.

I emailed my professors and classmates who had been there to find out what it was  awarded for. My piece “Evolutionary Ladder” was chosen as best mixed media work.

This was created by making a collage (I love Mod Podge) using recycled original work of mine in watercolour, pencil crayon and micron pen, as well as tearing up a few magazines and cutting up cardboard. Then creating a paper tole (a three-dimensional effect by layering multiple layers of the same image that has been cut out) of the ladder/double helix drawing. Then adding gold watercolour paint, then both dimensional fabric paints and acrylic paint applied using a squeeze bottle. Finally used Sharpies to add some details. The piece is 18 x 24″ and very light as I built it on foam core.

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When I got back to college this September I discovered that all my work from the show was now on display throughout the college.

Four of the works are in the B-wing in the second year display case (only four of us have our work there!)

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The other painting “Blood Moon” is on display in the Entrepreneurial Centre in another building.

I am “chuffed” as the English say! I can’t think of another word to use at the moment. Although proud and thrilled do work.

 


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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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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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Paintings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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