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Painting Gower Cows

I have painted five “cow portraits” in all, recently. Here they are. I have enjoyed getting to know them as individuals, their long history in art and human society, and especially painting them. I have learnt a lot about their anatomy, especially their curious two-toed feet, or rather “paired hooves”. I have also discovered that cows have “dew claws” (digits that most animals have, including cats and dogs).

The White Cow, an oil painting by Emma Cownie
The White Cow (SOLD)
Cow Standing by artist Emma Cownie
Cow Standing
The Sitting, a portrait of a cow in oils by Emma Cownie
The Sitting
Sitting Bull an oil painting of a cow by Emma Cownie
Sitting Bull
Family Portrait an oil painting of three cows by artist Emma Cownie
Family Portrait

I am ready to switch back to landscape/woodland paintings now, after a long break from the trees.

Buy cow portraits here

I’ll leave you with a few photos of the cows in their natural environment.

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Cows in Art (part 2)

 

Queen Cow and black and white cow painting in oils
Queen Cow

Cattle (cows and bulls) occupied a very important place in the Ancient world in both a practical and a religious sense. They continued to do so during pre-Reformation Christian era, although they were no longer offered as a religious sacrifice but still carried the symbolic meaning of sacrifice.

In terms of figurative art, before the thirteenth century, the sort of ox you were most likely to see in a Medieval manuscript was one with wings. He was usually depicted near a man with a halo around his head either writing or holding a manuscript. This man is Luke, one of the four evangelists, who were credited with writing one of the gospels of the New Testament. The winged ox was meant to not only represent the Luke, Evangelist, but also an aspect of the nature of Christ, as well as of the virtues required of a Christian for salvation. In this case, the ox was a figure of sacrifice, service, and strength.

 

Later the ox became a regular feature of Nativity scenes. St. Francis of Assisi, that well-known animal lover, is credited with staging the first nativity scene in 1223. He did this so that Christians who could not afford the dangerous and expensive pilgrimage to the Holy land, could venerate Christ. Apparently St. Francis set up a manger with hay and two live animals—an ox and an ass—in a cave in the Italian village of Grecio. He then invited the villagers to come gaze upon the scene while he preached about “the babe of Bethlehem.” It was a massive hit. Within a couple of centuries, nativity scenes had spread throughout Europe and is still with us today. It also became an incredibly popular subject for religious paintings. The ox and the donkey, were a very successful double act, first of all living creatures the to venerate Christ.

 

We get glimpses of the non-religious importance of cattle as a source of food in the Bayeux Tapestry, which shows Sussex cattle being “requisitioned” by the Norman invaders before the Battle of Hastings in the 11th century. Norman servants have taken the rounded up livestock and are slaughtering it. The little boy with his dog might be tugging on the axeman’s tunic to implore him not to slay his family’s ox.

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Bayeux Tapestry

Medieval book of hours were Christian devotional books made for lay people.  They usually contained a collection of texts, prayers and psalms and were richly illustrated, providing us with an important record of life in the 15th and 16th centuries.

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The changing seasons in a Medieval Book of Hours

 

Art underwent a crisis with the coming of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Artists in Protestant areas of Northern Europe painted far fewer religious subjects for public display.  Instead, many of these artists countries diversified into secular forms of art like history painting, landscapes, portraiture, and still life. Thus, the cow and ox began to appear as a sort of status symbols in rich patrons’ paintings.

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Pieter Aertsen, Butcher’s Stall with the Flight into Egypt, 1551
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The Bull, Paulus Potter, 1647, The Hague.

Or as part of a bucolic landscape, with pretty milkmaids; it’s religious significance now pretty much abandoned.

 

When the agricultural revolution got underway in the 18th century Britain, cattle were part of the drive to make farming more efficient and scientific. Cattle were now seen as products of this new way of framing.  Paintings were a celebration of the success of selective breeding. Thus we see enormous musclebound animals with tiny heads and legs! They were now status symbols.

 

During the 1820s and 1830s, fine art was dominated by history paintings (with subjects that were political, historical, or religious). John Constable, the realist English painter, led a quiet revolution against this fashion.  He worked directly from nature “en plein air” , painting many full-scale preliminary sketches of his every-day landscapes to test the composition in advance of finished pictures. Cattle appeared as part of his real English landscapes.

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John Constable

Constable’s work was embraced in France, where he sold more than in his native England and inspired the Barbizon school who included artists like Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Théodore Rousseau, Constant Troyon and Jean-François Millet.

 

 

French artist Rosa Bonheur was also influenced by the work of the Barbizon school. She was a very successful animalière (painter of animals) and sculptor, known for her artistic realism. Her cattle are noble and beautiful.

