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The Doors of Derry

Georgian-Style Doors of Derry

Everybody loves the Georgian Houses

It seems like certain styles never go out of fashion. Last year Georgian-style houses topped a poll of the most popular home styles. I suspect that people like scale of the house as well as the the pillars and generous sized windows. Nothing says lord of the manor like a couple of pillars!

Georgian-Style New Build
Georgian-Style New Build


Location of Derry-Londonderry

Some of the best examples of Georgian architecture can be found in the biggest cities of 18th century such as Edinburgh, Bath and Dublin and London, and to a lesser extent York and Bristol. Dublin in particular is famous for its very grand Georgian doorways  and square. There are plenty of examples of Georgian buildings in other Irish cities such as  Limerick, Cork, Galway, Derry and Belfast.

I have been delighted to discover that Derry has plenty of its own Geogian-style doorways, if you know where to look for them.  Like many cities, Derry has been rebuilt and remodelled by successive generations but it’s Georgian architectural past survives in several places.

Not sure what Georgian era is? Think Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” with the ladies wearing Empire Line dresses and Gentlemen in breaches in tall hats. There were four kings called George who lived and reigned from 1714-1837. Its is also sometimes known as Regency era, after George Prince Regent, who took over the crown from his father George III, who expereience prolonged bouts of madness.

Derry’s Georgian-style building fall into two groups. The first were built within the walled city in the 18th century, in the Georgian era. There was also a later burst of building in the first half of the 19th century, outside the city walls, that continued in the Georgian style of building.

Generally speaking the Georgian-style of architecture is marked by symmetry and proportions based on the classical architecture of Greece and Rome, as revived in Renaissance architecture. They were designed using the “golden ratio,” a mathematical ratio that’s commonly found in nature and fine art. Buildings designed with the golden ratio in mind have graceful proportions, balance, and symmetry.

Golden Ratio in Beautifully Proportioned Classical Georgian-Architecture
Golden Ratio in Beautifully Proportioned Classical Georgian-Architecture


Ornament is also normally in the classical tradition, but typically restrained, and sometimes almost completely absent on the exterior; hence an unfussy appearance.

Home of Georgian Berkley, Dean of Derry
Home of George Berkeley, the Philosopher who was Dean of Derry in 1723-5 (and later a slave owner) – classic Georgian architecture in action.


Map of Conservation Area
Location of Georgain Style Buildings (also Conservation Area)

Georgian Buildings within the Walled City 

Derry-Londonderry is the only completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest in Europe. The buildings within the walled city were largely rebuilt in the 18th century and many of its fine Georgian-style houses still survive there. The population of the city was growing fast, from about 2,850 in to 1706 to over 9,000 at the end of the century.  This area, when first built, would have been for houses of the well-to-do Protestant merchants of the city. These men would have been involved in the export and import of goods such as linen and agricultural produce in the city through the nearby area of the quay. In 1699 the English parliament banned the export of woollen goods from Ireland. This was to protect to English woollen trade and so farmers and the merchants of Ulster concentrated instead on Linen. Thus, from about 1750 a thriving linen industry grew up in Derry.


Derry in 19th Century: From Discover Derry
View of Derry and its new bridge in early 19th Century: From Discover Derry


Derry was quite an important port in Ireland at that time (it was the 5th biggest in Ireland). Derry’s trade with Britain was growing fast at this time. It also traded linen cloth with North America (principally to Pennslyvannia) and the West Indies. Derry was also one of the most important emirgration ports to North America. Yet, until the end of the 18th century, there was only a ferry across the River Foyle. In 1789-91 a wooden bridge was built, largely at the behest of Bishop Hervey (Church of Ireland). Contrary to the claims of the bishop’s critics, who said the widely-travelled  Hervey only wanted a bridge for his own covenience; the new bridge greatly boosted trade and industry in Derry.

The most defining characteristic of a Georgian-style home is symmetry.
Types of Georgian Town houses


Broadly speaking, the surviving Georgian houses within the walled city are located in two areas; along Shipquay Street, which leads down from the Diamond towards the Foyle and the old quayside, and also in the area around St Columb’s Cathedral.

The defining characteristic of a Georgian house is symmetry. I like the style of these spacious terrace houses.  I find the clean lines of the tall buildings very pleasing. I particularly enjoy the columns either side of the doorways, echoing the Greek and Roman temples that inspired their design. I also like the generously wide panelled wooden doorways, sometimes painted in bright colours; but usually in black or red. The original door knockers and bell-pulls some time survive too.

Georgian Doorways of Derry

A Geogian doorway on Shipquay Street built c. 1760 – 1779 (with steps)

There were cellars and attics for servants to live in. The family usually lived on the first and second floors, with perhaps a business office on the ground floor.

House on Shipquay Street - you can see the basement under the stairs
Very grand house on Shipquay Street – you can see the ground floor accomodation under the steps built c. 1760 – 1779


Fanlight: llustration: Emma Kelly
Fanlight: llustration: Emma Kelly


A special treat are the arched fanlight windows above the doors – many houses have lost them but these on London Street, opposite the Cathedral still have theirs.

Georgain doors Of Derry
Georgian doors Of Derry: London Street built c. 1800 – 1819

Some of the doorways are relatively simple, with  plaster or precast concrete or stone surround and steps.

Georgian Doors of Derry, London Street
Georgian Doors of Derry, London Street

Georgian Doors of Derry, London Street

Georgian Doors of Derry, London Street built c. 1800 – 1819

Georgian Doors of Derry, Pump Street
You can see the scale of these Georgian houses on Pump Street

Some of the doors are very grand even if they have fallen in disrepair. This one is in Pump Street. For a city with a housing shortage there is a surprising number of vacant properties in the city.

Georgian Doors of Derry, Pump Street
Georgian Doors of Derry, Pump Street built c. 1820 – 1839 – Old Convent of Mercy


17th century Shipquay Street
17th century Shipquay Street: From John Hume’s “Derry Beyond the Walls”


Green Doors of Derry
Green Doors of Derry


Georgian-style buildings outside the walled city

In the early-Victorian Derry’s economic and population boom went from strength to strength. In 1821, at the time of the first Irish census, Derry had a population of 9,313. It grew rapidly during the 19th century and had reached a population of 40,000 by its end. This population boom resulted a Catholic ghetto outside the city walls in an area that wouls later become known as the Bogside. Its also lead to a more formal expansion of the city with the laying out of new streets along a geometric pattern, to the north-west of the walled city. This grid pattern echoed the layout of the streets within the walls.

