Shannon Fennell's Blog

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

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What I’ve been up to for school

I’m finding working on my MA Fine Art to be a lot different from college/undergraduate studies.

I liked the structure of multiple classes running at a time (5-7 per semester), deadlines, due dates, assignments, lots of different professors/instructors to discuss things with, etc. In the MA we’re doing one course per year (it is a three-year part-time program.) We go on campus once a week for our seminars for that course. We have writing assignments for each seminar (the topic of which covers two sessions each at least) that are due before the second session.

We also have, on the same day, either workshops, tutorials or critiques with the whole group or individually (they combine all three years of the program together for this.)

Not that there isn’t work to do, but it is self-generated – research and documenting what we are working on for our proposals. Is a but of an adjustment for someone who is timeline driven. All those years of working to deadlines has really conditioned me to want things broken down into a hard schedule.

Now that’s off my chest, I have been enjoying myself learning about new media and updating my skills and knowledge in others.

I’ve taken the “introductory workshops” in the studios for Mold Making, Ceramics, Screen Printing, Printing and Metal Workshop, and in February will also be doing Letterpress. There are many others available in technology – 3D printing, Photography, Green Screen, Film and Audio, Virtual Reality, etc. but I swore I was never, ever, doing any of that again once I got through the courses at college. And I’m sticking to that.

The studios here at the University of Plymouth are extremely well equipped with a full-time technicians there to instruct, advise and assist!

Mold Making was a bit of a refresher for me, but the great equipment, facility and materials are something I’ve not been able to access on my own! I am going to be using it to create the main work for this year’s art project.

The first photo here is the silicone mold – I’d sculpted a relief portrait of Pippa (my furry friend who wakes me up every morning) and the next shows the results.

We also made some coasters.

The next was the Metal Workshop – I was curious as I though I might use metalwork in some capacity, but this is heavy duty metalwork! Interesting, but not something I think I’ll dabble in. Too much physicality involved for this old tired body. Plus, using a forge and different types of welders are a little out of my comfort zone! Also, couldn’t use the electric powered arc welder anyway due to metal implants in my body… go figure.

Then I did Ceramics – we got to build a pot. I think it is being fired as it has been missing from the shelf in the studio for a couple of weeks. I hope to see it again soon. I intend it to be a garlic pot.

I will be using clay to create my main work, which is then going to be cast to make a mold.

The next one was Screen Printing. This was fun. I wasn’t able to access Photoshop (long story, would take a whole post up just telling it!) so made up acetates of a drawing (the single rose) by hand at home using black acrylic paint. I wasn’t sure if the image I really wanted to do could be done the morning of the workshop. Ended up the tech in the print shop/paper stores was helping everyone photoshop and print their acetates, so I was able to get my skull illustration separated and printed.

As I had two sets of acetates ready I was able to make the screens to do two different prints, which was great. I was able to try two ways of aligning the second colours – the second (on the single rose) worked way better for me.

The last workshop was the Printshop. It was a two-day workshop, but as I have a medical appointment on the second day, I arranged to go in last Thursday (just for three hours rather than all day) to cover it with the technician by myself. The first day was Relief (woodcut, linocut, etc.) and Intaglio (etching, etc.) – I’d done some linocut before. I didn’t find these techniques of much interest/use to me.

BUT… the second session was Planographic Monoprints. THIS was brilliant and I think I will be doing a lot more of it! The technician said I had “a flair for it.”

It is a very enjoyable process, creating the different impressions of the monotype. The only problem is cranking the antique press – my elbow is still extremely painful – the cranking was done on Thursday afternoon, it is now Sunday afternoon.

I hope to be able to work on my sculpture in the Mold Making Studio this week… I have my armature ready to go. I’ll use waste clay (texture isn’t important) to do the sculpt, then we have to cast the mold. I think it has to be a two-part mold, but all that is going to have to be discussed with the technician once I have the item in the studio to show her. I need to make at least six casts so the mold needs to be durable.

All in all I am having a great time. There is also a Woodshop on campus and I really want to check that out too.

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Getting started

I’m now registered, enrolled and paid my tuition for year one of my MA Fine Art at the University of Plymouth.

I was assessed as an International Student (as I don’t have permanent residency status – I have to be here five years before I would be able apply,) so the tuition is pretty high. Percentage-wise it is a lot lower than my old school in Canada. For my program, UK residents pay £500/10 credits, international students pay £850/10 credits; it is 60 credits per year so my annual tuition (remember, this is a three-year program) is £5,100 (approximately $8,104 Canadian at the time I paid it!) And next year it increases.

Generally, international students are not part-time because you can’t get a Student Visa for part-time programs. But I am here on a different type of Visa that lets me do what I want, as in work, study or not. Figuring out how to classify me took three departments! But as I hadn’t met the specifics of permanent residency, I’m considered an International Student.

