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Affordable Art in Donegal

Affordable Art

The rain finally stopped yesterday morning and the temperature rose a few degrees. We just had three days of steady rain. The temperatures also went up a bit. I was amused to discover that this “event” made the news. The headline in “The Donegal Daily” an online newspaper read: “Weather- Another Mild Day in Store for Donegal”. This publication is favourite of mine. It is a heart-warming mixture of stories with happy endings (swimmers get into trouble in rip tide but they are all rescued by a passer by and a lifeboat crew), lost dogs, sport stories and local crime cases (often from two years ago).

Anyway, we felt encouraged by the dry (ish) weather to do some light food shopping in Dungloe and then drive to an Affordable Art Fair in Derrybeg, Gweedore. This Art Fair was held at An Gaillearai, which is located at Ionad Aislann, Na Doira Beaga (Derrybeg).

Ionad Aislann, Na Doira Beaga
Entrance to Ionad Aislann, Na Doira Beaga

We have never been to Ionad Aislann before and I was very interested to see what this cultural centre was like. I know that “Ionad” means a centre of some sort in Irish but I didn’t know what the word “Aislann” meant. I tried looking it up on google translate but drew a blank so I thought it might be someone’s name. It was wrong. “Áislann” is a word derived from combining two words from the Irish vocabulary of South West Donegal, Áiseanna (facilities) and Lann (building).

Lots of Praking!
Lots of Parking!

The centre also houses, amongst other things,  a public library and nursery. When I looked it up here I discovered that the building hosted much more than that: a theatre/cinema, sports hall, meeting rooms, local history centre, PC centre, a gym and a tea room! This cultural centre was set up in 1992  expressly to cater for local people as well as for visitors to the area, including the many artists like me who come to live here. It was also meant to help strengthen bonds within the local community via cultural/artistic pursuits and leisure activities.  

Affordable Art Fair Poster
Affordable Art Fair Poster

 

The Gallery is large and airy and there was plenty of room for visitors and artists. Everyone was wearing masks too which was reassuring. 

Inside the Art Fair
Inside the Art Fair

Some of the artists showing include (in no particular order); Ian Gordon, Cathal MacGinley, Peadar McDaid, Heidi Nguyen , Mary Toland, Gay OToole and Nora Duffy. We had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with two of the exhibiting artists, Heidi Nguyen and Gay O’Toole. We met Cathal Mac Fhionnghaile/Cathal MacGinley when we visited Inishbofin last month.   Here is a selection of the work on display. 

Gay O Toole
Gay O Toole
Work of Gay O Toole
Work of Gay O Toole

 

Heidi Nguyen
Heidi Nguyen
Heidi Nguyen
Heidi Nguyen
Heidi Nguyen
Heidi Nguyen

 

Cathal Mac Fhionnghaile
Cathal Mac Fhionnghaile

 

Cathal Mac Fhionnghaile
Cathal Mac Fhionnghaile

 

Cathal Mac Fhionnghaile
Cathal Mac Fhionnghaile – we bought the middle one!
Ian Gordon
Ian Gordon
Ian Gordon
Ian Gordon
Maura McGlynn
Maura McGlynn

 

Nora Duffy
Nora Duffy
Nora Duffy
Nora Duffy
Nora Duffy
Nora Duffy

 

Mary Toland
Mary Toland
Sarah Lewtas
Sarah LewtasKarol Mac Geirbheith

Karol Mac Geirbheith

Karol Mac Geirbheith

Karol Mac Geirbheith

Karol Mac Geirbheith
Karol Mac Geirbheith

 

 
Peadar McDaid
Peadar McDaid

 

Peadar McDaid
Peadar McDaid – we also bought the middle one (top row).

 

As our house is already over flowing with paintings we generally don’t buy other people’s art (although I have one painting by Welsh landscape artist, Warren Heaton, in the bedroom) but we changed the habit of a lifetime yesterday and bought two small paintings at the art fair. I know that Séamas wanted to buy more. We left the two paintings on the wall with red stickers next to them (hoping that sign of success would encourage more sales) and will go back on Thursday to pick them up.

After so long in lockdown and avoiding people, it was really great to go out somewhere and to meet new people. Ionad Aislann certianly did its job of helping to strengthen the bonds between local community via cultural/artistic pursuits and leisure activities. It was well worth a visit and if you are in area I would highly recommend stopping by.  The Art Fair is on for several more days, from 12 to 5pm until this Thursday 14th October 2021. 

 

 

 

 

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Inishbofin, Donegal

Inishbofin Donegal (3)

Our visit to the island of Inishbofin last month was one of those rare “perfect” days in life.  The weather was warm and sunny with enough of a sea breeze to blow away any viruses. We have been looking and admiring from afar the tiny, remote island of Inishbofin, off the coast of Donegal, for quite a while now.

