Posted on 5 Comments

From Fall Island

Painting of Donegal, Ireland

I like to explore nooks and crannies and I usually use a map to help me. This way I can find interesting scenes to paint. I love looking at maps but I didn’t have one in Donegal. I thought I’d get one with the hire car but instead we were given a Stat Nav (Satellite Navigation).  You can’t spend hours looking at the lay of the land on a Stat Nav. It spent the holiday in the boot of the car. I thought we’d get one in a filling station but in Ireland you don’t fill up your own car and wander into the garage shop to look at car related stuff and packets of sweet, you have a friendly young chap filing your car up for you! We sort of knew where we were going. My husband, Seamas, had spent hours “driving” down the roads and lanes of Donegal on Street View Google.

Fall Island, Donegal
The Lone House on Fall Island

So, in the spirit of adventure I turned off the coast road, which runs from the airport to Dungloe, in search of the sea. The roads are narrow but fortunately we didn’t meet anyone coming the other way. After following an undulating single track road, it widened out and then seemingly vanished over a hill into the sea. I didn’t fancy doing a lot of reversing so I parked up to explore on foot.  Over the other side of the rise was the beach. It was low tide. The track I’d been on ran down to beach and then started up again on a island on the other side of the beach.

Fall Island, Donegal
Beach between Fall Island and the mainland

This is Fall Island and it is only 300 metres long. There is only one lone house on the island. The house was shut up for the winter.

The Rosses
The rocky Rosses

I was fascinated by the rocky landscape and the houses perched on the rocks.  These rocks are made of granite. Granite is an igneous rock which it was once magma which crystallised as it cooled down. It’s a dense and useful rock. It can be cut, carved and shaped. It is also resistant to water and pollution.

Painting of Errigal, Donegal, Ireland
From Fall Island

The granite rocks along the coastline are massive. Monumental. Their edges smoothed by the sea and the wind.

Fall Island, Donegal
View from Fall Island

See all my Donegal paintingsfor salehere 

Posted on 26 Comments

My review of 2018 (part 1)

Emma Cownie's 2018 paintings

Life as an artist is a very insecure one, you never know where your next sale is going to come from. You can plan and prepare for exhibitions and work on your social media, but it’s impossible to know how many people will see and respond to them.

That’s why it’s really important to take stock, and celebrate the success you have achieved and thank all the supporters and collectors who have helped you over the year; whether it’s a positive comment on a blog post, a “like” on facebook or an instagram post, the sale of a mounted print, a greeting card, a commission or the sale of a painting. They all help keep me going! You may not believe it, but artists have fragile egos (this one has, anyway) and they need encouragement, especially if they venture off into new directions, as I so often do.

Here’s a review of some of my sales of paintings and mounted prints from the first part of 2018. Many were sold via the online gallery Artfinder but increasing I have sold direct via my own website. Each painting is a unique work. I don’t paint generic people or landscapes. They are all real people and locations. In April’s collection you can see many of the Gower painting I did as part of the Gower Coastal Path Project. Bloggers’ comments and encouragement really helped me complete that project. Thank you, all.

Paintings by Emma Cownie
January Sales 2018
Paintings by Emma Cownie
February Sales 2018

Paintings by Emma Cownie

March Sales 2018

Paintings by Emma Cownie

April Sales 2018

My next post will  complete the review. Thank you to the brilliant people who have supported me and bought my work this year, I couldn’t do it without you!

Posted on 21 Comments

How I paint in the dark

Blog about artificial lighting for artists

Hedgehogs and bears have the right idea about winter.

Bear asleep
Is this the best way to spend winter?

They hibernate and miss the dark winter months. I am finding this winter quite a struggle. In the last fortnight most days have been characterised by gloomy skies and poor light quality. In previous years I have struggled to get much painting done. I have spent hours tapping away on the computer looking up at the black sky outside my window, waiting for the sun to rise so I can start painting, and then often abandoning work at 2pm when the light goes. The best light to paint by is undoubtedly daylight, and my attic studio is blessed with a lovely northern light, but I needed to extend my painting time, to keep working.

