Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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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.”

This is the assignment:

Our relationship with food is pronounced. Studies have shown that not only does food effect our bodies, but there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut. The bacteria in our gut effects our minds, moods and emotions.

What we consume can nourish, stimulate, depress, bring focus, numb, nurture, confuse, poison, or refresh. We use

food to empower or sabotage ourselves, have fun with, show resistance, exude control, make political stands,

celebrate milestones, follow traditions and express joy etc. Think about your relationships with food. (we have many!)

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Draw a self-portrait which incorporates your likeness with food/drink in some way. You must be recognizable, and must cover 3/4 of Composition – meaning you must be the main focus of the piece, but also there must be some connection with food.

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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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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Works in Progress

I suddenly realized this week that it is ALREADY mid-November. What the heck happened to October?? It is time to start sending off overseas Christmas cards and presents and I haven’t even started thinking about that!

I’ve been busy, and if you take into consideration how fast time seems to move as you get older, I’m almost living in the future! LOL

School is going great. There are only four weeks left of this semester which bums me out. I really enjoy the whole process.  But my next term starts on January 7th, so won’t be long till I’m going again!  I officially transferred into the Fine Arts – Advanced program this week so another two years here, then I’ll be off to Ireland (I hope!) to finish the BFA.

This semester I have had a chance to do some painting as well as design and drawing, photography and installation art. So it has been fun, and challenging at times.

For one class we had to do a Guerrilla Art Installation somewhere in the college, without permission. As this class would do this every term I’m sure the powers that be are complicit, but the professor made it out to be all black ops! LOL We could do anything we wanted, anywhere we wanted, in any media we wanted – we just couldn’t do it in stairwells for safety reasons nor deface or damage property.

I expropriated a locker and created this display – read the artist’s statement to see what I was illustrating…

For another project in the same class we had to illustrate levels of meaning. This is my completed assignment. I call it “End of Days”, micron pen and watercolour, 9×12″.

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This is the Artist’s Statement for this one:

My work entitled “End of Days” uses the imagery of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as foretold in the Bible, Book of Revelation 6:1-8. The White Rider is Pestilence, the Red Rider is War, the Black Rider is Famine, and the Pale Rider is Death. In the Bible they are triggered by The Lamb of God opening the first four of the seven seals on the scroll held in God’s right hand.

The Horsemen are a metaphor for the end of humanity, or God’s Punishment, depending upon your point of view. They each represent one aspect of humankind’s mass destruction – disease, war, famine and death – any one of them can trigger the others, causing a cascade effect. Pestilence shoots arrows poisoned with disease, War causes humanity to kill each other, Famine starves those who aren’t killed by disease and war, and Death ultimately takes them all.

I added images of recent history that could be leading us towards the end, in my opinion: nuclear weapons, mass destruction of conventional weaponry and a few individuals in positions of power who have contributed to bringing us to this precipice.

In Drawing class we have been working on the basics (I started mid-year so my second semester is actually semester one of the program): perspective, texture, shadow, etc.

In Design class we’ve been doing a lot of things in Illustrator – using forms and grids, etc.  This image is the final submission for Project 2 called Exploring Point & Line. We had to cut out a bunch of circles and lines, the lay them down to express certain terms and relationships (like balance, contrast, chaos, etc.), photograph them (needed 25 different ones minimum), then edit in Illustrator, lay them out in the prescribed grid, correct white and black balances, print, mount on board with a cover… I got 100%.

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The final project in Design is creating an animated GIF using cutout drawings… ack! I’ll definitely be posting that when it is done!

In the Painting section we’ve been doing studies outside of the ground in the woods, then working on a painting based on those using colour theory to create earth tones, etc.

I’m still working on the main painting from that exercise, so this is a work in progress shot. It is done in acrylics but I am thinning them out quite a bit and building up the colour in washes. It is on a board, not canvas.

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Photography has been extremely challenging for me – issues with my vision make it really difficult to read and see the camera display and controls and I also have difficulty holding the DSLR (there is a reason I love my little point and shoot!) So when I get a good shot to meet the assignment I am really happy. This is one from the project using window light for portraits.

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In photos Pod (short for Prince of Darkness) usually appears as a black void, so I was really pleased with how the sunlight illuminated him – and he was a very good model!

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I know I keep saying it, but I am loving being in school and learning, and creating while I learn.