Location of Inishbofin
Location of Inishbofin, Donegal

Inishbofin, Donegal
Inishbofin, Donegal

It is 3km/2miles  from the pier at Machaire Uí Rabhartaigh / Magheraroarty  but that didn’t stop me painting the shoreline of the island a couple of years ago. I also wrote about the island (here) long before I ever got the chance to visit it.

Donegal Painting of Inishbofin
Across to Inishbofin

Donegal landscape painting
Storm Over Inishbofin

Emma Cownie

It is very easy to confuse the Donegal island with the more southerly Inishbofin near Galway on the internet as google likes to show you maps and ferry pages for the Galway island, even if you type in “Ferry times inishbofin, Donegal”. I think this must because a regular ferry service in Donegal was only started this summer by Harry Coll and his brother, Owenie. Harry has recently retired from his life as a fisherman in Killybegs, Donegal, and decided to buy a boat called Saoirse na Mara II ( which translates, I think, as “Freedom of the Sea II”) in order to run a daily ferry service to the island. As far as I can tell, they have not received any government funding to help them in their venture.

Inishbofin Ferry
Inishbofin Ferry

You will notice that the flyer for the ferry is in Irish and English. This is an Irish speaking area of Ireland, the Gaelteacht. This was the first place I heard Irish spoken this year, in fact.  Inishbofin is an Irish-speaking community and it was a real pleasure to hear people speaking Irish/Gaeilge,  although I could only pick out the odd word as I only have a very basic understanding of the language. We were told by the islanders that “Inishbofin” is  actually pronouced “Inish-bofin-yeay”. You can here that pronunciation in this Irish-language video here.

The name Inis Bó Finne means “island of the white cow” in English. The white cow, Glas Gaibhnenn, was owned by a blacksmith on the mainland but was stolen by Balor, the mythical one-eyed King of neighbouring Tory Island and hidden on Insishbofin. This wasn’t any old cow, it was a magical cow. It had huge teats that never ran dry which produced an unending supply of milk. Obviously, such production required a great deal of fuel and in no time the cow ate all the grass on the island and had to move on elsewhere. The island is tiny, a mere 2km long and 1km wide or about half a square mile/300 acres so I could well believe that the Bó Finne ate all the grass pretty quickly. Yet, although it looks tiny from the mainland yet it doesn’t feel that tiny when you are on the island.

Magheroarty Pier (Inishbofin is in the distance)
Saoirse na Mara II at the Magheroarty Pier (Inishbofin is in the distance)

The first inhabitants are believed to have been of Scandinavian origin, who arrived at the time of the Viking raids on Ireland’s coast in the C9th and C10th. Their descendants are thought to have been exterminated by Cromwellian soldiers in the mid-C17th. I wondered whether they had all been killed as I noticed that all the islanders had blue eyes, possibly suggestive of Scandinavian genes. Subsequently the island was settled by mainlanders from Donegal escaping oppression, poverty and famine. We met one islander who jokingly said his family had “recently” moved to the island,  in the 1840s.

Map of Inishbofin
Map of Inishbofin

It is said that the islands potatoes, like those of neighbouring Tory Island were unaffected by the potato blight which destroyed the main food source of Ireland’s peasantry in the mid-C19th. The blight, and other factors (such as criminal mismanagement of resources by the British Government) led to An Gorta Mór  or “The Great Hunger“; starvation and famine fever which led to over a million deaths and mass emigration.

Approaching Inishbofin
Approaching Inishbofin

As recently as the 1960s, a population of roughly 120 islanders enjoyed a tranquil, if tough, existence, fishing and farming. Nowadays, only a few islanders spend all year on the island, farming on a part-time basis. Many of the houses on the island  have been renovated, mostly for use as holiday homes. From March to October many of the former inhabitants return to fish for lobster, crab and Atlantic salmon, or to gather shellfish and pick edible seaweeds such as cairrigin (carrageen) and creathnach (dulse) from the rocks. Other families move back for the school holiday in the summer months. The new ferry service has made visiting the island even easier for families and day trippers.

Irish moss or carrageen moss (Irish carraigín, "little rock" from wikipedia
Irish moss or carrageen moss (Irish carraigín, “little rock” from wikipedia

The morning we visited the island there were lots of people waiting at the Magheraroarty Pier for the ferry and the Coll brothers made several trips to bring them all over to the island. The trip only took ten minutes and the sea was smooth.  Stepping off the ferry we were transported to a tranquil and calm world. All the time I was on the island  I saw one car and heard only birdsong and the wind. It was bliss.

The Pier at Inishbofin
The Pier at Inishbofin

Inisbofiners working on a roof

Inishbofiners working on a roofDrying in the sun

Drying in the sun

Muckish Mountain on the Horizon
Muckish Mountain on the Horizon

The island has two halves connected by a narrow, sandy col. There are two villages on the island, one near the harbour of An Clachan (Cloghan), and the other a short distance away at An Garradh Ban, also known as East Town.