A couple of years ago I invested in a “Professional” artists’ light. It was pretty pricey at £60 ($75US) but I hoped it would be worth it. I think it helped me paint on for about half an hour after the light had faded but not much more.

Daylight Professional Artists Lamp (old version)
Daylight Professional Artists Lamp (old version)

So I decided to add to it with a photographer’s’ daylight lamp. These have screw fittings so I had to buy a converter so that it would fit the clip fitting that I also bought. The whole set up did not cost much more than £12 ($15) so just on price it was likely to beat the expensive artist’s light. The bulb arrived, but when I opened it up I was so surprised it’s strange appearance (it was easily twice the size of the regular light bulb) that I laughed so hard that I dropped it, and it and smashed! Drat (not my actual words). I then had to order another one and wait all over again for a new one to be delivered.

Photography Daylight White E27 Lighting Lamp Bulbs 135W 5500k
Don’t Laugh! Photography Daylight White E27 Lighting Lamp Bulbs

It was worth waiting for. It was pretty good. It was cheap too. So I got a second one to place either side of me. This enabled me to paint on for an hour and half after the light had gone. This year, I have gone for a “full-Hollywood-lighting” with three of these beauties blazing away. The artist’s light has been relegated to acting as handy arm to clip the photographers’ lights to! I don’t even bother to switch it on, anymore, unless it’s really dark.

How artists see to paint in the dark
The two photographers lights clipped on the bendy arm of the artist’s lamp.

Now I think I can paint any time of the day or night (almost). It’s best for augmenting natural light and extending painting times. In yesterday’s gloom I was still struggling to see pale yellows and light greens. I am very tempted to see what a fourth one will do for me.

Artificial light in an artists studio
Lights on in my attic studio
Oil paintings of Donegal, Ireland
Recent paintings of Donegal painted (partially) under artificial light

Interestingly, despite all this artificial light I find I still need my SAD lamp to keep me relatively cheerful and regulate my sleep patterns. I have found that if I don’t get a good shot of SAD light around 7pm I awake at 4am bright-eyed and decidedly grumpy. That extra burst of light helps tell my brain that I should not wake up until 6.30, at least. That’s the best I can do most days. I long to sleep in til 9am but for some reason I just can’t.

What do other artists do to keep working in the winter months? Or you sensibly, wrap up warm and go to sleep for four months like hedgehogs and bears?

Sleeping hedgehog
That looks so cosy!

Here’s another artist’s solution to the dark days of winter.

