Meeting Lynda Carter, and Bonnie and Clyde


10592720_445777988898040_7226050142511128304_n 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. As a kid, I was into puppies and bunnies and unicorns.  *Still am… but also… I was DEEPLY into Wonder Woman.  I have distinct memories of twirling down the driveway, imagining I was WW, transforming, deflecting bullets with my bulletproof bracelets, dodging bad guys until I could hop into my invisible jet!


wonderwoman 5 years old


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 with gentle eyes.   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 animal rescues and wildlife rehabilitators. 100_7051_0435 I pick up a dog, bird, squirrel, one winged vulture,  baby bunny etc 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 also did to me!   I found the kid, and he rode on his bike in front of my Honda Element,  and he led 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 there for, 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, thin 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 o’clock, 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, in the freezing cold, 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 any rate… 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 surprised 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, and lead spoiled lives, as they attend the doggie daycare, of a client I used to paint murals for!100_1257_0530_530   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.   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.

Dia de los Muertos 2010:  Remembrance of the Animals

Dia de los Muertos 2010: Remembrance of the Animals

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!

Unicorns are Magic


DSCFinalP_5936 copy

Lucky Unicorn Ryder Gledhill, photographer Maggie Riley and Caroline Jordan, models


A special word about the Unicorn…

The story of the Unicorn:  When I was little, I loved Unicorns.  I think all little girls who ride horses must!   I would pretend that Bob, my chestnut quarter horse would take me to see one as I went through the riding trail. I drew them endlessly, on my notebooks and on my homework. They were a symbol of luck and magic for me, and I remembered the Unicorn during a challenge on Skin Wars.   We had to pick a mythical beast to paint and work it into a narrative with two other characters in a three on three team challenge.  I was paired with Nicole and Gear on team Blondetourage, and I decided to paint a unicorn character because of my outstanding track record for making the mark narrowly, and by the skin of my teeth lucking out.  For example, one time, I was locked in a printmaking closet during an all-night art making session, all alone in Rome, Italy…  and narrowly made my flight to Dublin, with only my passport, airline confirmation number, sketchbook and the clothes on my back.   The kindness of the bus driver, who didn’t request a fare from me, and the first lads I met at Trinity College who even gave me their own bed, happily for example… the scholarship I got for writing an essay the night before it was due… and one time on a fluke, I face painted a friend of an executive for ESPN, unbeknownst to me and a year later got a phone call requesting me to face and body paint for the Super Bowl VIP parties!  The list goes on and on and on and does NOT exclude a Hollywood producer calling me out of the blue and then casting me on Season 1 of Skin Wars… ALL OF IT seems like an outpouring of God’s favor, undeserved, and I have always felt “Unicorn Lucky.”  I knew right away that was the beast I wanted to paint.  I had a choice of creature, and even though the visual references were bad, I decided to risk it, because of my heart.  I had a rough sketch, and went into the challenge overly confident that I could knock it out with elegance, plus help my team mates with the collaborative part of the challenge.  But as I looked around the Skin Wars work space, and stood back from my own body painting with time running out,  I realized that my piece was by far the weakest in the room and looked as if it were one of the notebook unicorns I drew at 15 years old, and not an accomplished artwork.   If my team was chosen as the losing team, my flat, badly composed unicorn would be sending me home!  I was very emotional, but happy that my time at Skin Wars was so well rounded, and grateful in the moment, to at least have made it this far to episode 5 of 8.  I was making my concession speech in my head, and I remember the judges being displeased with my performance, noting that it was the weakest thing I had painted so far in the competition.  The light at the end of the tunnel, was that I was on the winning team!  Even though my paint job sucked, I was safe miraculously.   When the inquisition was directed at the losing team and the judges asked who should go home, I was surprised to see how quickly the guys on the losing team pointed the finger at one of my best friends on the show, NATALIE FLETCHER!  They were going on and on about how she didn’t pull her weight and how sloppy her painting was. I actually loved her Minotaur piece, and my heart pounded as I thought about what it would be like in the house, without Natalie and honestly, I was more upset than as if it were  me on the chopping block!