Painting of houses at Clogan, Inishbofin
Road through Cloghan, Inishbofin, Emma Cownie

Map of Inishbofin from www.boffinferrydonegal.com

Map of Inishbofin from http://www.boffinferrydonegal.com

The southern half of the island is fertile and was cultivated in the past in the traditional “clachan and rundale” manner, involving communal usage of scarce arable soil and cattle pasture. The ancient field boundaries are still in place, though the fields have now reverted to grassland, providing essential habitat for geese and especially corncrakes – flourishing here, unlike in the rest of the country.

Corncrake
Corncrake

Aerial View of Inishbofin (from Inishbofin Ferry facebook page)

Aerial View of Inishbofin (from BoffinFerryDonegal.com facebook page)

The islanders are very friendly and several people stopped to chat to us to tell us about the island. They have a reputation for speaking to visitors (preferably in Irish Gaelic, but in English too) and like telling stories about the island and its history. One of the islanders, Daniel,  mentioned the mystery of the missing millionaire. In 1933 Arthur Kingsley Porter, a professor of Fine Arts at Harvard University, bought Glenveagh Castle in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains and made it his home. He also built a house on Inishbofin which he used for weekend breaks with his wife. On the morning of 8th July 1933 Kingsley Porter disappeared after going for a walk the morning after a massive storm, and was never seen again.

Arthur Kingsley Porter
Arthur Kingsley Porter

Conspiracy theories abound. Had he accidentally fallen from a cliff or had he taken his own life? Had Arthur been murdered? Or had he faked his own death and re-emerged with a new identity on mainland Europe? All of these are a possibility, as Arthur was gay at a time when it was illegal and regarded as deeply shameful (50 states criminalized same-sex sexual activity until 1962). To make things worse, Harvard, Arthur’s employer was running an anti-gay campaign. The college held a secret court to expose and expel gay students and faculty. Two students, accused of being gay, had already died by suicide. Arthur was fearful his homosexuality would be revealed and there would be a scandal. So here we have a possible motive for suicide.

Lucy and Arthur
Lucy and Arthur

At the inquest – the first to be held in Ireland without a body – his widow, Lucy, told of her frantic six-hour search with local fishermen. “I think my husband must have slipped off the cliffs, fallen into the sea and been carried away,” she said. Some of the islanders thought that his wife might have done away with him. Yet at the same time there were rumours of a boat that had been seen near the island at the time of his disappearance. If anyone had the money to start a new life in a new country it was Arthur, and Arthur knew Paris with its gay nightlife well as he had studied there as a student in 1923. I suspect however, that if he had started a new life in Paris, he would have eventually been recognised by one of the many American emigrées who also lived there.

Boats on Inishbofin
Boats on Inishbofin

Anchorage on Inishboffin is too exposed to leave boats afloat and so they are pulled up onto the foreshore.

Inishbofin Panorama (Donegal)
Inishbofin Panorama (Donegal), Emma Cownie

Inishbofin has witnessed a number of maritime tragedies. In 1929 an island fishing boat was cut in half by a steamer in thick fog off Bloody Foreland, and all but one man drowned. Another boat was swamped in 1931 in the “keelie”, the sound between Inishboffin and InishDooey. During the Second World War, in December 1940, a Dutch ship by the name of Stolwiik broke down after leaving a covoy in a westerly gale. The Arranmore lifeboat made truly heroic rescue of the crew. Read more about it here.

The old phone box - once the island's only phone
The old phone box – once the island’s only phone

The island has a stunning coastline and a view that include Mount Errigal, the Seven Sisters and seascapes stretching from Cnoc Fola to Tory Island.

An oil painting of Inishbofin island, Donegal, Ireland.
A Passing Cloud on Inishbofin, Ireland, Emma Cownie

View from Inishbofin
View from Inishbofin

I will end with some a film and some paintings of Inishbofin by the very talented artist Cathal McGinley. His paintings were on exhibition in the parish hall on the island – my photos aren’t great but I hope you get a sense of the intense colours and energy of the paintings. Cathal chatted to us outside his beautiful cottage for over an hour and kindly gave us a cup of tea and a bag of carrigeen.

It was quite a shock getting off the ferry at  the busy pier at Magheroarty after the incredible peace of the island. We will be back.

Cahill McGinley's Cottage (with origami scuplture)
Cathal McGinley’s Cottage (with origami scuplture)

Cahill McGinley
Cathal McGinley

Cahill McGinley
Cathal McGinley

Cahill McGinley
Cathal McGinley

Cahill McGinley exhbition on Inishbofin
Cathal McGinley exhbition on Inishbofin

Getting there – The Ferry 

The journey only takes 10 minures (weather permitting)

To book the ferry from Magheroarty Pier to Inishboffin Island:
– Telephone Harry on 087 4345892
– Text – Whatsapp – Viber message to 087 4345892
– Email on: boffinferrydonegal@gmail.com
– Social media (facebook / Instagram) www.boffinferrydonegal.com

Find out more about Inishbofin 

Inishbofin & Inishdooey (Co. Donegal)