Map of Derry-Londonderry
Map of Derry-Londonderry

These new streets included Queen Street, Great James Street and Clarendon Street. Although this was the Victorain era, these town houses were built in the Georgian style. A Gazetteer of 1844 noted that there were several “good streets, which contain merchants residences” and the newly built Great James Street which included a Presbyterian meeting house. This new part of town was now deemed “respectable”!

Clarendon Street was street was originally known as Ponsonby Street; named after the Rt. Rev. Richard Ponsonby (1772-1853), Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, however by the 1850s the street had been renamed Clarendon Street in honour of the Fourth Earl of Clarendon, George Villiers (1800-1870), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland between 1847 and 1852. Throughout its history the occupants of Clarendon Street were of the city’s merchant and professional classes. Several grand terraces were built within relatively dense, urban street patterns, many with rear mews and yards accessed by back alleys.

The Red Doors of DerryThe Red Doors of Derry


It should be noted that these fine “gentleman’s” houses were for the Protestant business (largely Presbyterian) community. The Catholic inhabitants of the city were largely confined to the overcrowded Bogside. Many of the worst houses they loved in have gone now. Piecemeal slum clearance was followed by largescale urban redevelopment in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of that development  has gone now too.

The Merchanta House, Quueen street
The Merchants House, Queen Street Photo Credit

A greater degree of ornamentation is found on the gentleman’s houses on Clarendon Street which have a lot of detail on their wooden surrounds, some on Queen Street have inset stone pillars. The impressive nature of these wealthier houses is enhanced by the steps up to the front doors and the decorative railings (see above photo).

Georgian Doorways of DerryGeorgian-Style Doorways of Derry: Great James Street –

Georgain doors Of Derry
Georgian doors Of Derry: Princes Street


The city and its surrounding area is choc-a-block  with heritage and history – both ancient and very recent. It’s what I love about the place; the that fact there is so much history here and that its preserved and commenorated. Derry as it exists today is an interesting hybrid of very old and modern buildings. Ideas about Conservation seem to have evolved slowly. Concerns of the city planners in the early 1970s seem to focused on preserving the character the walled city alone. In 1974 part of the walled city was chosen as one of four schemes for European Architectural Heritage Year and a co-ordinated repainting scheme for London Street was been carried out. However, some old buildings were demolished to build new shopping centres in the walled city.  It is also noticeable that some of the buildings that feature in a report of 1977, namely the Old Convent of Mercy (see photo above) and the more modern Austin’s Department store are both vacant and have fallen into disrepair. It is probably testament to the lack of investment in the city.

In the follow year, 1978, Clarendon Street  was included in to conservation area and many of its buildings were listed and this was  extended in 2006. This has been a great success. Clarendon Street is well-preserved and a thriving business distict; home to many dentists, solictors and other professionals. There are only a few empty properties here. I would argue that more buildings in the Conservation Area should be listed to give legal protect architectural features such as windows frames proportions, wooden doors and pillars their surrounds. There are a few houses in the surrounding streets that have had their door replaced with white PVC doors, with original features lost forever. This piece-meal destruction of the character of this unique part of the city needs to be halted and reversed. The heritage of the city is both vibrant and unique and deserved to be cherished and protected. After all  it is everyone’s favourite type of architecture.

Map of Conservation Area
Map of Conservation Area (Listed buildings in yellow)
The Doors of Derry #3 (1)
The Doors of Derry #3


Buy Prints on here 

Find out More 

Georgian Architecture 

Characteristics of the Georgian Town House

Find out More about  the buildings of Georgian/Victorian era Derry

Historical Map Viewer (for all NI)

Database of Historic Buildings

Conservation in Derry

Stay in Geogrian Derry 

Out of Town – Hampstead Hall, Culmore

Interactive digital map

Books on the History of Derry

Discover Derry, Brian Lacey, 2011

Hume, J., ‘Derry beyond the walls: Social and economic aspects of the growth of Derry 1825-1850’ , 2002.

Brain Mitchell, The Making of Derry: An Economic History, 1992 

T.H. Mullin, Ulster’s Historic City, Derry Londoderry, 1986

The building and rebuilding of Derry


‘City of Derry: An historical gazetteer to the buildings of Londonderry’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 2013.

Digitising Demolished Derry: Videogames as Public History

Photographs of Derry now gone

A History of Derry

48 Hour In The Historic Walled City Of Derry ~ Londonderry, Northern Ireland

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Whiterocks Beach and Dunluce Castle, Antrim

Whiterocks & Dunluce

Northern Ireland’s Tourism is very impressive. At Whiterocks Beach, just along from Portrush, there is not one, not two but three small carparks and a public toilets which are all free to use.

Aeriel view of car parks

What’s more, there’s another car parks specially for horses and their horseboxes.  I will point out though, that there is height restriction barrier on the carpark closest to the beach. I watched the driver of a car with bikes propped up on its roof rack stop, consider getting them knocked off by a bar and then reverse away to park just outside the carpark.

The beach is stunning. Very, very long at three miles. It had the softest sand that made us super tired the next day.

 Whiterocks Beach, towards Portrush
Whiterocks Beach,looking  towards Portrush
Life guards with quad bike
Life guards with quad bike


The cliffs here are unusual as they are made of  chalk – Cretaceous Chalk, which is soft  – whereas most of the causeway coast is made of basalt which was spewed out of volcanoes. The basalt headlands are dark grey and contrast with the luminescence of these chalk cliffs.

If you look at the geological map (below) you can see the top right-hand corner of Ireland is coloured dark red for volcanic rock. Don’t get excited, Mount Slemish the closest volcano (near Ballycastle) is extinct. Apparently the last eruption was approximately 60 million years ago. It’s a wonderful word to roll around the mouth – Slemish or Slieve Mish, means Mis’s mountain in Irish. It is where the young St Patrick was a slave and made herd sheep. It is also where he found God.

BGS Map of British Isles

BGS Map of British Isles

The cliffs along Whiterocks Beach are dotted with lots of interesting geological landforms – cliffs, shore platforms, caves, arches, and sea stacks. The eroding power of the pounding sea on the chlak rocks is well illustrated. It’s a living geology lesson!

Whiterocks Beach, at low tide
Whiterocks Beach, at low tide
Painting of Whiterock Beach, Portrush, Antrim
Across Whiterock Beach, Portrush


Arches at Low tide: Photo credit Seamas Johnston
Arches at Low tide: Photo credit Seamas Johnston


You can see the rocks change at Dunluce. The soft white chalk cliffs are replaced by grey basalt rocks that plunges 30 foot down to the sea. Erosion is taking place along these cliffs too,. The north walls of the castle (that’s the far side from this angle) fell into the sea in the C18th.

