Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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Life does have its twists and turns

Getting older is a right pain in the behind. There are some benefits, if you are lucky enough, but generally the physical side of things just steadily deteriorates. The only variable there is the speed of the deterioration!

That said, onto some other stuff!

As my vision is not what it used to be I’ve had to rethink my Master’s proposal. My ability to focus visually is essentially gone now, and isn’t stable even on a good day. Doing anything requiring fine attention to detail and working with sharp objects is no longer on the table. On a really good day I might be able to read a label, with my prescription glasses only; most days I have to ask someone to read them for me. So reading warning labels, instructions for mixing materials, etc. is not possible. Why oh why do manufacturers insist on printing instructions in a font size of 0.002?

I’ve discovered that monoprinting is something that I can do without having to be concerned about my ability to focus! I can get assistance from the in-house studio technician to find the ink colours I need (as I can’t read labels and actually can’t tell brown from purple anymore, amongst a few other colour identification issues.)

Also monoprinting is something that doesn’t need precise detail; it is a more intuitive process of creation. No two pressings will be the same, no matter what you try – and that, I am discovering, is exciting about it. What I’ve made so far I like and am stoked to continue to create in the technique. I plan to incorporate mixed media into a lot of my work too, playing with different mark-making methods, media and collage. It is getting my enthusiasm levels back up to where they used to be when thinking about my upcoming projects! I didn’t realize how much of that excitement has been missing.

Back in November and December I did the induction workshops for the Screen Printing studio and the Printing studio and I blogged about those here. And next week I will be doing the induction for Collagraphic printing as we didn’t cover that in December – now that I am interested in exploring it more.

I’m planning to do most of my experimenting at home, and then use the studio for the larger formats and scaling up ideas I tested at home. Also, printing the backgrounds in the studio is a lot faster and smoother.

I like utilizing uncommon methods to get an end result. Usually involves using craft materials or techniques to make “fine art”… to me it is all art. It is the creative process that is used to create something to been seen that is the “art” part to me.

We have a lot of crafting equipment and supplies at home. While I had to disburse all of my lifetime inventory when I moved to the UK, my friends have TWO lifetimes worth of stash which I now can access! I’ve already been utilizing the die cutting machines to make the cutouts to use with monoprinting. There are also embossing machines, cutters, a Cricut, thousands of metal dies, many types of paper and cardstock, stamps, inks, markers, adhesives, fabrics, fibres, stretchers, ribbons, floral crafts, wire, beads, and a lot more. There is an entire room in the house that is floor to ceiling art/craft supplies.

I’ve also managed to accumulate a fair amount myself lately – those art and craft box subscriptions are helping with that. I’ve now got a fair stash of lino blocks, cutters, screens, printing inks, rollers, markers, bookbinding supplies, as well as the usual paints, etc. So I have MANY ways of making marks.

I haven’t been back to the glass studio since before Christmas – which is when my eyes started to get bad. Hopefully, once I’ve got my school work up-to-date (was totally unproductive for most of January and all of February due to my eyes) I can get back to that, carefully though – blood can spill quite freely working with glass.

I picked up the prints I did last Friday in the studio yesterday – quite a few aren’t dry! I was a bit heavy handed with ink as I was using a palette knife to apply it as well as the rollers. I did 21 prints in total and about half are still sticky – I had them laid out all over my room, trying to balance them near the radiators. Then I had an epiphany… bought a two pack of those wire drying racks that sit on the radiator! Perfect! I’ve got two – one on each radiator in my room… Fits (just) on the radiators, sits behind my table so no contact with anything to transfer ink onto. The other one is also blocked from any contact. So glad that occurred to me before I started playing with wet inks at home.

I think my drying rack is actually better than the one in the studio! What do you think?

Monoprinting means you get one impression, and subsequent pressings (the “ghosts”) are faded versions of the first. I mess around with the plates after the first press, moving things, adding things, removing things, even re-inking parts, etc. And you NEVER know what you will see when you pull the paper off the plate. That’s the really exciting part I’ve discovered.

Here is what I produced last week – some will be used to create mixed media works, others I am going to leave as is as they are really cool (at least I think so!) I used cardboard cutouts and die-cuts, and pampas grass (the curly stuff) and plant parts I’d collected while walking the dog.

I am partial to the ones that are messier looking… I think because the results are more of a surprise. Once I get more familiar with the whole process I may be able to better predict what I will get, but, maybe not. That keeps it exciting. Right now, the predominantly yellow ones are my favourites – might be because of the contrast as I can see them better.

I’ve collected a lot more grasses (the pampus grass grows all over the place here, and I just love the curly strands,) spent seedheads, twigs, and other things to use in my next batch. I’m also pressing flowers to use in the mixed media aspect, or maybe even in the printing process if they lose their colour when dry.


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Day 133…

Over four months into the pandemic now. I don’t see an end to it soon. Even though Ontario has mostly moved to Stage 3 of reopening, it is still not contained/controlled. If everyone would wear a mask and maintain social distancing it could possibly be contained, but so many don’t.

I honestly do not understand people who think that wearing a mask and maintaining a distance from others is too hard for them to do. Selfish gits. Losing my life, or someone else’s, isn’t worth going to a beach or a pub or a party. It isn’t even worth going for groceries when there are delivery options.

I am staying home as much as I possibly can. I am still alone in my unit which is nice as the added stress of a roommate is gone, for now. Since it is already past mid-July I don’t expect they’ll have anyone moving into the vacant room until later next month (although I could be wrong.) My other three roommates most likely will return for the end of August. But, there’s a possibility, if their programs have gone 100% online for the fall semester, that they may choose to stay home with family. I know they all have leases to next summer like I do.

I’ve been eating well, which means more than I usually do when I have somewhere to go during the day. I generally have one meal (usually when I get home) and a snack (that would be breakfast.) Now that I am home all day I usually have two meals and snacks… not a great plan. And, well, now I’m trying to get back to just one meal and stopping with the extra snacking! I need to fit my clothing in September for school!  This is my “normal” breakfast, which I am back to now: cheese, some cucumber and celery, and a massive coffee (decaf most of the time.)

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I’ve not been as productive as I was earlier on in this isolation. I putter. Did a few more drawings but took a break from the painting series. Made some jewelry – goal is to use up my craft supplies and beads so I can reduce my on-hand materials. I’m now assembling “dangly things” with shells and other bits of stuff I’ve collected over the years.

Here is a micron drawing, and I used my new iridescent watercolour paints and pencil crayons to add colour to it.

The paints are Finetec Pearlescent Colours. They are quite lush.

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A friend passed them onto me as she found they didn’t do what she had wanted them to.

Below is a photo of the first batch of jewelry I made up. I’m planning to sell them – during third year we have opportunities to set-up to sell things as part of one of the classes we are in. These are mostly painted wood pendants with glass beads, with some metal and wood beads as well. If you are interested send me a message or comment on this post!

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I’ve started making hanging/dangly things now. I lay out stuff on my work table so I can just sit down when the spirit moves me to put something together. I sorted out pieces to use into little trays (I save the plastic trays from the 99% cacao Lindt chocolate bars,) one for each dangly thing – all the components and beads, etc.  I’ve got the finished ones hanging all over the room. I’ll photograph them once I’ve got this batch finished.

Hope everyone is managing through this upheaval and keeping healthy. It will eventually get to a point where we can start getting back to doing things without the constant fear of infection. Eventually. Be safe.


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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.