About the Corncrake

https://www.corncrakelife.ie/inishbofin-and-inishdooey

More about the mysterious “death” of Arthur Kingsley Porter

https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/highlights/1237410-the-disappeanance-of-american-millionaire-arthur-kingsley-porter/

Mystery of Glenveagh’s lost millionaire comes to the fore

About the boats and maritime incidents

see the excellent book Donegal Islands, by Ros Harvey and Greg Wallace (2003)

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The Stillness of Summer

Paintings of Donegal by Emma Cownie

Before I moved to Donegal, if you had asked me to name a constant feature of Donegal weather, I would have said the wind.  Don’t get me wrong – the air here is refreshing. It’s like drinking water when you are thirsty.  My husband says its the negative ions. There is usually a breeze, sometimes its a gentle one but in autumn and winter it can become a punishing gale that howls around the house, making it hard to sleep at night.

We have a grey breezy day here today, with rain forecast for later. Hopefully the breeze will help blow away the midges that are hanging around our garden.  Midges, if you havent come across them  before, are tiny flying insects that, at best annoy you and at worst bite you. The Irish version may or may not be related to the infamous Highland version, I am not sure. Yesterday afternoon we watched them swarming in a cloud outside our kitchen door! They like grey damp days, not like the days in my three paintings!

These paintings attempt to capture this summer’s stillness when there was very little breeze and it was uncharacteristically hot. Clouds are usually a feature of the skies here but there were several days when there were none.  It’s climate change manifesting itself in these spates of hot summer days and (soon to come) fierce autumn and winter storms.

Painting of houses Meenacladdy Donegal Ireland
Meemacladdy, Donegal, Ireland

Landscape painting of houses at Lines, Marameelan
Electricity Lines, Marameelan (Donegal)

Painting of Irish house in Donegal
Not a Cloud in the Sky (Bloody Foreland)

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Settling in

Emma Cownie - Settling In

In my empty studio
In my empty studio

Someone told me that once we got to Ireland, “it will be like being on holiday everyday!” Hmmm,  I have had some pretty eventful holidays in the past. Funny how the disasters are more memorable that the sunny easy holidays. Let me see. Here are three that come to mind; we once got flooded in a campsite in Yorkshire, had a sleepless night holding on to the tent during a gale at a campsite in the South of France, and finally we drove a tempermental campervan around Ireland a decade ago. It only started some of the time. A helpful Polish guy got it started very early in the morning so we could catch the ferry in Wexford.

Knockfola, Donegal
Knockfola, Donegal

So far, this “holiday-everyday-life” is proving to be pretty good (that’s a English understatement, by the way). There were quite a few “bumps” to start with, however. A lot of things seem to go wrong at the same time.  At first we could not get into the studio, as the door lock was jammed, then one of our dogs, little Mitzy had a stroke (the vets was over an hour’s drive away), Bingo the cat got lost and finally the toilet flooded and we couldn’t use it for several days. 

The studio makers sent someone all the way from County Tyrone to replace the lock so we could get in! The vets kept Mitzy in over the weekend and thank to a pile of drugs and lots of basket-rest, she has recovered well. Her balance isn’t great and her head is at a permanent tilt but she chase after the ball again and is still telling us what to do. 

Mitzy (with Séamas and Biddy)
Mitzy (with Séamas and Biddy)

Ann Marie at Burtonport Animal Rescue put out a notice on their facebook page, asking people to look out for Bingo, and it was shared many times. She gave us useful advice and support too. 

They do great work and need donations to keep up that great work. You can donate via this link.

Thankfully, Bingo came home late at night, after the traffic had died down.  The flooding toilet issue is more complicated, has been solved for the time being but will need some more work in future.  Don’t ask me to explain it. 

Donegal
This is my one and only summer drees

 We had a heatwave with unprecedent temperatures of 30 degrees celsius soon after we arrived. This was very unexpected and I had thrown out a lot of my clothes during the move and I only had one summer dress. Fortunately, I did have bathers so we could go for a swim in the sweathering heat. That was fantastic. The water was crystal clear and surprisingly warm (or not as cold as I thought it would be). 

Swimming at Cruit Island, Donegal
Swimming at Cruit Island, Donegal

As for painting. That was  bit more difficult. I was not able to paint for two months as I was either helping un/packing up the house,  paints were packed away  or I was just too exhausted to do anything. I knew it was going take a while to find my painting groove again as I needed to recover my energy levels and adjust to a new location.  I am very fussy about arranging my paints and the position of my easel and it took a while sort things out to my satisfaction. It took longer than I thought but I am getting there now.

Painting of Marameelan, Donegal
The Old House at Marameelan

What do I love about Donegal? The way it looks and sounds. Everytime we take a trip into the nearest town of Dungloe, to post a painting or to do our food shopping, I marvel at the views. At night, when I awake, I listen to the slience. I find it so relaxing. I had had enough of the noise of city life. Donegal is so beautiful too. There is so much abundant nature on our door step, quite literally under our feet. The length of the west coast of Ireland is called the Wild Atlantic Way,  and it really is wild in every sense.