Dunluce Castle from Whiterocks Beach
Dunluce Castle from Whiterocks Beach


Further along the beach,  at Magheracross, just before Dunluce,  there is a carpark with viewing platform so vistors can admire the stunning seastacks below. There are several pull-in points along this road. It makes stopping to look at the heart-stoppingly beautiful views, or take a photo, a lot less hazardous to tourists and passing traffic.

Whiterocks Beach, Portrush
Seastacks Whiterocks Beach, Portrush


Viewing platform - Whiterocks Beach, Portrush
Viewing Platform – Magheracross


There is another viewing platform looking out east towards Dunluce castle (partially hiden by the headland). Dunluce Castle (just) peepng around the cornerDunluce Castle (just) peepng around the corner

Dunluce Castle is a location which is genuiunely iconic. Yes, it’s a very over-used term but the causeway coast contains several iconic locations that are instantly recognisable including Mussenden Temple and the Giant’s Causeway itself.  Both of which are looked after by the National Trust. Dunluce Castle is owned by the MacDonnell family, although it  is in the care of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

If you are a fan of the epic Game of Thrones you may think there is something familar about Dunluce – it was used as Castle Greyjoy although modified with CGI.

Dunluce and as Castle Greyjoy in Game of Thrones
Dunluce (below) as Castle Greyjoy (top) in Game of Thrones


Antrim and Scotland map
Antrim and Scotland map

Dunluce is a beautiful ruin. Although it was founded in C13th, what you can see  is largely the remains of the castle that was mostly built in the C16th. The first documented owners of the castle were the MacQuillans but  it was taken over by the MacDonnells in the 1550s, Scottish settlers descended from the Scottish Clan MacDonald, after numerous battles. The Scottish Isles are very close. On a clear day you can see across the North Channel to Mull of Kintyre and the Isles of Jura and Islay.

Sorley Boy MacDonnell developed Dunluce Castle in the Scottish style, paying for the refurbishments through the looting of the Girona, a gallion from ill-fated Spanish Armada, which was wrecked in a storm on Lacada Point, further along the coast. The cannons of the ship were kept and can still be found in the Gatehouse today.

Loot from the Girona
Loot from the Girona


£10 Bank Note commertaing the Girona
NI £10 Bank Note comemorarting the Girona


I was intrigued to read that there used to be a town next to the castle of Dunluce but it was destroyed during the Irish uprising of c.1641. What does not survive in the present day can be as intriguing as what does survive.   It had been home to maybe as many as 300 Scottish settlers. In 1642 a contingent of Irish rebels attempted to capture the nearby castle, but were repulsed and as they retreated they set fire to the town. Badly damaged, the settlement never fully recovered and by 1680 it was abandoned. There was nothing but fields there now. Artists impression of what the 17th century town may have looked like (by Philip Armstrong and ©Northern Ireland Environment Agency)

Artists impression of what the 17th century town may have looked like (by Philip Armstrong and ©Northern Ireland Environment Agency)

Sadly, we did not get to visit the castle itself as the car park was full (they only had the one). It’s just an excuse to go back when it’s not a bank holiday!


Find out More

The Rising of 1641 

Geology of the Causeway Coast 

Archaeology and Dunluce Town

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland – Epic Medieval Castle on the Cliffs

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Helen Merrigan Colfer: Tribes and Tribulation

Helen Merrigan Colfer

We recently went to see Helen Merrigan Colfer’s solo exhibition at the Alley Gallery, Strabane. She is a sculptor & painter. She lives & works on the tip of the Hook Head Peninsula, County Wexford, Ireland.  She works with resin & steel. Her work is quite incredible and very engaging.

This exhibtion included paintings, many resin sculptures and parts of her lockdown diaries that started as a series of notes she wrote for her mother-in-law Noreen, who was living “with” (but cocooned)  Helen and her husband during lockdown.

Helen Merrigan ColferHelen Merrigan Colfer

Portrait of Noreen – Helen Merrigan Colfer

The scultpures were all about the same size, I didn’t measure them but I would say they were about 2 foot high. There was work there from 2016  and more recently. The earlier work was highly coloured but darker and heavier. This is not surprising as these pieces in Tribes and Tribulations was made while she was recovering from childhood trauma. Her counsellor encouraged her to return to her art after emotional difficulties meant she had given up.

It is evident that she is working through disturbing emotions. The eyes of all the figures of the scultpures were either hidden behind a mask/bag or closed. Shoes are a theme too – I was drawn to the large red boots and shoes that many of the the figure wore. The arms of the figures were either missing or constrained by corset/straight-jacketed affairs. There are some free arms, but those are the later works that seem lighter, paler and more at peace.  The smaller the shoes the lighter the emotions.

I don’t think you needed to know the details of her dyfunctional childhood to realise that there was a lot of frustration, anger and grief in these work. They contrast quite starkly with the out-pouring of love for her mother-in-law, Noreen, in the lockdown letters.  We all remember lockdown as a frustrating and frightening time when many emotions were heightened. Noreen was clearly  cocooned in love, even if it was from a distance. I liked the mixture of letters, sculptures, video and paintings. I found it an invigorating mix.

This is a touring exhibition but I don’t know where it will be headed to next but its well worth seeing.

Helen Merrigan Colfer

Helen Merrigan Colfer

Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer


Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer


Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer


Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer
Helen Merrigan Colfer – one of her later pieces



Helen Merrigan Colfer’s Website 

Video link to the exhibition here

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Painswick – the neglected “Queen” of the Cotswolds?

I spent almost a month in the Cotswolds visitng with my parents recently and had a bit of time to explore.

They live near Stroud which TV programmes like “Escape to the Country ” tell me is the “poorer part of the Cotswolds”. I think “poor” may well be in the eye of the beholder. A new-build detached house (with pillars mind you) in the village near my parent’s was on sale recently for just over a million pounds.

Painswick: photo credit Emma Cownie
Painswick: photo credit Emma Cownie


One of the places I visited  near by was Painswick. It is a very pretty market town  located half way between Stroud and Gloucester. According to a Local Online Newsite Gloucestershire Live it’s on the “wrong side” of the Cotswolds for most Londoners who run out of steam around Bibury.

Painwick: Photo credit Emma Cownie
Painwick: Photo credit Emma Cownie


It is true that if you look up most lists of prettiest Cotswold villages to visit it doesn’t even make the top ten. I suspect that is because there are just so many ridiciously pretty places to visit in the Cotswolds. The list usually include  places like Bibury, Stow-on-the-Wold,  Kingham, Naunton, Castlecombe,  Blockley, Bourton-on-the-Water, Burford, Tetbury, Broadway and the Slaughters (Upper and Lower).

