Wonder Woman meets Bonnie and Clyde

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So there I am, standing in a line, with the other contestants on Skin Wars, wondering what next will happen next.  The challenge?  Super heroes.  Not my cuppa tea.  As a kid, I was into barbies and ponies and bunnies and unicorns.  *Still am… and… Wonder Woman.  I have distinct memories of twirling down the driveway, imagining I was WW, transforming into my super hero gear.  Besides Wonder Woman, I really didn’t know much about super heroes.   Lucky for me… the guest judge who came onto the set, was Lynda Carter herself!  Of course, I was over whelmed.  My goal on the show was not to cry;  that much!   But I felt my face getting red, and I felt the tears welling up in my eyes, and my throat tightened, as I found myself face to face with my inspirational idol.  Everyone asked me, what was Lynda Carter like?  Well, for one, absolutely gorgeous, strong, tall standing, stylish, kind, and smiley.  As I started to imagine what my design would look like, I knew I wanted some Wonder Woman flavor to my character.

I painted Rescuer Rosie, because if I were to paint myself as a superhero, that is who I would be.  I am the transport girl for a few different animal rescues and wildlife rehabilitators.  I pick up a baby bunny at point A and drive it to point B.  I have personally delivered  and released hawks, eagles, and other raptors, I’ve dealt with vulture vomit and possum poo, gopher tortoises, as well as dogs and cats.

When I worked BRIEFLY for the Orange City Animal Control in December of 2007,  I got a call in to pick up two puppies.  There was no address.  My instructions were to drive into dilapidated neighborhood, and look for a kid on a bicycle, who would then take me the rest of the way, to show me the puppies.  Now, if that sounds shady as hell to you, it did to me as well.  I found the kid, and he rode on his bike in front of my Honda Element,  and took me to a house, which was half built, and not inhabited by anyone.  There in the back, was a large metal crate, which was rusty, and inside it, were two completely emaciated puppies, quietly sitting, waiting, and as I approached, their tails began to thump, and they began to cower away from me.  I was totally shocked.  I asked the boy how long they were here, and he said, they just showed up, but were keeping him up at night, crying.  I tried the door on the crate, and it was rusted shut.  I then went to pick up the crate, which had no pan at the bottom, and both of the puppies fell out of the openings with their awkward, boney legs.  I scooped up the pups, and put them in the back of my truck, to eat and drink and they did so, as if they hadn’t ever had anything.  I then started to question the kid, and the next door neighbor, who asked for financial help feeding his own dog.  I told him I was available to take his other dog, right then and there, if he wanted to surrender it to me.  He declined.  I left the scene, taking note of his name and his circumstances with his dog.  I started to drive to the shelter, looking at the babies in the rear view, thinking… Okay… you guys have 72 hours to be adopted, before you are euthanized… and it’s 5’oclock, and the animal pickup is closed… my instructions were to take the puppies to the outside crate area, where there is no warmth, and leave them in there, to be booked in the morning to the kill shelter.  There had to be another answer.  I was desperate.  I knew I couldn’t bring the dogs home to my house, because I have my own animals to care for and couldn’t risk their health if the puppies happened to have a virus or a mange.  I saw a fire truck at a pizza place in DeLand, and whipped in, asking the firemen if they would want to do a good deed… nobody could help me.  Then I pulled into the natural food store, thinking, surely someone would have compassion, just a place for the babies to stay overnight, at anyrate… no such luck.  Just as I was about to accept that my efforts were in vane, I saw the vet at DeLand Animal Hospital leaving for the day.  I pulled up next to him, and pleaded with him desperately, to help me, that I would make a donation, and that I couldn’t bear to see these animals die… it was only my third day on the job.  He looked at them, their giant eyes, their tiny bodies, and he accepted the challenge.  The clinic named them Bonnie and Clyde, and I visited them every other day and I was suprised as they fattened up quite quickly.  “It’s amazing what food can do…” said the good doctor.  I played with them in the yard, and I watched them beef up and be happy dogs, living in the moment, and I heard they were adopted by separate owners, but they also have play dates.  To this day, this event, was the BEST thing I ever did.  Ever.  It felt so good to be a part in saving these precious lives, and enforced my passion for helping small creatures.

