Posted on 17 Comments

Swansea: “The town of windows between hills and the sea”

Swansea: The town of windows between hills and the sea

Dylan Thomas, the poet, grew up in Swansea and he descbed it as “An ugly, lovely town … crawling, sprawling … by the side of a long and splendid curving shore”.

About 5 years ago I went through a phase of painting a number of intricate paintings of Swansea. I loved the layers of Victorian and Edwardian houses with their high pitched roofs.  I went to great effort to walk out onto the quay and the beach to take photos with a zoom lens. The quay is no longer accessible, as part of the walkway has since collapsed.

I recently reworked a couple of these paintings that I still had.

I was recently commissioned to paint another painting from this series. The commissioned work would be similar, but the composition and the execution of the work would be slightly different. I had mixed feelings about the project because I knew how fiddly these paintings are. These paintings take a great deal of concentration!   I use a small brush for all the work on the buildings and they take several days of very focused effort to complete. Still, I hadn’t painted one for many years so I decided to paint one again. Perhaps it’s like a transatlantic flight, something that you can endure once a year but no more often than that. So here it is.

Swansea from the Beach
Swansea from the Beach Revisited (2020 commission)

Still, for all my wingeing I can’t help but say that I was really pleased with the final painting. My head hurts from all that focusing on the small houses with their white gables and red chimneys. However, I did like thinking about the different places in the painting as I painted them. The perspective squeezes the buildings together in a way and makes them look closer to each other in a way they are not in real life, by that I mean, on the ground.

beachfront-cafe-swansea
Beachfront café when it was 360

On the far right of the painting, on the beach, is what used to be the 360 Café and is now called The Secret. Next to that is the green building know as the Patti Pavilion, the trees behind it belong to the beautiful Victoria Park. They look so close to each other but in reality, the Patti Pavilion is on the other side of the busy Oystermouth Road.

Patti_Pavilion,_Victoria_Park,_St._Helen's,_Swansea,_2009
Patti Pavillion and Oystermouth Road

The square building that stretches across the rest of the painting is the Guildhall, which contains the beautiful panels painted by Frank Brangwyn. Rising up behind these buildings is are the parts of Swansea known as Sandfields, Brynmill, and Townhill.

The Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.
The Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.

Once upon a time, they were villages or rolling farmland, but now they are all merged into the sprawling City of Swansea.  As Dylan Thomas aptly described it “The town of windows between hills and the sea.” On rainy days the clouds descend on Townhill and it can no longer see or be seen!

I am now working on a medium-sized much “looser” Donegal landscape painting, before making a start on two more commissions.

 

You can now buy a print of this painting here. Click on “reproductions” tab to see your options.

 

To follow in Dylan Thomas’s footsteps you can visit his favourite places around Swansea:-

https://www.visitwales.com/things-do/culture/cultural-attractions/swansea-and-gower-dylan-thomas-footsteps

 

 

17 thoughts on “Swansea: “The town of windows between hills and the sea”

  1. It’s a treat for me to view all of these different paintings of Swansea, and your last one is a very pleasing creation!

    1. Thank you, Hein. As you can see Swansea is a very hilly city!

  2. It’s fun to look at all those houses compressed together but it makes my eyes crossed to think of painting them. What a wonderful commission piece! They will be very pleased, I should think!

    1. Yes, they did make me go cross-eyed. I won’t do another one for a long time (or a lot more money)!

  3. When I lived in Bristol I visited Swansea a couple of times. In my memory it was not as colorful or interesting as your paintings. But perhaps that is the difference between my mindset then and now!

    1. I might have depended on the weather too – sunshine transforms to place!

  4. Hi Emma – is ‘Swansea from The Beach’ available as a print?

    1. Hi Steve – I will put it on Artmajeur.com tomorrow morning for you. I’llsend you the link,

    2. Here’s the link. You have to click on the “reproductions” tab to see the options https://www.artmajeur.com/en/emma-cownie/artworks/13620446/swansea-from-the-beach-revisited

    3. I may have sent you the wrong link earlier (I think I may have sent the one from my account not the one for the public) here it is https://www.artmajeur.com/en/emma-cownie/artworks/13620446/swansea-from-the-beach-revisited

  5. Another excellent painting Emma! I’m sure they’ll be very happy with it! Whats the pop of Swansea btw?

    1. Just under 250,000 people. The city is spread over quite a large area and the section you can see is a tiny part of the city. Most of the buildings were built at the end of C19th and eraly C20th century. The Brangwyn Hall/Guildhall was built in the 1930s. The Patti Pavillion (the greenish building) was originally built by Opera singer Adelina Patti (the Madonna of her day – very successful and very rich) and donated to Swansea in 1918. Her ghost supposed haunts the building but I never saw it in all the time I invigilated exams there. It was the day time, admittedly but an apperition would have made things a lot more interesting!

      1. you could paint a ghost waving from a window?

      2. That’s a whole other painting! She’d be absolutely tiny! It’s a thought though!

      3. I’ve heard about an artist doing something like that before and creating a buzz

  6. […] decided to apply the detailed techniques I have used for painting the hilly city of Swansea to the rural homes of the coastal townland of Bunbeg. I am usually drawn to painting old fashioned […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.