Painswick: Photo credit Emma Cownie
Painswick: Photo credit Emma Cownie


Painswick, like many Cotswold villages gets a mention in Domesday Book in 1086 but really made it’s money from wool in the Tudor era. It is full of narrow lanes and honey coloured C15th and C16th houses as well as some more recent,  Georgian ones.

Painswick Churchyar:d Photo credit Emma Cownie
Painswick Churchyard: Photo credit Emma Cownie


I wanted to visit the churchyard because I have a fascination with topiary (hedges and bushes) and I love painting those different greens. I also like the weird semi-abstract organic shapes that the trees and shadows make. I could have wandered around that churchyard for hours.

Painswick Churchyar:d Photo credit Emma Cownie

Painswick Churchyard: Photo credit Emma Cownie

Painswick is famous for having 99 Yew trees in the churchyard. I had assumed they were very ancient as many yew trees grow incredibly slowly and live long, long lives. Many trees pre-date Christian settlements. They are sometimes called the tree of the dead. This is because their drooping branches of old yew trees can root and form new trunks where they touch the ground. Thus the yew came to symbolise death and resurrection in Celtic and later Christian cultureTheir needles are toxic and so were also presumably planted to keep animals out of the churchyards away from graves; as well as for their “everlasting” symbolism.

These Painswick trees, however only date back to the C18th. They are also neatly clipped every year (so no drooping branches) . There is a local legend that only ninety-nine trees will ever grow here and the hundreth one kept dying as the devil destroyed it. And yes, there are at least ninety-nine trees as they are all numbered and sponsored (these yews trees are surprisingly expensive to look after).   However, in 2000, all the churches in Gloucestershire were given a yew tree to celebrate the millenium. Painswick went ahead and planted the 100th tree which, contrary to tradition, actually thrived. In fact there are few extra trees (not numbered I noticed).

One of Painswick Yew Trees
One of Painswick Yew Trees – Number 99


Every September the trees are clipped. This is a mammoth task and it this produces over two tonnes of material. The clippings do not go to waste as they are used as the basic raw material for the anti-cancer drug paclitaxol. So in a way these yew trees are still fighting the devil.

Painswick is well worth a visit. Those lazy Londoners don’t know what they are missing!

Painting of Painswick Churchyard Yews (Cotswolds)_Emma Cownie
Painswick Yews (Cotswolds)_Emma Cownie



Read more

The Amazing Legend of Painswick Church and its 99 Yew Trees



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Return to “Neddyshire” (Cotswolds)

Return to Neddyshire

I have recently been spending time with my parents in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire.  On a bright sunny Sunday morning I explored some of the winding tracks of a near by village called Chalford and Chalford Hill. Where is that? In the South West-ish of the English Midlands ( see map below). The Parish of Chalford is contained in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Beauty

map of Wales and west of England
Location of Chalford/Stroud in England


Parish of Chalford
Parish of Chalford (see pdf at bottom of blog for link)

Chalford Parish stretches a fair way over this part of the Cotswolds. Chalford Hill is a steep valley within the parish. There are  four other historic settlements in the parish. The villages are Chalford Hill (1 on map above),  France Lynch (2),  Brownshill (3),  Old Bussage (4),  Chalford Vale (5) and  Manor Village (aka Bussage) (6). Much of my information comes from a publication by the Chalford Parish Council (see the last link at the bottom of the blog)

Map of Chalford
Map of Chalford
Donkey track along the top of the valley - photo: Emma Cownie
Donkey track along the top of the valley – photo: Emma Cownie

The original villages of Chalford, Chalford Hill, France Lynch, Bussage and Brownshill were squatter settlements for handloom  weavers and other cloth workers as a result of the expansion of the woollen industry in the early Middle Ages and later. The valley  road through Chalford was first developed in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. From the later 18th century, when the valley bottom offered no further sites, cottages were built on the hillsides above, an area sometimes referred to as Little Switzerland.

View of Chalford Hill from Canal path:photo credit Emma Cownie
View of Chalford Hill from Canal path:photo credit Emma Cownie


As the wool trade ebbed and flowed, so did the population and prosperity of the area, though the opening of the Thames and Severn Canal in 1789 helped to create further, if different, jobs, at least for a time. The next important change was the opening of the Great Western Railway line in 1845, built along the valley beside the canal. A station was opened in Chalford village in 1897 and there was also a halt west of the village. Both stations closed in 1964. Today the next station stop is Stroud.

The Parish is renowned for its steep hillsides and scarp edges as well as it’s narrow roads and footpaths many of which have a gradient between 10% and 25% Behind many of the honey-coloured houses are narrow paths that stretch over an incredible 28 km within the parish. These tracks lead up some very steep hillsides.  In the past the narrow mud tracks allowed workers to quickly reach the mills in the valley by foot – a majority of the paths leading straight down hill.  Although you might be forgiven for thinking this is mountain goat country it was donkeys that did all the heavy carrying in the past. Today this is 4×4 country.

Donkey track along the top of the valley - photo: Emma Cownie
Donkey track leading down the hillside- photo: Emma Cownie

These tracks enabled goods (food and coal) to be transported up and down the hill by donkey. These days alpacas are  becoming a common sight in Britain and Ireland but back in the day Chalford was the domain of the donkey aka “Neddy” or “Ned”.

The Chalford Donkey back in the day
The Chalford Donkey back in the day: Photo from The Stroud News


Donkeys were used until the 1930s to deliver bread, coal and other household items to people’s doorsteps (Jennie being the name of one of the donkeys). In fact, many front doors can still only be accessed by a winding network of ‘donkey paths’. In those times Chalford was known as ‘Neddyshire’ which derives its name from the use of donkeys.

Chalford_donkey_1935 (1)
Chalford_donkey from 1935


A Road Through Chalford_Emma Cownie
A Road Through Chalford_Emma Cownie


I am looking forward to exploring more of these tracks when I return as well as the path along the canal at the bottom of the valley.

Bridge across the canal, Chalford: Photo credit Emma Cownie
Bridge across the canal, Chalford: Photo credit Emma Cownie


Find out more:-

Chalford Hill

Click to access Design-Statement-low-resolution-for-web.pdf

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“The Quiet Girl” (aka “Foster”) at the BAFTAs

Cover of Claire Keegan's "Foster"

I was absolutely delighted to spot Claire Keegan’s “Foster” (and my painting on the cover) at the BBC’s screen of this year’s British Academy Film Awards, known as the BAFTAs. The Irish language film “The Quiet Girl” was nominated for Best Screenplay (Adapted) catagory. The film’s director Colm Bairead wrote the screenplay, adapted Claire Keegan’s beautiful novella. The moving film was also nominated for the Best Film Not in the English Language.Sadly, “The Quiet Girl” lost out to “All Quiet on the Western Front” this time.Screen Shot of the Quiet Girl at the BAFTAs

Screen Shot of the Quiet Girl (“Foster”) at the BAFTAs

The Quiet Girl has become the first Irish-language feature film to be nominated for an Oscar. So fingers crossed!