Usually, during the elimination judgment, you stand there and wait for the final call to be made.  You respect the judges and celebrities and speak when spoken to.  I started to feel really hot under the lights and as I imagined Natalie packing her bag, and it just felt so incredibly wrong, it felt bleak, and it felt like I couldn’t breathe.  “What the hell,” I thought.  “This is TV torture and i don’t care!  I don’t care if I get in trouble with production, or the judges, or RuPaul or Michael Leavitt, or whoever!”  I bolted up my hand, in protest of Natalie’s elimination, which is something you do not do on the stage at Skin Wars.  Rebecca Romjin held her ear piece and said, “Uh… Shannon is raising her hand.  Should I call on her?”  When Rebecca called on me, I talked about what the judges didn’t see.  I told them that Natalie stayed up all night, drawing her own portrait in the mirror, perched on the tiny bathroom countertop with her feet in the sink, holding a hairbrush so she could get her portrait on the back of her body painting correct.  I talked about how Natalie wrote the story for the characters to be interwoven together, and how she implemented the most UV into her piece, more than anyone. I said that body painting was her life’s work, and that she is an authentic body painter, who paints from her heart.  Then I was asked who I thought should go home, and quick as a whip, I said, “FELLE!”  Felle  had  been psycho torturing me at the house with mean pranks, and trying to scare me and trying to make me emotional by picking fights, obviously a tactic in trying to getting me eliminated as well!  I didn’t feel guilty calling him out for elimination, but  Felle was eliminated for none of these reasons, and I got to keep my bestie.  I realized how close I was to going home at that point, and shudder to think.  Living through a reality television experience is wonderful but can be freaking traumatizing.

Fast forward four months.  Hours before I watched this Mythology episode of Skin Wars as it aired with my friends at Cafe DaVinci, I recreated my Unicorn piece, the way that I SHOULD have painted it the first time.  I had time to find good visual references, and I worked on a full tank of sleep, painting it in Ryder Gledhill’s photography studio.  Then I brought the models down to the show and let my friends take cell phone pics of the loveliest painted bums in the entire world.  I couldn’t escape my thoughts about what a failure the Unicorn I painted on set at Skin Wars was, and so I re painted a Unicorn I was happy with.  The latest version is so cool, but it never would have been created if I hadn’t been so dissatisfied with my original painting.  There is a golden standard in body art, and I want to hit the mark and do beautiful paint jobs;   if not the first time, then definitely the second!  That is how this brand new Unicorn image was born.  If this beautiful thing was created from a crash and burn moment in my body painting career, for all the world to see, and I got to save my friend, then it was totally worth it!

Every week, I do a Q and A session after the viewing party at Cafe DaVinci in my home town, DeLand!  I have recorded a few of them on an iphone app, and am going to post them here for your unedited audio pleasure.  Please enjoy!    To compliment the viewing of the mythology episode of Skin Wars, I painted this double model unicorn,  redeeming my bad paint job with team Blondetourage!  After the episodes, my guests can take cell phone photos of the body painting, and pose with models.  All of these professional photos were taken by Ryder Gledhill.  The Unicorn painting is modeled by Maggie Riley and Caroline Jordan and was a 3.5 hour paint job.



Gimme Some Sugar (Skulls!!!)

Sugarcoat inspired by Lowbrow Art

Here’s a nifty little face and body painting modeled by the fabulous, Nastasia Blue! If you recognize her… She was my VERY FIRST professional body painting, at the beginning of this blog,(The Art of Jaw Dropping) way back in 2010~ has it been only 4 years!? This promotion was for the Dia de los Muertos event at the Museum of Art, Deland FL, where I did the Frida Kahlo body paint installation. I also entered it in the Muse Beauty Pro makeup competition for Halloween, and took FIRST PLACE, with over 700 votes on my Facebook! Thank you so much, fans!!! (I won a SWEET little airbrush for beauty makeup, and a every shade of skin tone foundation EVER! Plus, airbrush makeup lessons in LA or Chicago, my choice!) Thank you Muse Beauty Pro, and Kett Makeup!

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