Masters are quite a different animal from undergraduate programs. Massive amounts of reading and research, group discussions/critiques, one-to-one tutorials, totally self-directed as to media/accessing studios/project scope, lots of “optional” activities like workshops, artist’s talks, gallery shows. I’m taking it all in and adapting to it. In my professional life I am a task oriented person – I like having a brief to fulfill (provided by clients/employers/or survival requirements.) Here, I will be setting my own parameters, and getting guidance and feedback on what I am doing. A bit different than I am used to, but I am looking forward to pushing myself past my comfort zone.

Last Tuesday we had an introductory workshop in the Mold Making/Casting Studio – somewhat of a refresher for me as I have done life casting, but wow – so many materials and options are available in the studio! It has opened my mind up to ways I can incorporate it into my project. Now that I’ve had the introduction to the studio I can book time in it to work on my project(s) and get advice and assistance from the technician. We got to make some coasters for practise, and create a small silicone mold after sculpting something to cast. The coaster molds were provided, I made three – the two blue ones were ready to take home but the yellow hadn’t set enough to remove, and the silicone mold had to cure a lot longer. The studio tech said she would take the cast from our molds for us, and that the molds would be reusable. I might use mine in ceramics! I didn’t remember to take a photo of my sculpted item before pouring in the silicone. I really need to remember to take photo of processes.

Tuesday this week is the introduction to the Metal Workshop – which is something I’m unfamiliar with. It involves power tools… I’m not a huge fan of those, but I am interested. There is always a chance of collaborating with others in our projects so… finding out what the possibilities are is important.

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Back to School, again!

I am really excited to share that I will be starting the MA Fine Art program at the University of Plymouth next week.

After deferring my other offers to 2022, I ended up withdrawing my applications (even with a £5,000 bursary attached to one of them) as I was/am still not all that comfortable with the continuing pandemic and needing to live in student housing, etc. Plus the costs of relocating to Ireland or too far away to compute to in the UK added huge costs. As I now live in Plymouth I won’t have to add the additional living costs to my school budget.

I had budgeted for living abroad before the pandemic started, but it threw my plans off. Living with roommates who didn’t share my concerns was very stressful. It really isn’t all that comfortable now, either, as I appear to be the only person still wearing a mask everywhere I go, but I will continue to take the actions I feel necessary.

The program is part-time over three years which suits me. I can continue working in the glass studio, have regular semester and summer breaks, etc. Tuition and supplies expense will be spread out too, which will be convenient. The campus is a 20-minute bus ride from the stop right outside my front door as well, which is fantastic.

The program I am joining is a small cohort of only ten people which includes all candidates in the program – first through third year. I was told that most on campus sessions (one per week) would consist of fewer than ten. That will keep me happy about contact with the masses and I’ll still be wearing a mask – probably the only one, but that doesn’t bother me.

And interesting, to me, in both MA applications that I’ve done, they have been keenly interested in my make-up and theatrical work – this interviewer, right off the top, said she hoped I would be bringing in my prop and costume skills to the program. Wanted to know if I had stopped doing that, as in completely retired. I assured her I was still happy to use all the skills. My last production closed in February 2020 and I hadn’t worked in the field since due to the pandemic lockdowns. It wasn’t a choice I made, but rather one I was forced into by circumstances.

Since I submitted my application (which was on September 7 online – totally last minute) my mind has switched into creative mode – I’m keeping notes of all the ideas that are popping into my head for creations and what media to mix to make them. I submitted a research proposal with the application for an area of interest I want to develop and I’ve got some interesting concepts brewing. I think glass is going to definitely be playing a role.

Induction is next Thursday. I still have to get all the paperwork done – the professor who interviewed me made the offer on the spot at the end of the interview, and I accepted. But it all has to go back through Admissions to get me actually registered and enrolled, fees paid, etc. I’m just waiting for emails so I can get it all done.

I am really happy to be getting back to school… I can understand how people can be “professional students.” It is so much fun learning and being creative in ways you hadn’t tried before and interacting with others who are there for the same reasons.

I’m having to set-up a workspace at home, Last night ordered a shelf/desk combo from IKEA which will be perfect (had to measure the space available in my room first!)

The IKEA desk I’ve ordered

The desk won’t be delivered until October 2nd, and delivery cost a fair bit BUT they will carry it upstairs. That is worth paying for.

I have a certain amount of art materials, obviously, and access to many more in our household as there is a room that is JUST art and craft materials and equipment which I can utilize. I am silently repeating my mantra “repurpose, reuse, recycle” as in, DO NOT buy new stuff if there is a suitable alternative to hand. I put a moratorium on myself to stop buying make-up many years ago, and it worked, I actually started to make a profit with my business. I do have excellent willpower and believe delayed gratification is a good thing.

Orcas at Sunset