To see my landscape painting click here 

Posted on 31 Comments

Behind every cloud …

Donegal painting
“May the friendships you make, Be those which endure, And all of your grey clouds, Be small ones for sure” – Extract from an Irish Blessing “Behind every cloud is another cloud” – Judy Garland   I have had an ambivalent relationship with clouds. I prefer bright sunshine. I In fact I have obsessively looked for bright sunshine and shadows to paint.  I have found the relationship between objects and their shadows exciting.
Oil painting of light and shadows on a Swansea steet.
Up Sketty
  This can be difficult in Wales where we can get days or even weeks of overcast or wet days. So when the sun is out I go mad, rush all over the place taking reference photos to paint later in my studio.  I have been guilty of often portraying Swansea only in its best light.  Someone once said I made Swansea look like a Mediterranean country.   Don’t get me wrong, on a sunny day it’s beautiful place and I have painted dark and rainy scenes too (see below) but not the rain clouds as I prefered painting bright blues skies.
Painting of car in a rainy night street
The Driving Rain (SOLD)
Oil Painting of gas station in the rain
That Petrol Emotion (SOLD)
I have never really been happy with how I painted clouds. They never quite came off the way I wanted them to. The paintings looked fine but I had not enjoyed the process of painting them. For a long time I could not quite put my finger on what it was that I was finding dissatisfying about the experience.
Oil painting of Mumbles Head, Swansea
Clouds Gathering Over Mumbles Head
So I did a bit of research and read up on something called “scumbling” and watched a video on youtube demonstrating the technique. This is a way of applying paint with a dry brush to painted canvas. This way a broken layer of paint is added allowing the colour underneath to show through.  J.M.W. Turner was the king of scumbling. Think of that painting of his “Rain, Steam and Speed” where the steam train is emerging out of the clouds of rain and steam. This is my humble effort at scumbling.
Old painting of clouds in West Wales
A Change in the Weather
I was quite pleased with it but it did not pass the “praise test” with my husband, Seamas. He’s my most valued audience and source of feedback. It’s not that he didn’t like the painting, he just didn’t say anything at all about it. So I decided this technique wasn’t quite working for me. I watched a few more videos on Youtube where artists knocked off beautiful clouds in a matter of minutes. This just seem to make things worse. I swirled the paint around on the canvas and it all just felt “lumpy” to me.  I scrubbed the canvas. Humph. I decided Youtube videos were great for tips on mending jeans or adjusting security lights but not for painting techniques. I had to find my own way. Or truth be told, I forgot about it for a while. Finally, I think I have started to make a break-through. It came from being in another country, Ireland, where the skies are full of constantly changing clouds. This was something quite different to the light of Wales. To start with I tried to painting bright sunshine, as I do in Wales.
Irish Cottage, Arranmore, Donegal, Ireland
On The Way To Arranmore
Round the Rosses
Round the Rosses (SOLD)
I like the light in these painting a lot. Then I was tempted by the landscape to explore the changing skies too. You can’t paint Mount Errigal without a swath of clouds around its shoulders.
Under the Shadow of Errigal
Under the Shadow of Errigal (SOLD)
I started to get sucked into the drama of the Donegal skies. I slowly discovered the key, for me anyway, is very thin layers of paint. After all, clouds are just water vapour. They are made of tiny fine particles of water. They are not solid things and this was where I had been going wrong, making them solid things. They are not. Ironically, this is what exactly what the Youtube videos were showing me but I needed to find my own way of doing it. I didn’t like painting a layer of opaque blue and then adding cloud on top. I prefered a number of very thin layers of paint.  The natural colour of the linen canvas I use, actually helped contribute to the colour of the “dirty” rain clouds.
Mount Errigal from Ballymanus Beach, Donegal
Mount Errigal from Ballymanus Beach, Donegal (SOLD)
So my clouds got thinner and finer.
Painting of Owey Island, West Donegal, Ireland.
Over to Owey Island, West Donegal, Ireland
So that a puff of wind would move them along. Or light luminate them.
Painting of view from Burtonport to Arranmore, Donegal, Ireland,
From Ferry Coll
So, I have started painting “overcast” pictures where the light is slivery rather than golden. I can be a challenge because the light affects all the colours, the greens are flater and duller and I am using yellow ochre and naples yellow far more than I do painting sunny Welsh landscapes.
Oil painting of Dunfanaghy and Muckish, Donegal
Across to Dunfanaghy (SOLD)
Painting of Arranmore, Donegal. Finally, my favourite recent painting is the one I did of Muckish mountain. I loved the massive rounded clouds that seemed to be echoing the humped shape of the mountain.
Painting of Muckish, Donegal.
Shored up near Muckish
I have only started feeling confident painting clouds and I think I have some way yet to go. Fortunately, I won’t be short of clouds to paint in Wales and Ireland.    
Posted on 6 Comments

Christmas Cards

Art Christmas Cards for sale

For the next month I am selling a selection of Art Christmas cards based on my paintings direct from my website. This is an experiment as I have previously only sold paintings and prints direct. So here goes.

Christmas card of Chrickhowell
Crick in the Snow

 

Christmas card of sheep in snow
Sheep in Snow
Christmas card sheep in snow
Snow Drops

You can buy them in packs of 5 of the same design of a pack of 6 with two of each design. I am offering free postage but remember to leave enough time for delivery as the final postal dates are 18th (2nd class) and 21st (1st class) in the UK.