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On the Way to Arranmore

On the Way to Arranmore_Emma Cownie

Looking through my recent work, I was surpised to realise that I haven’t painted many paintings of Arranmore Island in the last couple of years despite visiting the islands in the summer. So I have put that right with a series of new paintings.

As always I am entranced by the journey to and from the island. You can read my short History of the Island here 

Arranmore is lucky to be served by two ferry companies. There is The Arranmore Ferry (Blue) which is based on the island and Arranmore Ferry (Red) which is not. Yes, I know the names are almost identical, just a small matter of “The”. They both offer a fantastic 15 minute journey from Burtonport (Ailt An Chorráin) to Arranmore Island. On a calm and sunny day the view on the crossing are just heavenly. Sometimes there are dolphins too.

Map of Arranmore
Map of Arranmore and the coast off Burtonport


The ferrys sail through a narrow passage past a scattering of islands on the way to Arranmore.

Route of the Arranmore Ferrys
Route of the Arranmore Ferrys
painting of On Rutland Island, Donegal - Emma Cownie
On Rutland Island, Donegal – Emma Cownie


Rutland Island (Inis Mhic an Doirn) lies between Burtonport and Arranmore, Donegal. William Burton Conyngham (a local landowner for whom Burtonport takes its Anglised form) had warehouses, a street of houses, a post office and  a school built c. 1784 to capitalised on a the abundant herring fishing.  Unfortunately, the herring disappeared very early in the 1800’s and the station fell into disuse. The island was inhabited until the 1950s. These are the remains of the fish  factory and landing stage on Rutland Island.

Painting of Inishcoo Island, Donegal
House on Inishcoo, Donegal – Emma Cownie


Opposite is Inishcoo Island with Mount Errigal in the distance peeping out from under the clouds. The jetty in the left hand corner belongs the magnificent Inishcoo House (see painting below)- once a coast guard house, built in the C18th.

Inishcoo House, Donegal, ireland by ma Cownie
Inishcoo House, Ireland (SOLD)

There are several tiny holiday homes dotted across the islands (and cows)

Ferry Home (Arranmore, Donegal) by Emma Cownie
Ferry Home (Arranmore, Donegal) by Emma Cownie
Inishcoo Ireland
Inishcoo cottages Ireland (SOLD)
Inishcoo (To The Fore of Arranmore)
Inishcoo (To The Fore of Arranmore) – Emma Cownie
Blue Freey at Burtonport, Donegal - Photo by Emma Cownie
Blue Ferry off Arranmore, Donegal – Photo by Emma Cownie

A you can see the views are quite idyllic. Whether from the ferry or from the island. To be honest, I wish the ferries were like the Circle Line on the London Underground, where you can ride the tube rround and round (it takes and hour and an half apparently, I have never done it) and you could ride them back and forth to the island all day!

Painting of Washing Line, Arranmore _Emma Cownie
Washing Line, Arranmore by Emma Cownie

Red Ferry at Arranmore, Donegal - Photo by Emma Cownie


A Short History of Arranmore 

Getting There

The Arranmore Ferry (Blue)

Arranmore Ferry (Red)

See my Donegal paintings here 

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Irish Independent Feature (Expanded Version) Part 1

Irish Independent Newspaper Logo
Irish Indepent Arts Article on Emma Cownie
Irish Indepent Arts Article on Emma Cownie – Premium Content


I am very excited to have an article in today’s Irish Independent on Sunday about me and work by Niall McMonagle. Below is my expanded Q & A  interview that was much edited to feature in  Niall McMonagle’s What Lies Beneath feature . It’s interesting to see that the online version had a different headline from the printed version (Below)

Irish Independent article 22/2/2023
Irish Independent article 22/2/2023


This expanded interview will be in two parts, published as two blogs,  today and next Sunday.

Q: Take me back to your earliest memory of your awakening interest and awareness of art. How old were you and where were you? I realise that you became a full-time artist much later but as a child did you draw and paint?

A: I enjoyed drawing and making things from an early age. One of my earliest art-related memories was drawing a picture of my mother in the kitchen at home with our cats and dog. I knew I wasn’t very good at faces so I decided to avoid this issue by adopting a bird’s view of the kitchen!

My picture of Mummy
My picture of Mummy (with pets)


Q: As a teenager you did embroidery, sewing and used oil pastels. Can you say something about that please. And when it came to pastels what was your subject matter?
I took up embroidery when I inherited some embroidered table clothes, threads, a hoop and some iron-on embroidery pattern books from my great aunts. I really was taken by the beautiful designs and the intensity of the colours of the threads. The dark winter, in the North of Ireland, has prompted me to take it up again as it’s something I can do under artificial light. I am like a child in a sweet shop, trying appliqué, embroidery and felting. I am still exploring.

Chain stitch embroidery
Chain stitch embroidery
Neeedle Felting
Neeedle felting

I enjoyed the physically of oil pastel sticks and the vibrancy of their colour. I used to paint interiors – my bed room a lot. I got real pleasure from observing the changes the bedroom lamp made to the form of the bed under the bedspread. It was the start of my obsession with light and shadow.

Q: You were you born in Hereford. What was your life there like – urban? rural? and was your family background artistic?

The River Lugg (SOLD)
The River Lugg, Emma Cownie (SOLD)

A: My childhood was characterized by moving, thanks to my father’s career in Insurance. I was born in Hereford and lived in the town and then in a village called Morton-on-Lugg. My earliest memories are of village life; the sound of cows, visiting the river and our neighbour’s pigs. We then moved hundreds of miles up north to Whitley Bay on the North East coast. After a few years we then moved back down south to Gloucester. I found this move the hardest of all as I had felt really settled in Whitley Bay. I have also lived in Cardiff, London and Swansea. So I am a “townie” with a love of the rural which is why I ended up a Derry city and rural West Donegal. I have never felt that I am “from” anywhere in particular.

My strongest connection is to my family and to art. My paternal grandmother’s family are from Cork City. My mother is Welsh and her family is from Cardiff. I have a lot of Celt in my genes, Scottish too, hence my name Cownie. I came from a family of four children and we are very all quite competitive, creative but also eccentric and geeky. My parents painted, my great aunts were talented painters and my sister went to the Royal College of Art so there is creativity in the family genes.