A carpet of Flowers

A carpet of Flowers at Gweedore

Red deer, seen on ground 5 minutes walk from the cottage
Red deer, seen on land only 5 minutes walk from the cottage (photo by Séamas Johnston)

The weather is very mercurial. I thought I was used to rainy weather, living in Swansea in Wales, but this is something else. I may awake to thunder and downpours, but by lunchtime the sun is shining and the sky is full of fluffy clouds. Sometimes it may rain, the sun will come out and then it rains again, all in the space of ten minutes. Today, we are in the midst of a gale, that no one has seen fit to name, with 50 mile-per-hour winds. Standing outside in the buffeting winds is surprisingly envigorating.  I think its the negative ions.

Donegal Clouds
Donegal Clouds

It may be grey all all day or the sun might come out in a bit. Passing a window, I might be struck by the beauty of the clouds.  Sometimes I point them out to Seamas, or take a photo. Often just drink them in. I hope I never stop marvelling at them.

Come and Visit

In my Viewing Gallery
In my Viewing Gallery

We are now in a position to receive visitors to our private gallery, at the rear of Meadow Cottage, on a appointment only basis. We ask that social distancing is observed and that masks are worn inside the gallery.

Please call either our mobile no.s +44 782757 4904 or

+353 87963 5699 or landline +353 74 959 1593 to book a viewing.

Séamas and I look forward to seeing you

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Up Bloody Foreland, Donegal

Up Bloody Foreland

Bloody Foreland is one of my favourite locations in Donegal. It is one of the wildest, windiest and most beautiful places I have been. The light is sharp and clear.  You feel healthier for breathing the air here.

House on Cnoc Fola
House on Cnoc Fola

The wind is always blowing. It is very remote and feels a bit like the edge of the known-world.

Derelict house, Bloody Foreland
A derelict house, Bloody Foreland

The name Bloody Foreland (Cnoc Fola in Irish means Hill of Blood) does not to refer to some past battle that took place here in mythic times, but  intense red hue of the rocks at sunset. The Irish language dominates here.

Folklore records that Balor, the one-eyed supernatural warlord was eventually slain by his grandson Lugh Lámh Fhada on the slopes of Cnoc Fola. Indeed, some say that the tide of blood which flowed from Balor’s evil eye stained the hillside and gave it its name.

Bloody Foreland, Donegal
Bloody Foreland, Donegal

I particularly like the incredible stone walls, made of massive granite boulders, that snake across the hills here. They date from the 1890s. They suggest to me a landscape where stones were plentiful and labour cheap. It is also the sort of place where writers come to get away from the modern world and think about writingDylan Thomas, travelled to An Port, further south to write poetry, but left without paying his bills.

Old Farm BuildingsOld Farm Buildings, Bloddy Foreland 

Bloody Foreland,  also makes a refreshing contrast to the slopes of Brinlack and Derrybeg, round the corner, which are heavily peppered with larger modern houses and bungalows from the era of “Bungalow Bliss“.

Houses on Bloody Foreland, Donegal
Houses on Bloody Foreland, Donegal

This is the first time that I have been able to paint Ireland whilst in Ireland. Previously, I have worked from my photos back in Wales. Now I think that being surrounded by these colours all the time is affecting my work in a different way.

I am experimenting a little with less detail and letting my under painting show through more – to give a greater sense of the roughness of the landscape here. I am feeling my way. I don’t know how my paintings will develop in the future, but not knowing is a sort of freedom from painting the same thing in the same sort of way.

Painting of Houses on Bloody Foreland

Up Bloody Foreland, Donegal

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Made it to Ireland!

In my studio

Here’s a photo-story about our move to Ireland. The photos are all by Séamas Johnston, my husband. He is also the architect of the move, the new studios and our new life. He’s been amazing. It’s great to see all his hard work finally come together.

Packing the Car, Brynmill, Swansea
Packing the Car, Swansea (before much stuff was packed)

Packing at Swansea
Endless Packing! It felt never ending.

Lateral Flow Test
Lateral Flow Test – one line means no covid. We discover that our tonsils are not that dangley bit at the back of your throat.  We also did a PCR test but there are no photos of that.

Ivrine
Irvine Moving Solutions –  they are moving our stuff – we saw their van coming off the Belfast ferry at Birkenhead!

Birkenhead Ferry
Stena Line Ferry Terminal at Birkenhead, Liverpool. It was a long wait to get on.

Early Morning Belfast
The otherside of the Irish Sea. Early Morning Belfast from the ferry

Meadow Cottage
How everything has grown at Meadow Cottage!

Meadow Cottage Studio
The studio window

Studio windows
Séamas reflected in the studio windows

Cat Patrol
Hattie doing “Cat Patrol with her eyes” on a new view

Multi-fuel Stove
We ALL love the new multi-fuel stove!