Buy Christmas Cards

Art Christmas cards by Emma Cownie
Selection of Christmas Cards
Posted on 20 Comments

Over to Owey Island

Blog about Owey Island Donegal, Ireland

I love painting the coast, particularly if it’s rocky. Owey Island, lies just a short distance off Cruit Island near Kincasslagh in west County Donegal. Strictly speaking there have been no permanent residents since the 1970s. [Photos from http://www.welovedonegal.com/islands-owey.html]

There is no electricity or mains water, yet plenty of people visit and many visit during the summer months. If you want to visit, there is a ferry service run by Dan the Ferryman.

View of Ireland From Owey Island: Ian Miller
View of Ireland From Owey Island (Ian Miller)

The name Owey, in Irish Gaelic “uaigh”, means cave. The island is a cavers, kayakers and rock climbers’ paradise.

The island is encircled by massive rock stacks and it also has an underground lake. As I am cave-phobic this video is the closest I will ever get to it!

I am fascinated by rock stacks and Donegal has plenty of them. I like to think of how these massive structures have gradually been eroded by wind and waves over thousands of years, forming first sea arches and then stacks.

I also love the colour of the rocks and the wild Atlantic Ocean. The ocean is incredible shades of blues, greens and mauves, mixed in with browns and frothing surf. Although I feel I am getting better at representing the layers of Donegal sky and clouds, but capturing the movement of the seas is still frustrating me.

Painting of Owey Island, West Donegal, Ireland.
Over to Owey Island (SOLD) 

 

If you to find out more about Owey Island see Ian Miller’s Unique Ascent’s website for detailed descriptions and incredible videos.

Just thought I’d add a post script about the “Holy Jaysus Wall”. I think if you look at photo of it you will understand the name. It makes me feel ill just looking at it!

Holy Jesus Wall, Owey Island
Holy Jesus Wall

Irish climber and alpinist John McCune, climbed it in 2014.

Here’s a fascinating film clip from the 1970s about Owey Island’s postman, Neil McGonagle, who used to visit the dwindling population on Owey Island by small boat four times a week to maintain the island’s contact with the outside world.

https://www.rte.ie/archives/2018/0205/938419-owey-island-postman/

Posted on 9 Comments

On the Way to ArranmoreArranmore

Painting of cottage near Arranmore, West Donegal, Ireland
Painting of Irish cottage, Arranmore, Ireland
On the Way to Arranmore

I wonder whether the post to Arranmore Island, Donegal, goes astray a lot. There are two other islands with similar names off the coast of Ireland and Scotland. There are the Aran Islands off Galway Bay to the south as well as the Scottish Isle of Arran. Arranmore or Árainn Mhór, in Irish Gaelic.

Map of Arranmore, Ireland
Map of Arranmore, Donegal

It lies off the west coast of County Donegal, Ireland. It is the largest inhabited island off County Donegal, with a population of 514 in 2011, down from 528 in 2006, 543 in 2002, and over 600 in 1996. The island is part of the Donegal Gaeltacht, with most of the inhabitants speaking Ulster Irish.

Painting of view from Burtonport to Arranmore, Donegal, Ireland,
From Ferry Coll

There is a frequent ferry service from Burtonport and this old cottage was spotted nestling into the rocks of one of many islands, Inishcoo, en route to Arranmore. There is no ferry service to the many little islands scattered off the coast of West Donegal. People get to these remote islands in their own little boats. There are landing stages and steps down to sea cut into the rocks. Of course, you could always swim to Inishcoo. Amazingly, the local cows do.

To buy any of my landscape paintings click here

Posted on 15 Comments

Christmas at Clyne

Emma Cownie Art stall Swansea
Emma Cownie Art stall Swansea
Emma Cownie Art at Clyne Christmas Market

Once-upon-a-time I worked full time as a teacher in school of just under 2,000 pupils and I would teach approximately 150 pupils in a day. That’s a lot of faces to put names to every day. I was pretty good at learning all those names too. These days, however, I might only speak to a handful of people in a day; my husband, my neighbour and local shopkeepers. So, when presented with an opportunity to met with and chat with to new people I relish it. Clyne Christmas market gave me a lovely opportunity to talk to all sorts of people.

