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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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!