My new Studio
Finally, I am in my beautiful new studio. It was made by L E Haslett & Co. in Tyrone https://www.facebook.com/lehaslett

Studio view
I love the view from the studio. I cant wait until my stuff arrives from storage and I can get back to painting.

Just to warn you. I have access to wifi this weekend (on a 3 day trial) but we decided to use a different company for our internet but they can’t install it for another 10 days so my responses will be delayed. My business remains closed until the middle of this month (July 2021).

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Shut for a Month

Painting of Port Eynon and Horton from Salt House, Gower
Port Eynon and Horton from Salt House, Gower (A recent commission)

 

Just a quick notice to say that my shop on this website (www.emmafcownie.com),  and shops on Artfinder.com and  Singulart.com will be closed for a month from today. This is to cope with final packing, tidying up and a million and one things we have to do before leaving Wales as well as the period of self-isolation we have to undergo in Donegal (14 days, possibly less, depending on the results of our PCR tests after day 5).

It’s all exhausting and very nerve racking.

You can still buy my prints on Artmajeur.com. or make an equiry about a commission

Wish us luck!

 

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Summer Newsletter 2021

Here’s my summer newsletter. I am shutting up shop for a  month from 20th June to 20th July. All going well, we will be safely installed and open for business (online at least) in Donegal by mid-July. I am already longing to get back to my painting routine.  I can’t quite  believe that after being ground so long by my broken leg and the pandemic that we will actually move house/studio to another country by then. It’s a huge step!  Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly!

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Getting Ready to Move

Getting Ready to Move

I like this painting. I  find it very calming. I especially like the clouds. I also like the emptiness of the beach. That is something I aspire to in my home.

View from Dunmore Strand (Donegal)
View from Dunmore Strand (Donegal)

This painting is actually wraped in bubblewrap in in the upstairs hallway. It had been hanging in our bedroom with three others for a couple of weeks. They had been refugees. They were evacuated from my attic studio because I had needed to paint the ceiling.  I have since painted the bedroom wall. I still have the floor to finish.

Almost painted!
Almost painted!

All of my other paintings are wrapped in bubblewrap and stored elsewhere.  We are in the midsts of packing up and redecorating the house to put it on the market and move to Ireland. It is a mammoth task. The more we do the more it seems to grow.  We are at the wall-papering-and-painting-floors stage. I say “we” but  I should say “he”. My husband, Séamas, has done 98%  of it.  He has spent months and months working at it. I have been putting stuff in boxes and labelling them. I have only recently started helping with the decorating. It is exhausting. I wake up every morning and think, “I am so tired”. It has taken me weeks but I am 80% there. Unfortuantely, I feel like I have been 80% there for several weeks now. I once read somewhere that you should start packing a month before you intend to move. I have been doing this for at least three!

I initially spent months trying to pretend it was not happening because I found the thought of it too stressful. I am not alone, many people (only 40% amazingly)  say that moving house is more stressful than going through a divorce and most people (60%)  say they are put off moving because of the change involved. That’s me.

I have been getting rid of stuff for well over a year and a half now. I started with selling my surf boards on ebay then my old academic books on Amazon, but the pandemic put a stop to that. I have been getting rid of other stuff lately; clothes, china, novels, picture frames. I have found it utterly exhausting and it provokes all sorts of emotions, not all of them pleasant. There is a wierd sort of grieving in throwing things out.

A visit to the Council Dump (sorry, Recycling Centre) is one of my favourite things to do. It takes so much emotional and physical energy to get stuff there, it’s a joy to come home without it. There has been the occasional jumper or pair of shoes that I decided to keep or put on ebay rather than send to a charity shop, but mostly it’s gone. I cant believe how much stuff I still have. It’s like a bottomless pit. Everytime I think I am getting there I open another cupboard or wardrobe and find more! Our house certainly has a lot of storage space.

This process has been like shedding many “skins” that I inhabited in the past.  One skin has been the academic books from when I was a lecturer and researcher in Medieval History. Another were the “tidy” clothes and lots of History books and DVDs, from when I was a school teacher.  I threw out a lot of running gear. I have accepted that after breaking my leg so badly that I will never pound the streets for exercise again. So the boots and shoes with anything but the flatest of heels went for the same reason.  I also finally admitted to myself that I will never go back into the classroom as a teacher. It has been 4 years now. Who am I kidding? I didn’t renew my teacher’s licence this year. What a relief. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was sent a renewal notice. Never mind. It amounts to the same thing.

This has made me see how we gather “stuff” around us. I think I do it to give myself a sense of security and identity.  Maybe this is because I moved house a lot as a child. I lived in 5 houses in three different parts of the country and went to 7 different schools before I was aged 11.  Apparently,  moving house when you are a child isn’t terribly good for you. Setting off for university, my father had to tell me to decant part of my record collection because there just wasn’t enough space in his car for my stuff and us! He had to bring it all back at the end of term too! As an adult I have lived in three different cities; Cardiff, London and Swansea. We have been in Swansea for 21 years. I have gathered a lot of “moss” that time. Séamas has also gathered a fair bit of DIY stuff,  those sealing guns in particular (see illustration).