I am pretty new to running a stall, I did it once about 4 years ago. I really enjoyed it back then but teaching commitments meant that I did not have the energy to keep doing it. That has changed now. I have the energy and the time to pursue this and yesterday I had a stall at the first Clyne Farm Christmas market. I realise that I have a lot to learn.

Clyne Farm sits on top of Clyne Common, high up above Swansea. It has sweeping views towards the sea-side village of Mumbles and across the massive Swansea Bay.

View From Clyne Farm Towards Mumbles
View Towards Mumbles (from the car park)

Once upon a time it was a riding stables but in recent times it has transformed itself into an top-class accommodation and activity centre.

 

Sparkly Bow Stall
Sparkly Bow Stall

Yesterday was their first Christmas Market and we were blessed with sparkling crisp sunshine. The photos above were taken in the first half an hour before it got busy. The crowds ebb and flow. After a quite half an hour, it is quickly jammed with families carrying babies wrapped up to the eyes in jump suits and bobble hats. The little girls are drawn to the “Sparkly Bow” stall further down my aisle. The table covered in glittery objects is exactly the right height to catch a 5-year-old’s attention – at eye-level.

This first onslaught is followed by another wave of families with dogs on leads, and in carried in their arms. There are lots of woolly coated “cockerpoos”  (Cocker Spaniels Crossed with Poodles) and some sharp-eyed border collies. They take in everything. Later as people leave for lunch in the other hall, it becomes calmer. People are clutching bags with their purchases. I recognise some people who came around earlier return to buy. It’s in the post-lunch calm that I make most of my sales. I chat with many of the people in the hall. My cards of Mumbles Pier starts a number of conversations about a controversial development of the Pier Head area that the local community (Mumbles Action Group) are currently fighting.

Clyne Christmas Market (with dog)
Clyne Christmas Market

I manage a quick break and visit some of the animals on the farm. I’d met Ted the collie and Flo the goat and her surrogate daughters, the sheep Brillo and Lucy, yesterday.

 

Ollie at Clyne Farm
Ollie the colt (6 months old)

Along a muddy tack there children’s pony rides on offer. I had to make a special journey along a different muddy path to see Peggy the Pig. She is massive. I give her a pat on her broad back and was surprised that her back was covered in bristles, not wiry hair. Her floppy ears cover her eyes, like nature’s sunshades, but it can’t be easy for her to see. I was told by Sarah who works at Clyne, that Peggy is pretty laid back and is a “morning” pig. She is active in the morning and spends her afternoons sleeping. Someone speculates that she’s a Gloucester Old Spot. I assume that they have only one big spot but looking it up later it seems that they were probably right and she’s an “Old Spot”.

Peggy the Massive Pig
Peggy the Pig at Clyne Farm

The hall is filled with bright sunshine but by the late afternoon, I’m starting to feel the cold. Although there’s carpet in the hall the concrete floor underneath is cold. I run to my car to fetch my woolly hat. As the afternoon wears on I notice that the tip of my nose is numb! After 5 hours in the hall, my feet are starting to feel like blocks of ice. The girl opposite me is wearing thin daps and ends up sitting on her chair with her feet tucked under her. At four o’clock the sun is low in the sky and someone mentions that there’s Christmas Parade in town at 4pm. That seemed to be the signal for the stall-holders to pack up and within minutes the hall is bustling with activity as the stalls are rapidly dismantled. I drive home with the sun setting over Clyne Common.

Emma Cownie at Clyne Christmas Market
Me and my stall at Clyne Market (my bag handles have just snapped!)

What I learnt

  1. Get new cash bag – my beautiful leather cash bag handle snapped as soon as I put it on. Although I tried to tie a knot in it, it kept coming undone.
  2. Thermal socks are needed (possibly 2 pairs).
  3. Clear prices on each rack. We had a price list but it was difficult for people to read it. Bull-dog clips or cardboard luggage labels are good for this.
  4. Paper bags for purchases – brown or white. Environmentally friendly and they look cool
  5. Camping chair – a wooden chair was hard to sit on all day.
  6. Paypal card reader or izettle for mobile payments. Not everyone has enough cash on them and you don’t want to lose sales
  7. Presentation is vital. Rustic chic is cool – I had wooden racks and a table easel but more wooden boxes for cards would be good. I learned a lot from Ed Harrison at Minnow across the hall. His presentation was excellent.

