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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Progression

As usual, the year is progressing quickly. I am scared to think about how fast time will pass in a few more years! Truly, as you get older it just whips by and soon I will be afraid to sleep for worrying about waking up to find a week has passed!

I completed the first year of my art program in December, and have transferred into the three-year Fine Arts – Advanced program as of January. I received my certificate for the one-year Foundations in Art and Design program from the college last month. I wasn’t expecting to just be told to go and get it from the information desk. I thought I would get it at Convocation in June.

I made the College Honour Roll for both semesters, and the President’s Honour Roll for the year.

Foundations Certificate edited

Things are ticking along for Year Two. Mid-term marks came out last week and I’m happy with my 98.2% average.

I’ve been working on school projects, personal stuff AND have commissions! Very excited for the commissions.

This is a personal project I’ve just finished up. I suppose it is multi-media as it isn’t normal paint – I used up a lot of old nail polish! It consists of eight 5″ x 5″ mini-canvases, that I’ve mounted together on a board for display. The smell lasted for weeks but finally has dissipated. I also managed to get a massive blister in the palm of my hand screwing it all together yesterday. Due to the reflective qualities of the nail polish it was difficult to get a photo that shows it as it actually looks. But it is pretty cool.

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This drawing was actually done for one of my General Education electives! The course is called “Making Monsters” and explores how and why we create monsters, the use of propaganda, dehumanization, etc. It is a really fascinating and fun course. The assignment was to create a monster that expresses our own fears – and we had the option to write or illustrate. Of course, being an art student I chose to draw my monster!

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We live right next to a nuclear power plant… so my fear is based on that!

I’ve got a few more school projects completed but haven’t yet photographed them. Plan to do that this week – just have to remember to take my camera.

The latest completed project in Painting is a multi-canvas piece. I did a “quadtych” – so four canvasses that fit together to make an image. And we started on a 2′ x 2′ glass painting last week.

In Drawing I finished a multi-media creation that had to incorporate multiple techniques – drawing, rubbing, impressions, collage, etc. We had to use the theme of “Ladder” for it. I called mine the “Evolutionary Ladder” and drew a rope ladder and DNA strands, among other things.

Last Tuesday all the Fine Arts program years went on a field trip to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) in Toronto. The big exhibit on right now is “Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and More.” I love Impressionism and was very excited about this being open for our trip. There was one Van Gogh, lots of Luce, and also Degas, Cassatt, Seurat and Caillebotte.  Here are some photos I took of the DETAILS – the brushwork fascinates me.

I’m still sorting out all the photos I took to properly label the artists! I got carried away.


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Year One – Done!

Today our final grades were officially posted online. I’ve now completed year one of my three-year Fine Arts – Advanced program at Durham College.

My GPA is 4.94 this semester, same as last semester. I am definitely consistent! So that is my GPA for the year. This semester I received an A+ in Drawing I, Communication for Design (which I challenged back in September successfully), Ideas & Images for Art, Digital Resources for Art & Design, and Studio Practice I (2D Art & Design). And an A in Photography.

I am very happy with the A in Photography as I really struggled with it. I have vision issues and can’t read the camera controls nor see the focus clearly in the display, so a lot of my assignments consisted of me shooting around 300 images to get ONE to hand in. I managed, but it was stressful. I will now return to my little point and shoot Sony Cybershot that I use fully on Auto! It was interesting, but I am not going to be investing in camera equipment!

For the final Photography assignment we had to do a Portfolio. My theme was composition straight out of the camera. I shoot things the way I want them framed so most of the time I do not crop (unless I have to for a size requirement.) I submitted these two photos as part of my portfolio. These were not cropped at all. I just did a bit of light and clarity adjustment to them.

The statue is Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre Museum, and the other is through a cannon port in a fortification in Essaouria, Morocco. I took these on my travels. We had to have class assignment photos in our shortlist/contact sheet, but only needed to print our three favourites for class critique – my favourites were not from class! I was ecstatic to get 100% on the portfolio assignment! Got to go out with a bang.

In Drawing I my final grade was 100%. Last semester in Drawing II (Figurative) I also received 100%. I took the semesters in reverse order as I started in January. I like Drawing. Next semester I will be in Drawing IV (Contemporary) – still out-of-order! Eventually I will be in the right order, in year three!

These are the last three Drawing classes’ marked work. Still life in colour, glass rendering and metal/plastic rendering. I used chalk pastels for all of them. We could choose our media most of the time and I really like the chalk pastels.

My final assignment for Digital Resources is a multi-media piece incorporating collage, paper tole, markers and piped on acrylic paint for texture. I had to use digitally manipulated versions of my own original art for this, which came from the previous assignment that was to digitize our analogue art.

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Got 95% on this one, which I am very happy with.

For Studio Practice (2D) my final Design Assignment was a stop-motion animation. I can’t post animations in this blog apparently, but you can see it on my Facebook page here (it is a 13 second GIF.) My mark was 100%. It was fun, but fussy to do. My little character was only 10 cm high so managing to articulate him was a very long process. But he worked very well!