Sealing/Caulking Gun
Sealing/Caulking Gun

I don’t know where I get my hoarding from. Not my mother that’s for sure. She has been doing her version of Swedish Death Cleaning for years. “Welsh Death Cleaning”, you could call it. It is a sort of a minimalism for older people. She very disciplined about clearing stuff out so that she can either a) move smaller one day or b) so we don’t have to do this when she is no longer with us.  No object or piece of clothing stays in my parents home for very long if a) it is no longer worn on a regular basis b) regularly used or c) very decorative. Otherwise, off it goes to the local charity shop. Many years ago, when my sister moved to London “temporarily” to do an MA at the Royal College of Art, she left her old Morris Minor car at my parent’s house . After a few years, when it was it clear that she wasn’t moving back home, my mother sold the car. She gave the money to my sister.  Jane is still a bit mifted about it. If you left to her it would still be in the drive! I guess all that moving house over the years taught my mother discipline.

When we bought this house over 20 years ago, I declared I was never going to move house again. My mother said that’s what women say after giving birth, but most of them go on to have more children! Yes, life has a way of making you eat your words. Here I am preparing to move house.

My tendancy to gather of stuff accelerated after I had my breakdown. I once tried to do the Marie Kondo thing (in fact I found a few rolled up in my airing cupboard Maire Kondo-style) but I got overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep it up. I lacked the energy to do anything much, let alone decide what to chuck out and then do it. It is a form of hoarding.  Yes, it’s an ugly word.  I am not as bad as those poor souls they make TV programmes on Channel 5 about, yet. I am still somewhere on that unpleasant spectrum. It’s a sort of compulsion. I can’t let go. Breaking my leg, didn’t help either. When everyone else was decluttering in the early days of the first lockdown, I was confined to the bedroom! Then, when I was ready to get rid of stuff, all the non-essential charity shops were shut! For months.

The strange thing is that once I have cleared space, I can see and appreciate what I have choosen to keep better. I now look at stuff and think, do I really need that? I go back to the packed boxes and take things out; thinking: why did I pack that? It’s like the ebb and flow of the sea. I clear out stuff, feel some satisfaction and then I find more stuff and have to go through the process all over again.  The other side of the coin is that twice yesterday, I went to find something, only to realised that I had chucked it out!

I need to be tougher and get rid of more stuff. I follow “Be more with Less” decluttering account on Instagram in the hope that some of the inspirational quotes will sink in. I know I have a long, long way to go.  The only “skin” I want now is that of an artist and blogger. I don’t kid myself that I won’t buy more stuff in the future, but I hope I will be better at shedding it more regularly. I will be following my mother’s example! She’ll laugh at that!

Here’s another of my recent paintings, it was also hanging in the bedroom.

Painting of Three Chimneys Arch, Gower
Three Chimneys Arch, Gower

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Selling Art Online

Selling Art Online

I was delighted to be asked to do an interview with Toby Buckley for the Net Gallery  about selling art and marketing. It was published recently on the “Artist Virtual” section of their site.  I thought I would post it here too:-

Stock Image

With successive lockdowns resulting in the closure and cancellation of many of the galleries, markets, festivals and art fairs that artists rely on to make a living, 2020 and 2021 have seen many artists trying their hands at online sales for the first time. To help anyone taking a jump into the online marketplace, we spoke to Swansea- and Donegal-based artist, Emma Cownie, to get some expert advice.

Emma’s distinctive oil paintings have featured in exhibitions around the UK and are even available from lifestyle giants John Lewis, but she doesn’t rely on these outlets to get her work out there. Spending “at least 50%” of her day marketing, Emma mastered the art of online art sales long before lockdown, selling over 200 pieces, originals and prints (many of which went directly to collectors) in 2018 alone.

Primarily selling work through her own online gallery, Emma has also sold work via online sales platforms like Artfinder and Singulart.

TNG: How did you come to settle on your current sales methods?

Emma Cownie (EC): My original sales methods came from the idea of being a “creative entrepreneur” which meant involving collectors and followers in the creation of my work. I did this mainly via blogs which described the creative process, from initial thoughts, going to actual locations, images created, then the painting process, right through to descriptions of the art when placed online. This allowed followers of my work to have an emotional stake in my work, to be part of its creation.

I have retained collectors from this formative period. It has always been important to bring followers with me on a creative journey, so that they are part of the process, buying one’s work, encouraging me as an artist via comments, likes and support. They are part of the process… Art is not created in a vacuum, and shouldn’t be sold in one either.  This is especially true when the places I paint, as landscape paintings, have personal attachment to followers and collectors also. In fact, they often purchase work of places close to their heart. I like to blog about work and my inspirations even today. Art can be remote sometimes so I feel it should instead gather people in.

TNG: How can an artist make the most of social media to boost their sales? 