Q: You studied medieval history in Cardiff and London and taught for 20 years in a secondary school. During that time did you paint and did you ever consider becoming an artist.

A: I painted, on and off throughout those years. I thought about doing Art at college but I wanted to do something different from my sister who had studied fashion at college. She did an MA at the Royal College of Art and worked for Paul Costello, partially in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, for a few years, before she gave it all up for motherhood. After my History degree I flirted with the idea of being an artist and even got some funding but it wasn’t enough to live on so I got a job with the council.

Soon after I won a fellowship to do a PhD in History so I decided to pursue that. I really enjoyed academic research and my years at Cardiff University were some of my happiest. I also spent three years doing a Post Doctoral fellowship in Kings College, London where I continued to paint. Opportunities for Medievalists were limited so I trained as a secondary school teacher in Swansea. I enjoyed working with children enormously but I was always doing something else in the holidays – writing a novel, crocheting and, of course, painting.

Painting my James Henry Johnston
Painting by James Henry Johnston

It was only after my car accident in 2012 when I started to paint in any spare moments (not just the holidays) and I started to make progress. I had been inspired by seeing the works of a painter called Robert Bevan in the Welsh Museum to start painting again. My husband set up a website for me and put my work on a website called and to my surprise I started selling. He then formed the company Emma Cownie Art and we have been fairly successful selling art since then. He paints too, portraits mainly, under the name James Henry Johnston.

Q: I read that you’ve lived in many places in the UK. Have you painted those places. Is your work a diary of your movements?

A: Yes but in terms of landscapes I only painted the areas I have lived, or my parents have, after 2012 – so South Wales, the Cotswolds where my parents now live and Donegal and the North of Ireland, particularly Derry, Tyrone and Antrim . The light is different here to South Wales and requires a different colour palette. East Donegal, easily accessible for Derry, is also subtly different form west Donegal in light and colour.

Derry Panorama

Derry Panorama – Emma Cownie

Derry and rural Donegal. How did that come about?

Emma Cownie in Donegal
Outside the cottage in Burtonport

A: It was my husband, he was home sick and wanted to have a foot in Ireland. He was born and reared in Co. Derry. We bought a house in West Donegal in 2018, as he went to the Gaeltacht there as a teenager and had lovely memories of the area. His great grandmother came from there too. I just thought the landscape was stunning. Like nothing else I had seen. Brexit also pushed us into the decision to move over here permanently. My husband felt increasingly unwelcome there. We both hated they way politics lurched to the far right. It was very unsettling.

The people Derry won me over. It’s a lively and intense city. People are funny, interesting and kind. The women in particular are stylish, articulate and self–confident. I love the fact that women of all ages, from babies to grannies wear Doc Marten boots. The city takes the time to consider all communities – there’s an LBTQT+ rainbow crossing by the Peace Bridge.

The Walls of Derry painting by Emma Cownie
The Walls of Derry – Emma Cownie


Q: How aware were you of Irish history before you came to live here. Is Derry now a place beyond the Troubles? Is it often said that the Irish know so much more about England and the English than the they do about Ireland.

A: It would be impossible living with my husband for twenty five years, who grew up in Co. Derry during the Troubles, not to have learnt a fair bit about reality of growing up in the Troubles. I have also read a lot about it too. I taught some Medieval Irish History when I lectured at Cardiff University. I also taught A Level C19th British (and Irish) Political History for 16 years at Secondary school in Wales. You cannot understand the History of Britain without understanding it’s relationship with Ireland.  I have also been a dedicated listener to Irish Times “Inside Politics” podcast ever since the Brexit Referendum. There is always more to learn. I have enjoyed finding out about the places I paint. I often like to write a short blog about the places in my paintings, as well as on aspect of my process.

There is a lot of British politics reported here on the radio and TV news, often with more insightful commentary and in depth discussion than I would have heard in Britain. I love that the Irish love to discuss a topic thoroughly and without acrimony. I would say Irish people are more informed about this interconnected history. I find Irish people are very articulate in expressing their views which is to be admired.

I cannot really comment on whether “Derry is now a place beyond the Troubles” as I have not lived here that long. My husband, who knows it from his youth, tells me it is a city utterly transformed from when he lived here. Back then many parts of the city were a war zone or had access controlled by the British Army.
The Peace Bridge, linking two communities across the River Foyle, seems to have connected areas that were separate before. All I can say is that Derry is a very picturesque and lively city with the friendliest population I have ever met.

Derry doesn’t hide the past either and embraces aspects of its History through various museums and excellent guided tours. Lots of tourists come to Derry throughout the year. It is a great place to live. The close proximity to Donegal, the glorious Antrim coast and Sperrin mountains in Tyrone make it ideal for a landscape painter! Plus, as an intact walled city, Derry is unique in Ireland.

Ruinsof Red Bay Castle, Waterfoot, Antrim_Emma Cownie
Ruins of Red Bay Castle, Waterfoot, Antrim_Emma Cownie


Q: A terrible car accident on 29 February 2012 was life-changing for you. You suffered PTSD. Did that influence your becoming a full-time artist?

A: Absolutely. The accident itself was pretty minor – my car was a write-off but I expected to be back at work with a bit of whiplash the following week. The accident, however, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It uncorked layers of stress and anxiety that had built up over many years and it completely overwhelmed me. I also had many stresses in my life, including that of being a head of department in a busy secondary school.

I found it hard to get through the day and function as a normal person. Only by eventually getting therapeutic help and EMDR counseling was I able to work through my emotions regarding an earlier trauma in my life that underpinned it all. Once I started therapy I took up painting all the time. I found it soothing and therapeutic. I don’t think that people don’t talk enough about breakdowns and mental health issues. It’s a very lonely place to be. Unless people have experienced depression or breakdown themselves, people are frightened of it and don’t know what to say to you. Breakdowns are surprisingly common. People have the idea that breakdown happen because you are weak – the opposite is true. I had been strong and carried an intolerable burden of stress and responsibility for far too long. You don’t have to have been in a war zone to develop PTSD. Everyone has their breaking point, if they are pushed hard enough for long enough. My husband says breakdowns can act as “a breakthrough” – your unconscious is telling you that your way of life is intolerable and you have to change it.

Woodland Print
Winter Morning Light on Parkmill (SOLD)


Q: Your paintings are beautifully calm, peaceful. Does that reflect your own life now or do you still live with pain and trauma as a result of the accident?