When I was given the challenge at Skin Wars, to do a Super hero based on myself, I knew it had to be about animal rescue.  I picked one of my favorites to plug on the show, Second Chance Rescue in Bunnell Florida, which you can read all about, and see pictures of in the Philanthropy section of this website.  I wanted to illustrate all the different kinds of animals that are helped there at Second Chance, including pigs, dogs, cats, peacocks, cows, horses, goats, geese and ducks!  I felt like it was important to show the faces of these animals in the top part of my superhero, but then I also wanted to add on some clothing details, like a magic leash, instead of a magic lasso… and enchanted dog biscuits and a garter with donations.   I also included hands as a part of my design.  My thought was, it takes several helping hands of the rescue machine to make a successful rescue.  First there is the person who reports the abuse, or calls for help on behalf of an animal.  Super important.  Next is the person who goes to get the animal.  Super important.  Then there is the foster who takes the animal overnight, sometimes for weeks, until it is vetted and adopted.  The Vets that give their lowest costs to help the rescue.  Then there is the rescue itself, and the Adoptee… and lastly, the worker who makes the home check, and makes sure that the home is safe for their newest family member.  So without each of these people, animal rescue would be a broken rope swing.

I made the knickers on Rescuer Rosie to look like Wonder Woman’s (I thought Lynda would love that)  and I sponged on Glimmer Body Art Glue to coat the farm boots of my hero, (the same kind of cowboy boots that rescuers wear to muck stalls) and then dumped lots of gold glitter all over them! I also painted an alter on the back of my hero, as a remembrance of all the animals that we couldn’t save, their lives are not in vain, and we remember them.  We can’t save them all, but the ones we do save… it matters to them.  My superhero piece was a very personal, tribute to the animals who have given me these incredible rescue experiences, like a “thank you” to Bonnie and Clyde.  Even though the judges didn’t understand my artwork, I’m so glad that I painted it the way that I did, because maybe it touched the heart of someone else, maybe someone got some education, maybe someone will look up Second Chance and make a donation.  This moment on Skin Wars is my platform, and of course  I’m gonna stand up for what I believe in.

Here is the “Ask Shannon” recording from after the Lynda Carter episode!  Enjoy this funny stuff!

My Favorite Gig of the Year… Mardi Gras!

Is most definitely Mardi Gras, in New Orleans at the House of Blues! I should be packing right now, making sure I have everything I need… but I wanted to share something with you. I have been painting at Mardi Gras since my second year as a body painter. I learned ON THE JOB, how to paint faces, at the festival! I work with my partner, Emma Kenemer at House of Blues every year now, and we paint all the staff… the servers, the cooks, the hostesses the bartenders, the managers, the manager’s friends… and anyone who will hold still long enough for me to throw paint, glitter and feathers on them! 100_2272_0198

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It’s such an amazing gig. Yes, it’s a LOT of face painting, and I am definitely a body painter FIRST. However, what makes me happy, is making other people happy. After seven minutes, and they are done being painted, I show them their reflection, and I always hear a gasp, and an exclamation of joy, and disbelief. THAT is what I love about being an arts entertainer. It is the chance to connect with my client, (who are often shy and doubtful) and show them another interpretation of their once familiar face. It gives people the gift to experience life outside of themselves for a little while. The people who need face painting and costume first… are not little kids. They are the adults that have stressful jobs, who want to escape their lives for a little while and indulge in fun! And actually… face painting is spiritual! I believe we are stumbling through this human existence, a struggle that we’re trying to get right for many. When you can give someone a break, and a new beauty in themselves, it is a very empowering feeling. Ah… THIS is the meaning of life… to LOVE people, and help them love themselves. YES, face painting does that. Wierd, huh!!!

Well, last year, in 2014, during Mardi Gras, I was on the set of Skin Wars. I thought I might be sent home, and then get to work the gig regularly, but as contestants started to fall away, I realized, I would have to get back my cell phone, call my partner Emma, and let her know that I was going to miss the majority of Mardi Gras, and maybe the whole thing, because I didn’t know the time line, and everything was unpredictable. After the winner, my bestie Natalie was announced, the judges were not allowed to talk to us back stage, as Dutch and Natalie and I were kind of in shock that the whole reality show thing was over… but Craig Tracy bucked the rules and came back to talk with us. He told us how proud of us he was, and how our work was just outstanding and we should each be very proud that we made it that far. How encouraging! What a wonderful note to end on!!! Then we packed up our things at the studio, camera men and sound guys were gone, the lady photographers were gone, and the set VANISHED in a short amount of time. We were shuttled back to the reality house in Hermosa Beach, and they were already starting to deconstruct the whole thing, taking out beds, papering the walls with butcher paper, all the furniture started to be removed, and a cleaning crew came in. It was SUCH a bizarre feeling, and then… we got our phones back, and our wallets! Dutch was finally allowed to watch TV and he was 100% engrossed in some old school SciFi movie like Dune or something. Natalie and I looked at each other and were like WHOA!!! When we wanted to escape the “reality” we always headed up to the rooftop to talk and decompress. We noted how beautiful it was up there, but we never were able to take a photo before!!! Here it is from that moment. IMG_6338

