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Behind the Art | “Frost Faerie”


A Recipe for Holiday Magic

I have always been a sucker for the “Nutcracker Suite” in Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.” I love everything about those faeries, how they unfurl from flower buds, swirl through the sky, drip color on autumn leaves. Then there’s that incredible moment when the fairy’s toe touches down, the water turns to ice and her toe becomes a skate. MAGIC!


After my sister Lisa sent me an astoundingly intricate frost pattern from her Ontario farm last winter (the coldest winter EVER!), I knew I wanted a Frost Faerie scribbling on a window for the 2014 Holiday card.


What follows (scroll down pls!) are the ingredients for my Frost Faerie Holiday Card, using the creative process I’ve developed for making artwork.

Frost Faerie Trampoline Shots

Getting the perfect “flying pose” was lots of fun!

1. Add One Sparkling Teen

Frost Faerie Cute

Making a faerie starts with an angel!

The first ingredient of a Frost Faerie is a truly magical young woman. I was lucky to find Charlotte through her Grandma Lorna, my friend and colleague from the Colorado Professional Videographers Association. Charlotte has huge eyes, radiant curiosity about life, and a highly contagious smile. When she smiles, it feels like the sun embracing us after the storm. Perfect!

2. Coat with Faerie Wings

There’s a wedding dress in my costume department that ends up in a crazy number of artworks. It has a train, long buttoned sleeves, and organza cut-out details. It cost $10 at the Boulder Humane Society Thrift Store. When Charlotte tried it on, it brought out the magic. What a dress!


Wings? Hmmm… Costume store wings were too stiff for a faerie. Fortunately, when another videography friend, Mo, moved to Maui, I inherited two dozen feather boas from her wardrobe. The boas were soft and light-weight. My cat demonstrated how well they flew when one boa accidentally slipped below the clothing rack. Thx, Puma!

Faerie wings are more “dragonfly” than “angel.” The boas alone were too bird-y. The bride dress came with yards of veil that blended with the boas into unique wings. Just right for Frost Faerie!

Frost Faerie Costume

The Frost Faerie costume.

For the jewelry, a tiara and a twinkling necklace evoked that “silvery faerie” feeling. Lorna, a professional hair and makeup artist, advised glitter for the cheeks and eyes, and voilà, the Frost Faerie was born!

Frost Faerie Makeup

Grandma Lorna applies “frost” to the Faerie.

3. Stir Arms into Gesture

Though Charlotte had never acted before, she’s naturally emotive and was great at taking direction. We talked about Disney princesses and I showed her some basic pantomime to get her body into a graceful arc. We rehearsed the frost-painting. I should mention here that Charlotte had to pretend she was painting on a wall while hovering! No small order for a first performance. Finally, we worked on the faerie’s gleefulness. Folks, that’s a LOT to remember all at the same time. Charlotte was awesome!

Frost Faerie Greeting Card Rehearsal

Rehearsing for the “Frost Faerie” Holiday Card.

Frost Faerie detail

The frost-painting gesture.

4. Bounce Until Flight is Achieved!

Finally: FLIGHT! We used Charlotte’s backyard trampoline. It took many, many bounces to get everything just right. At the end of the shoot, I had about twenty really great takes. I combined seven of them to get the final “perfect” Frost Faerie. It was tough to decide just which was the best face, arm, and foot. Fantastic things happened with the wings, too. The final wings are a composite of six different photos.


All told, there are forty-six layers in the final painting (that’s for you, Photoshop buffs!)

5. Serve in a Gold Foil Envelope

Frost Faerie Greeting Card

The final “Frost Faerie” Holiday Card

  • Rachel Prairie November 13, 2014, 9:06 pm

    I love the behind the scenes peek, I am always amazed at how many layers of attention, thoughtfulness and skill go into every piece you create!

  • jyothish Kumar November 13, 2014, 11:01 pm


  • Martha McCoy November 14, 2014, 7:15 am

    Wonderful work, Sonya! Thank you for sharing your creative process and love of your art.

    • Sonya Shannon December 23, 2014, 5:11 pm

      Thanks Martha! I love looking at your art & sharing your process too.

  • Laura Haferkorn November 14, 2014, 2:41 pm

    What a lot of patience you have to get just the right shots and then the editing! Thank you for sharing.

    • Sonya Shannon December 23, 2014, 5:12 pm

      Same as you, Laura! I think the writing process you do in your mystery novels is very similar to the kind of patience and attention to detail I use in visual art. Thanks!


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