    Minnow at Clyne Market
    Minnow at Clyne Market
Posted on 16 Comments

Autumn Light on Three Cliffs Bay

Blog about painting Three Cliffs Bay, Gower by Emma Cownie

We didn’t get an “Indian Summer” in September, which when we usually get one in Wales. What we have had, instead, is a series of sunny days in late October/early November. The sparkling autumn light is stunning. From a painter’s point of view is more interesting than summer light. So last week I drove down to Three Cliffs Bay to enjoy the light. I was surprised by the dark blue of the calm sea. It was  quite a different colour from the summer sea.

Painting of Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, Wales
Three Cliffs Autumn Light

I was hoping that there would be plenty of orange bracken and there was. Not on the slope of the the Three Cliffs, as they are covered in grass, but on the slopes of Cefn Bryn, in distance.

Painting of Pobbles Bay, Gower
Painting of Pobbles Bay, Three cliffs, Gower

These colours sum up the Welsh landscape for me. In fact, I think I like the Welsh landscape in autumn/winter best. The red and the green of the bracken and the grass also put me in mind of the red and the green of the Welsh flag.

welsh_flag_wallpaper_by_magnaen-d36mhaj.jpg
Welsh Flag (an interpretation)
Painting of Great Tor, Three Cliffs Bay Gower
Light on Great Tor (Gower)

 

I find it ironic that there’s less light around but its better quality, from an artists’ point of view. I still have not adjusted to the clocks going back last month, and I am still waking at 5 -5.30am! It does not seem to matter what time I go to bed, I awake in the dark feeling ready to rise. So I get up and here I am tapping away at my computer in the dark waiting for the sun to rise. Soon I will have to get my SAD lamp out to stop the slow slide in winter gloom. Before, you ask, yes, SAD lamps work for me.

Does anyone else suffer from this problem? Does anyone have any tips for sleeping in later?

Update: I sat with my SAD lamp on for 20 minutes around 7 pm last night and it seemed to help me go back to sleep when I awoke at 4.30 am, and I didn’t get that “wake up” surge of hormones til 6.30. A definite improvement.

To buy landscape paintings of Gower click here

Posted on 43 Comments

Painting Dogs (and their owners)

Dogs x 3The people of Britain love their dogs. It is no secret that I love animals. I come from a family of animal lovers. My younger brother has three cockerpoo type dogs, my sister has a Cocker Spaniel called Dolly one and myself and my husband have two gorgeous mutts.

Animals can do no wrong in my family. I suspect that my mother would prefer to see photos of friends’ dogs rather than photos of their grandchildren!

So its no surprise that I often choose dogs (and their owners) as subjects for my art. I also love painting dogs as commission portraits.

I am not always terribly good at making eye contact with people when I am talking with them but when I am out walking, I will often catch the eye of a dog and a glance will pass between us. Perhaps, I am imagining this.

Dogs are cool. They live in the moment and know how to fully enjoy themselves. They love being out and about and enjoy seeing that. There is no joy like the joy of dog running free in the park or in the woods.

I like to try and see the world from their point of view. This usually means a low view point. Little Jack Russells are a favourite of mine. They have a big personality.

I particularly like to capture the body language between the dogs and and their humans. I am intrigued by the bond that links them. Even if they are just a dog and a human, they are a pack. The human is not always, “top dog”!

Do you have a favourite dog painting?

 

 

Painting of an English Bulldog
Thirsty Work

Thirsty Work Oil on Linen Canvas 30×24 cm, unframed

Painting of two girls with pram and Jack Russell dog by Emma Cownie
Everything Changes

 

Painting of sausage dog and family
Just a Second

Click here to see more dog paintings for Sale