The adult babysitters that we had wrangle us everywhere, (called Contestant Wranglers) FINALLY told us that they did not CARE anymore what we did, the show was over and to go have fun! Our jaws dropped! FINALLY we would be able to walk to the CVS … BY OURSELVES!!! Gear was in Hollywood but he couldn’t make it out to LA on his motorcycle, so we just walked up the street to the bar we always stared at from the isolation of the contestant van. Finally! A DRINK!!! IN A BAR!!! NOT a glass of champagne after one of our buddies got kicked off the show! It was Oscar night. We went into the bar, and … it was such a weird, small feeling… NOBODY was staring at us. Nobody had cameras in our faces, we were just a face in the crowd. I cannot tell you, how WONDERFUL that felt. and LONELY at the same time. Like, people were ignoring us. They could only stare at Matthew Mcconaughey make an acceptance speech, and we were like… one drink and OUT! On to adventure! Surely there IS something exciting to do in this town… We stepped into a dive bar, and proceeded to hammer ourselves. We befriended two gay guys who were AWESOME and they invited us back to their condo to smoke some California bud! (We obviously were not going to pass up this social opportunity.) It was a palatial condo, and the weed was strong. I only needed a tiny puff, and a breath of the ocean with the next door neighbors we never knew… to realize, finally it was over. I hugged Natalie tight, and when they wanted to take photos of us together, we got kind of spooked and fled to bed! It was AMAZING to hang out w Nat and get real!!! She had just WON SKIN WARS, and I got to see our parallel paths in a way that nobody will understand. It was magic, and things could not have been better that night. Besides, we earned it. Nicole snuck out before even the third elimination challenge, and I wanted to feel like I was doing something rebellious too! 🙂

Then the next day, in the early afternoon, we were taken to the airport and sent away. I had been planting seeds about Mardi Gras, the whole season at Skin Wars, so that if I did get the boot, it would be to New Orleans instead of my home town of Orlando. When it was all over… I begged the contestant coordinator, and then the producer, “PLEASE send me to Mardi Gras!!! There is just one day left, and I really want to work it!” Wish granted!!! I flew in on Lundi Gras, at midnight, found my hotel and partner sleeping in bed, and I jumped on her squealing about Skin Wars, and how amazing it was, and how I kicked ass and how my whole life is changed and NOW I GET TO WORK AT HOUSE OF BLUES, WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I remember being so excited to sleep in the next day!! That I didn’t have to put on a mic pack! That there were no more Star Wagon portable toilets to deal with! That I didn’t have to have my photo taken of what I was planning to wear at 5 in the morning for approval. That I… was FREE. Showing up at House of Blues the next day was HEAVEN. I was greeted by all my friends who work there, and met new ones. Everyone was so proud, and then everyone watched the show when it aired six months later. It was a kind of homecoming that I’ll never forget. And then on my day off, I think on Friday… I made an appointment to visit the Craig Tracy Body Art Gallery. The only art gallery for Body Painting in the world, to my knowledge. He welcomed me in, I met his brother again, Philip, we talked for an hour, we went and got soy lattes down the road, and continued to talk… about body painting and about the show, for FIVE HOURS. It blew me away, that here this celebrity body painter, wants to chat with ME about all of the things I had questions about, and deconstructing different things that happened on the show. It was a magical moment in my life, and now Craig, and his wife Ashley are my friends, and so is our other judge, the conceptual artist and famous body painter, Robin Slonina of Skin City. I got to spend quality time with her at Craig and Ashley’s wedding!!! Just what a life. What an amazing, kick ass life.

So now. It is very possible that Season Two of Skin Wars is being filmed right now, because it’s Mardi Gras week. There will be new contestants, most likely blowing eachother’s skulls open with abilities they didn’t know they had … (Like this little number I painted with my friend Angela Roberts,) SW_107_0224R10409047_10152751819308490_3191763559809381466_n

… and the same kind of magic is probably happening for all of them! I’m very happy for them that they got to have that experience! Now I’m remembering and being grateful, and excited for tomorrow, to start making people smile through my designs. As we say at Mardi Gras… 100_2302_0228

100_2361_0287 Laissez la bon ton roulet! Let the good times roll! To make an appointment to be painted, click the “BOOK SHANNON” button and reserve your time Feb 12 -17, 2015!