A: My painting used to be more colourful than they are now and I think that was an unconscious effort to cheer myself up. I think was depressed without realizing it. I just soldiered on. I am much happier now I have left teaching and paint full time. I make a great effort to make my colours more natural and realistic. It’s quite a challenge to capture the awe and wonder I feel looking at Irish landscapes. I am always looking for clarity in my colours and composition. I keep my palette clean in order to achieve those simplified colours and shapes.


Donegal Painting Gola Island
Main Street Gola – Emma Cownie


I think the breakdown has left its mark on me. Feelings can get stuck. I can get a upset about a relatively minor incident if I don’t talk it through with my husband or a family member. But I think it made me a kinder more empathetic person. I have always been a sensitive person. I hate cruelty and suffering in people and animals. I also hate heights and I can find the beautiful Peace Bridge a bit challenging (at night especially). I broke my leg in 2020 and had three plates put in my leg so I have to a series of daily yoga exercises to ensure I don’t experience pain when walking.


Q: Though you paint people [‘Living it Up’] and animals your work is mainly of beautiful empty, light-filled landscapes. You mention Hopper. Paul Henry. [Your work also reminds me of Maureen Gallace.] What other art forms – literature, music for example – are important to you?

Living it up (Brynmill Park, Swansea)

Living it up (Brynmill Park, Swansea)- Emma Cownie


A: I love to read fiction and non-fiction. I am an avid reader, usually having several books on the go at any one time. I have recently read Donegal and Derry authors such as Peadar O’Donnell and Tony Doherty to get a sense of the past, in relation to the areas I now live.

To be continued…Read Part Two HERE 

watercolour painting of robin
Watercolour painting of a robin – Emma Cownie (SOLD)
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Irish Independent Feature (Expanded Version) Part 2

Irish Independent Newspaper Logo
Irish Independent article 22/2/2023
Irish Independent article 22/2/2023


This is the second part of my expanded  Q & A interview with Niall McMonagle of the Sunday Independent.

Read part one here 


This section is more about how I work, my style and influences.

Q: How do you choose your places to paint? And is there a particular time of year that you favour?

A: Light and colour draw me to a subject. I am looking for a strong composition and clean colours. Usually bright light and strong shadows, so any time of year except for summer. I paint large paintings in the long hours of summer instead. Composition is key to my work. I also like to express the quiet like various American realists like Edward Hopper. I also love Rockwell Kent, a painter who also painted west Donegal.

Q: Do you work en plein air? From sketches? Photographs?

A: I tried painting en plein air in South Wales – I was crippled by feeling self-conscious and frustrated by my lack of control over the conditions. Plein air is also not conducive to my style of painting, and what I am trying to achieve in my work; in the magnification of simplicity, form, light and shadow. I am continually painting layers over a period of time. My creative process starts with taking the photo, editing and then using it for inspiration. I try to recreate the essence of a place I am painting rather than simply reproducing a scene.  I am very much influenced by the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson and how he used composition to create dynamic images.

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) Munster, County Kerry, Ireland, 1952
Henri Cartier-Bresson, County Kerry, Ireland, 1952


Q: You now live in Derry and Donegal. How did that come about?

A: We wanted to have a combination or urban and rural so that we could experience both, so we live 7/8 months of the year in Derry and 4/5 months in Donegal. The Derry/Donegal combo is hard to beat. Derry also opens up another area of east Donegal, Inishowen, as it is only a few miles away from Derry city.

Q: Your work features on a Donal Ryan Spanish version of Strange Flowers [‘Cottage on Bunbeg Harbour’] and Claire Keegan’s Foster [‘The Traditional House. Gola’]. Congratulations. Has that made a difference?

Donal Ryan's "Strange Flowers" (Flores extranses).
Donal Ryan’s “Strange Flowers” (Flores extranses).

A: It has been great to get recognition from two such brilliant writers. I feel greatly honoured. I knew that when I moved from South Wales to Ireland that I was likely to lose collectors (although I still paint the Gower Peninsula in South Wales and Tenby from time to time) and it would take time to build up an Irish following.
I am hoping these book covers will help with that, plus this feature.

Cover of Claire Keegan's "Foster"
Cover of Claire Keegan’s “Foster”


Q: How did the dreaded Covid affect you and your work?

A: I broke my leg at the start of the pandemic and was awaiting an operation in Morriston Hospital, near Swansea as the country went into lockdown. So whilst most were confined to their houses I was confined to my bedroom for several months and had to do physiotherapy down the phone. I took months to recover and regain my mobility and make it up the steep stairs into my attic studio.

Emma Cownie Artist
Painting in the studio with my leg up!


Artists live very solitary lives so lockdown wasn’t a massive change to my life, as such. I was frustrated that I couldn’t  visit locations to take photos for new paintings so I spent months scouring through the photos I did have. I was surprised at how many photos I had discounted could be made into interesting pictures.

Covid has definitely affected our life here – I feel frustrated that we are living at arms’ length from everyone. It has meant that we have limited where we go and what we do. My husband  is asthmatic, so we are very careful. We got vaccinated and boosted and always wear masks indoor but we were still very ill this summer. It knocked us both out for 6 weeks. I don’t want to catch it again because we don’t know what the long term effects will be.

Q: In terms of your palette what colours are essential?

A: It depend where I am painting and whether I am using oils or acrylics. The light in South Wales is more yellowy, in Donegal it is clearer and bluey-white. Our house in Derry is smaller than our Donegal house so I had to learn to paint with acrylics because of the fumes and having pets at close quarters.

Acrylics are very different to oils as you have to build them up in thin layers. They dry fast and are difficult to blend. Oils are more opaque but much slower to dry. I have to think about each medium in a different way and use different colours. With both oil and acrylics I prefer underlying warm colours (oranges, ochres, pinks and mauves) but I have to use different colours to get a similar same effect in each. With oils I would use Naples Yellow, Yellow ochre, Olive Green, Raw and Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna, Van Dyke Brown, Warm Grey, and Cool Grey, Mauve and for the sea and sky Ultramarine and Phthalo Blues.

With acrylics I would use Lemon Yellow, Ivory, Light Ochre, Sap Green, Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine blue, pink and purple, Payne’s grey for darker tones. I use more mixing white and fluid medium in acrylic. I have had to train myself to mix large quantities of “sky” colour and keep in a tub with acrylic. There’s this thing called “colour shift” which means the paint dries lighter. So it’s almost impossible to match wet acrylics to the dry colour you want to achieve. The irony is that I think that although I prefer painting in oils, I think my acrylic paintings might actually be better.

Q: The painting reproduced in the Sunday Independent on 15 January is ‘Down to the Pier, Gola’. Would you say something please about your links with, your relationship with, Donegal in general and Gola in particular.