For the Art part of this course my final project is a 20 x 38″ painting based on photos I took on my trip to Morocco in 2017. This is not the finished painting, but gives you an idea of it. This was three hours work, I spent another five on it after the photo was taken. It was left at school for marking so I won’t see it again until January. I was given 96% for a grade on it. I will probably work on it a bit more later.

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Next semester I will be taking Painting II, Drawing IV, Website Development and general education courses – one history class and the other still to be determined.

I’m in the process of completely redesigning my website (it is taking a long time!) so the Website Development course should be useful. The course description says we’ll actually be developing a site, so potentially I might be changing everything.

I know I’ve said this before, but I am LOVING being in school. I really think the once you’ve had some life experience, mainly having to work for a living, you really appreciate the opportunity to be able to learn and absorb in an academic environment. And… paying for it yourself makes a massive difference too! I’m not here to waste my time and money, and am working extremely hard to do the best I possibly can.


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Art – projects on the go

Two weeks left in the Fall term and have final projects/assignments in progress for all classes.

I just submitted my Photo Essay for Photography class online. There is still one more assignment but it is just putting together a portfolio from existing work – we don’t have the details yet. The Photo Essay was a bit of a challenge but it is done! I took 282 photos and ended up with 16 usable ones! Mainly due to focus issues. I can’t see well enough when shooting manually to know if the focus is perfect or not. So I get them on the computer then look for ones that are in focus. Hard way to do it, but is what works to get my assignments done. Luckily I am pretty decent at composition, so the ones in focus are generally good enough.

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Working on a multi-media piece for my Digital Resources class. It is the final part of a two-stage project. The first part was called ADD – we had to choose some of our work (analogue – hand created work) and digitize it. Then produce a digital output – printed or projected, etc.

For part one I took photos/scans of nine of my watercolour paintings and ink drawings and made them into a collage in Word. Yes, Word – it is what I know really well. Impressed the professor with that. It was a bit tedious – I made the first collage with the full images on one page, then saved as a PDF, then converted to a JPG, then cropped the JPG into multiple pieces, then made another collage in Word using the pieces. Then repeated that process about a half-dozen times. The assignment said to make at least five prototypes and choose the best one to submit. So each stage was saved as I went along.

The final collage is what I submitted. I printed off five versions so I could have a look at them and the final one was the most processed and I liked it! So did the professor – he gave me 95% and commented “Outstanding!”

Final graded

Part two is called ADA. We need to take something from the first assignment that was digitized and then use it to create another analogue artwork. That is as specific as the assignment got. So, I took all my digitized printed collages, and made a collage of them by ripping and cutting them up, and using Modpodge to attach to a canvas. Then I took one of my ink drawings – decided to use the Chickadee – and scanned and printed off a dozen copies of that to create a paper tole, which was then mounted on the canvas collage. I’m still working on it – planning to use the 3D pen to create some interesting details.

Chickadee edited

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I’m really enjoying this assignment! I am not really a digital process artist, but finally, this is fun! Using the digital to create parts that then get used to create hands-on art is pretty cool.

In Painting I have my canvas stretched ready to start my final painting. I got the last one finished – I showed the work in progress in my last post. Here that one is in almost final form – I did go back to punch up the rock in the top right as it was a bit too flat looking, but haven’t taken a photo yet. I’m pretty happy with this!

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The final painting is big and I am still trying finalize WHAT I will be painting – it is supposed to be based on something out of the art journal we’ve been working on for this class. So… I’ve been sketching and doodling like crazy to have ideas in there I actually WANT to paint!

In 2D Design I am just getting the shooting done for a stop-motion animation. Had to create a “zombie” character (in the loosest sense) and a story board, then make a paper “puppet” to photograph. We need to create a 10 second GIF ultimately. I’ve got everything ready and the camera is on the tripod. Just need to set-up my light box and shoot. That’s my plan for tomorrow. Then editing of course!

For the Design Idea class we have to come up with a solution to the Bee problem. As bees are dying off and several species have been declared endangered we are supposed to be creative and produce a fix for it. We were just given the assignment on Thursday. I’ve got two pretty good ideas but which I go with will depend on timing. Due dates are how I prioritize and other projects come first. Once I get those done, I will know how much time I have left.

Drawing class doesn’t have homework assignments – everything is done live in class. I really enjoy that. This week we’ll be doing negative space and the last class the week after is a bonus class where you can increase your mark or make up for an absence. I go no mater what as I don’t miss classes unless I have medical appointments I can’t schedule otherwise.

I reached maximum hours on my work/study job as of last Wednesday so I get those 12 hours a week back to work on my projects so I should have no problems wrapping up the term. Back to work on January 2nd, and back to school for the winter term on January 7th.

Next term I will be taking Drawing (Contemporary), Painting, Web Development and “A Short History of the World” which is a general elective. I probably will be adding in another elective but have to see what is available when time-table additions/changes are permitted.