The Road Less Traveled

10275925_456188247857014_8373068035250161531_n Tonight is the Finale of Skin Wars.  I have been fortunate enough to make it to the top 3, in the company of airbrush master Dutch Bihary,  and prolific camouflage painter, Natalie Fletcher.  It feels surreal to me to be in the top three.  I had a vision of standing on stage, and being one of two people to have made it to the end!  I always hoped and kept that image in my head, but I really didn’t have a for sure feeling about that, or even be able to conceptualize what that felt like.   Standing on stage, waiting to see who’s name would be called as winner, took ABSOLUTELY forever.  I feel that I knew the results before even having walked onto the stage, and I was very very calm about the whole thing.  The assumed “freaking out” never happened to me.  I walked onto the stage, knowing that I had painted my last body paint at Skin Wars, and it was finally over.  The only thing left was the judging, and the winner, which was always secondary to actually being able to paint and get through the challenge.  What I always wanted to do, I DID.  I painted each body with mindfulness, just being aware that I just needed to fight to get to the next level.  Then fight to get to the next level after that.  I kept in mind, my goal of making it through to the end, and be able to paint every challenge that I could. It has been a struggle for me personally to be accepted into the Body Painting scene where I am from.  I have always been told that I ask too many questions, and I was given very vague answers, and told that I “have to pay my dues,” or told that I “step on toes.”  These words from my peers really messed with my head for a while, but I just continued on my own path, painting as much as I could, and being my own business manager, creating my own gigs and booking myself and my industry friends at them.  It was no longer a concern to me what so-and-so thought about me, my skills, or my ethics because I’m in the business of following my dream, and struggling as hard as I can to get there.  Along the way, I was scouted by Jill Goularte, a Hollywood producer.  She told me that she had been following my work, and that two body painters in the higher up ranks who have seen me compete recommended me to be a part of this new body painting competition reality TV show, and was I interested.  I have seen what television exposure has done for other artists, and I put my ego and my head full of concerns aside and said, “LET’S GO FOR IT!” The producer showed up in Atlanta, at Living Art America, known now as the North American Body Painting Championship, to scout for other artists, and to also watch me compete.  Natalie Fletcher was there, Mythica was there, and Nicole Desire Hays was there.  We all got called to audition in LA for Skin Wars.  The theme was totally open, and required head piece, and costuming elements.  I had my friend Carolyn Woods help me create my accessories in advance, and I got this feeling like fish swimming around in my belly, as I boarded the plane, with my carry-on sized card board box containing one head dress.  I painted a Peacock Marie Antoinette and LOVED my piece.  I still have yet to get the photos for that… it was all very very top secret.  At the semi-finals, I painted with 27 other painters, knowing that I would be one of ten chosen.  At the semi-finals, I reconnected with Natalie and Nicole and we became best friends over many drinks.  10614363_10152671397153490_7711605105537451161_n IMG_6338 Many, MANY drinks.  Eventually at the show, when I was about to crack, we were room-mates.  It was a lot less pressure and a lot more bonding.  Our suite had a fireplace, a jacuzzi tub, a shower with a skylight, and we essentially treated our space like a nudist resort.  Come home from the studio, fix and eat dinner, strip, bathe and crawl exhausted into bed, and then get up and do it again, some days at 4:30 in the morning.  It felt great to room with these ladies, they were literally my soft spot to land, after a grueling day of anxiety and paint slinging.  We kept each other laughing and really bonded over some of the punches that the boys were pulling. People have asked me if I ever doubted my skills or felt like I didn’t belong.  The answer to that question is NO, I never doubted my skills.  I always felt like, I could paint anything, and because I do my best job that I can every time (within a timed situation) that I wasn’t sure how my design would turn out… (I never do) but that I was in it to win it, and with confidence!  I always felt like I belonged.  I respect deeply the art that the other contestants have made in their own lives, and am just grateful to be a part of the motley crew which was Skin Wars Season 1 contestants.  I was always a part of the gang.  Especially if they wanted to eat, I was a part of the gang, because I also fed the troops, up into the very end, with healthy, gourmet style food which I could miraculously make out of the army style rations provided at the reality house.  One thing that DID happen was that I SURPRISED myself.  I never in a million years think that I could come up with something like this fox… or pour paint on a Sumo like this:

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Fox, Anti Fur Campaign piece Assistant, Angela Roberts

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Skin Warriors Bashu, model Photographer, Lisa Rose

I have to go get ready now, for the big finale on Skin Wars, and the Reunion show which will be sure to turn heads and raise eyebrows.  My main point that I want to make with this particular blog post, is that if you have a dream, FOLLOW IT.  Work your hardest.  Struggle and fail until you succeed.  Love deeply and infuse all your work with it.  Always take the road less traveled. detail of plant on red wall