Down to the Pier, Gola_Emma Cownie
Down to the Pier, Gola (Donegal, Ireland)


A: I love the Donegal islands – they are a glimpse of a vanishing Ireland. Gola and Inishbofin are wonderful locations, in particular, although the one I most visit and have painted most is Arranmore.

I went to Gola island because of the space as I thought it would suit my “rural minimal” style of painting which proved to be the case. They have very few vehicles and I really enjoy the peace. Isn’t that why we like the coast – with just the sound of the waves and the wind? How the houses were placed, in this vastness lent itself to composition. The islands, more than any other place I have been to, chime most with my style of painting. They have moved my style forward. Also I really like the fact that there are almost no telegraph poles to complicate compositions too.

The way the vernacular houses are arranged, sheltering from upland areas of the island, and close together suggests how people of the past worked together and with the landscape. I think I am attracted to the sense of community. People had to work together in order to survive. A sense of community, interconnectedness, of Irishness, lingers there. It is tangible.

Q: Also re ‘Down to the Pier, Gola’ how quickly does your eye know and choose the perspective and the composition of the piece? And would you say something please about how you went about making this work? Did you begin with a drawing? What colour did you put down first etc.

A:  Composition is key. The cinematic-type compositions and dramatic use of light and shade. As I said before I am strongly influenced by the French photograph Henri Cartier Bresson and I often look for a road or fence posts to lead the eye into the painting.

Rule of Thirds - Henri Cartier Bresson
Rule of Thirds – Henri Cartier Bresson


Elements will also be left out or simplified to give the image more punch. Most of the Gola and Inishbofin paintings are painted in my own “rural minimal” style which is the rural manifestation of the “urban minimal” style I developed to paint the city with. This style of painting is influenced by those American realist painters who paint the quiet, the spacious and the still and revere a certain treatment of light and colour such as Edward Hopper as well as by Contemporary Minimalists such Jessica Brilli, (whom I traded paintings with last  year). The rules of composition are strong light and shade, use of diagonals and simplified forms. I wanted to explore the interplay of the geometry of shadows and structures – the tension between the 3D buildings and the 2D shadows. I wasn’t sure if this style would work in the countryside until I went to Gola and found it was perfect for evoking the silence and the stillness of these beautiful islands.

Painting of houses on Gola, Ireland
Tigh Breslin, Gola – Emma Cownie (SOLD)


“Down to the Pier, Gola” is an oil painting. I sketched the outline of the road and buildings in thin red ochre paint. I painted the white house first. It takes a several layers of paint to create that intensity of the whitewash. I usually use thin layers of paint, but my final layer of white will be thicker. White oil paint takes the longest time to dry, which is why I often start with white. I then added the blue sky and the pink road and distant buildings. I like to work quickly when I paint in oils. I will rub away the paint if I am not happy with a colour. I have learnt to be quite ruthless with rubbing back and starting from the canvas. This way the final piece is lighter and has more coherence. I am wary of over-working the paint.

I use a different approach to painting with acrylics. It is much slower as I usually paint a grayscale (or in earth tones) underpainting to check I have my tonal values right and then I add colour. There is a lot of adjusting of colours and correction that goes on. I will often work on two paintings at a time so that I can add sky, sea and use the same colours and let them dry so I can consider the colours and how they are coming together. Acrylic paintings can take up to a couple of weeks, on and off, to complete.

Q: What do you look for in a painting? And do you have a favourite painting by another artist that means a great deal to you?

A: Often I am drawn to the light – a shaft of sunlight on a window sill or a strong shadow by a house. Often times it will be a particular colour – such as the blue of clear seas of Donegal or the pale fluffy clouds.

Robert Bevan Maples at Cuckfield, Sussex 1914 National Museum of Wales, Cardiff Photo © National Museum of Wales
Robert Bevan Maples at Cuckfield, Sussex 1914,  National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
Photo © National Museum of Wales


Robert Bevan’s “Maples at Cuckfield, Sussex” (painted in 1914) is very special to me as it was a complete surprise when I came across it at Cardiff Museum in 2012. A good painting makes me to go home and paint. I used to feel that way about the Van Gogh’s and Monet.

I just loved the muted colours with the light orange and purples and the semi abstract trees. Bevan had spent time in Paris at Pont Aven in Brittany. He met Cezanne and Renoir was friends with Gauguin. I went back the follow year to see it again and was disappointed to find it wasn’t on display. The museum was kind enough, however, to let me and my husband go down to storage to see it close up.

Q: You have sold many many paintings. Are you sorry to see them go? Has there ever been one that you just did not want to part with?

A: I have had to toughen up a lot about parting with paintings. My sister’s advice was “paint so many you are sick of the sight of them”. It did work but some paintings really are tough to let go of. I really regret selling a painting of a horse “Blaze” and another of a elderly lady carrying her shopping in Swansea town centre, called  “Soldiering On”. I have learnt my lesson and I have a handful of paintings that I won’t ever put up for sale – one is of a Gower pony, another is of a cat that used to hang out at the local general store in Swansea.

Painting of Swansea old lady On
Soldiering On, Emma Cownie


Q: If you would like me to include your website, instagram, upcoming exhibition etc please give them here.

A:  I haven’t exhibited in recent years in galleries by choice and I sell the majority of my work via my website although I have a private art gallery behind my cottage in Donegal which is usually open, by appointment, May – October.


@emma_cownie_artist on instagram

Website –


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Donal Ryan’s “Flores Extrañas” (Strange Flowers)

Donal Ryan's "Strange Flowers" (Flores extranses).

I am delighted to have another of my painting adapted for a novel cover by an Irish writer. This time my painting “Cottage on Bunbeg Harbour” (2019) has been used for the Spanish translation of  Donal Ryan’s “Strange Flowers” or rather “Flores Extrañas”. I have started reading the original and I am  thoroughly enjoying it. It was a best-seller and won An Post Irish Novel of the Year 2020 & was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award too!

Here below, is my original painting so you can see how it has been adapted by the publishers.

Bunbeg Cottage Donegal Ireland
Cottage on Harbour Road, Bunbeg_Emma Cownie (Private Collection)

Here is the proposed cover below; the white background is in the house style of the Spanish publishers. I think it looks really impressive.

Donal Ryan's "Strange Flowers" (Flores extranses).
Donal Ryan’s “Strange Flowers” (Flores Extranas).

Reviews of Strange Flowers can be read below (I haven’t read them yet as I dont want to ruin any surprises)

Not a long way to go

Other book covers using my work:-  

Claire Keegan’s “Foster” – read more here

Eugene Vesey, “Opposite Worlds” – back cover – read more here