EC: Social media is essential to boosting sales, to the uploading of new work and to the celebration of new sales. It keeps collectors and followers up to date on your artistic journey and lets them share in your success and development. An artist’s promotion is often done by people on social media who like your work. It is important to engage with other artists too, supporting each other via shares, comments and likes.

Most sales are a product of a network of social interactions with supporters and it is important to keep busy online. The more one interacts, the more one’s work seems to become visible which in turn helps sales… I also use social media to engage with followers about my work and it’s creation, and this helps too.

TNG: What is the first thing you’d recommend to someone who is trying to get their online art sales off the ground?

EC: Be yourself. By that I mean, collectors are looking for original work, art they have not seen before. They are not looking for derivative work. Novelty and originality are strong selling points. So it is important to develop a style of painting that is distinctively your own.

TNG: You have written that positivity is a key factor in selling art online. Why do you think celebrating success is so important in online sales? 

EC: When I post an image of a painting when it has sold, it invariably gets more likes and comments than when posted originally. Collectors and fans like to know an artist is succeeding. Collectors like reassurance about your qualities as an artist and that they are buying a quality piece that will keep its inherent value (obviously the value may also increase through time). They also like to see an artist developing and to be part of that journey in some way. Buying their work makes them intrinsic to that development.

Sales also confirm a collector’s taste in spotting talent, that it is just not them who sees an artist’s talent.

The Glynn Vivian, Swansea

TNG: What should an artist include in their bio to make themselves appeal more to potential buyers? 

EC: Collectors like to know if an artist has exhibited in “brick and mortar” galleries too and whether you have work in private collections around the world. I have found that a bio should contain pertinent personal information too. In my case, I started painting in a more concentrated manner following a car crash and painting helped me through the post-traumatic consequences of the crash. Painting helps me in my daily life. Some find this inspiring and it helps them understand where I am coming from.

I also mention my own inspirations and how they shape my work and my style of painting. This also gives them insight into where I am coming from in terms of art history.

TNG: How important are high-quality artwork images, and how would you recommend creating these?

EC: It is essential to upload high-quality artwork images. It is important that the images are as accurate as possible in representing the work. Collectors are relying on this when purchasing art online and remotely… I usually photograph on a greyish, overcast day too.

I get frustrated by artists who clearly have used a flash on their camera to photograph work as it can be seen in the bleaching out of the colours on one side of the painting… If you’re not using natural light, then artificially light a painting from both sides simultaneously. If an artist does not take their work seriously enough to photograph properly it sends out a negative message to collectors.

TNG: What’s more important when pricing works – a wide range of prices to appeal to all wallets or a consistent price that emphasises the value of the work? 

EC: Both. My first slogan was ‘Quality Art At Affordable Prices’ which had a range of prices from £30 to £900. As my work has sold over the last 8 years, my prices have incrementally risen. My most expensive painting is £2500, as I still want more people to feel that they can buy art, that it is not an elitist activity, everyone can and should own art as it is so uplifting and adds such value to one’s life. It is a gift that keeps giving.

I would offer a range of prices based on size of canvas used but have enough small, reasonably priced paintings to get sales going and to boost confidence. It is a great feeling selling art. It motivates you to do the same again.

It is important that prices rise in line with sales, however, and work should be priced accordingly.  Make incremental changes every time you sell and prices will keep going up but not in a way that discourages sales.

Art by Emma Cownie

The two artworks below, Suburban Cottage and With a Road Running Through It, were created using a minimal style that Emma has been developing over the last 4 years. We asked Emma to tell us a bit more about each piece.

Suburban Cottage by Emma Cownie. Image courtesy of the artist.

Suburban Cottage – “This is an urban minimal oil painting of Sketty, a middle class suburb of Swansea in Wales.  “Urban Minimal” was a deliberate attempt to simplify my paintings in a style similar to the American Minimalists. Much of my work has been influenced by American realists and minimalists. Urban minimalist paintings were painted in accordance with my ‘rules’ for composition and painting:

  • No cars
  • No People
  • Bright light. There must be shadows – at diagonals if possible.
  • Simplified forms – there must be little detail in the final painting. I found this the most challenging ‘rule’ to stick to.

“I wanted to explore the interplay of the geometry of shadows and man-made structures – the tension between the 3D buildings and the 2D shadows, the simplified blocks of colour.”

With a Road Running Through It by Emma Cownie. Image courtesy of the artist.

With a Road Running Through It – “I painted a series of paintings of cottages on the island of Goal, off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. I tried to paint in a style similar to that of ‘urban minimal’. These ‘rural minimal’ pieces pared paintings down to the basics. Minimal texture, simple but interesting compositions, strong light and  shadows, all intended to create a sense of the still, the quiet, a moment in life that is both now and eternal.”

Article by Toby Buckley.

To learn more about Emma Cownie and her work, be sure to check out her website: https://emmafcownie.com. You can read more of her advice about online art sales in her article on Medium. 

Toby Buckley

Read the original article here 

The Net Gallery