 

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Ploughing in the Nivernais

During the late 1860s, the Barbizon painters attracted the attention of a younger generation of French artists studying in Paris, including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille. In the 1870s those artists, among others, developed Impressionism and practiced plein air painting. Cattle also appear in a number of the paintings of Dutch and Breton landscapes by Gauguin and Van Gogh.

 

Interesting Paul Gauguin, references the religious significance of cattle in his painting “Christmas Night”.

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Christmas Night

The Iberian Peninsula,  Spain and Portugal, unlike the rest of Europe, never given up the tradition of bullfighting. The Spanish artist Pablo Picasso often used bulls as a metaphor in his art. Depending on its context, they have been interpreted in various ways: as a representation of the Spanish people; as a comment on fascism and brutality; as a symbol of virility; or as a reflection of Picasso’s self-image.

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Guernica

 

Piccaso in Bull Mask

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Pablo Picasso, “The Bull”, lithographs, 1945

Pop Art (such as Andy Wharhol’s screen prints) and advertising for products such as mass-produced cheese triangles (Laughing Cow – La Vache qui rit) are almost indistinguishable. Here the cow is a commodity.

 

British artist, Damien Hirst uses real dead cattle in his work. His Turner Prize-winning “Mother and Child Divided” installation featured the bisected corpses of a cow and calf in closed tanks, preserved by formaldehyde solution. These works look like large-scale version of the gruesome things I saw in jars my biology lab at school. This is no accident. They are suspended in the same liquid, formaldehyde.

Hirst was reportedly advised to use alcohol to protect his artworks. He chose to use formaldehyde instead for its hazardous, skin-burning properties. The exhibition summary on Tate’s website states that Hirst was attracted to the compound because “if you breathe it in it chokes you and it looks like water”. He claimed to be using it to “communicate an idea”, rather than as a preservative.

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Damien Hirst

I find his work rather upsetting. I initially wondered if these works were a comment on the cruelty of modern factory farming and mass production of meat and milk. Dairy cattle are separated from their young to produce milk for humans. It seems, however, instead he is drawing on the religious symbolism of the arrangement. Hirst who attended a Catholic school is drawing on religious iconography. Instead of the joyful unity of mother and baby, which the traditional image celebrates, he presents a “mother and child not only forever separated from one another, but also fatally severed in themselves”.

I don’t know if Hirst has spent time watching cattle. A few days ago I spent an hour or so watching a small group of free-range heifers with their calves on Pennard Golf Course. One cow spent a good 5 minutes washing her son who then licked her back as if to say, thanks Mum. The bond between them was palpable.

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Mother and Child Divided

Damien Hirst has attracted much controversy for his use of dead animals in his artwork. It has been claimed that he may have been responsible for the deaths of as many as a million creatures in the name of art! The toll has included 13 sheep; seven Holstein Friesian cows; five calves; four bulls; three baby horses; two pigs; one brown bear; one zebra; 27 sharks and 668 fish. Apparently, in 2012 more than 9,000 butterflies died during the 23-week exhibition In and Out of Love at the Tate Modern Gallery in London. The controversy does Hirst no harm as he’s said to be the world’s richest artist with a claimed personal fortune of around £215m.

I will end with an artist who, unlike Hirst, clearly loves animals and paints with tenderness and lightness of touch.  Benjamin Björklund is a self-taught Swedish painter who works in watercolors and oils and I love his work.

 

 

 

In last two thousand years, the cow has gone from a symbol of sacrifice, service and strength, to a commodity and a status symbol and most recently in the work of Hirst, to something whose dismembered carcass is designed to shock and repulse viewers.  I personally prefer the sensitivity of the work of artists like Björklund who recognises cows as individuals and as essentially gentle creatures or even the Medieval artists portrayed the Ox and the Donkey as reverent witnesses at the Nativity. However, I think I have to recognise that Hirst’s work is a comment on the violence that humans visit on the cow.

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Painting a Beautiful Bull

Oil painting of a Gower Bull by Emma Cownie
Sitting Bull

Following on from my last post about the inspiration behind my latest cow paintings, here’s my painting of “Sitting Bull”. He sat, chewing the cud, at the heart of a small herd of cattle on the top of Pennard cliffs. He looked very relaxed. I was struck by his muscularity, his massive neck, especially in comparison with the cows around him. I was intrigued by the series of lines circling his neck, which seemed mark the grooves of his flesh. I saw a cow with similar colouring in another group who had the same lines, albeit fainter ones. I tried to work out what his breed was but haven’t settled on any conclusively. He may be a Blue Grey or a Belgium Blue, I’m not sure.

It sounds silly but, I had been watching him sleep for some time before I realised that I looking at  sitting bull. I wondered how the famous Native American, called Sitting Bull , had come by his name. Was he a massive muscular man? All I could remember (from Hollywood films) was that he had fought and defeated General Custer (called “Yellow Hair” by the Native Americans in the films, I think) at the Battle of Little Big Horn. I later found out that Sitting Bull was the chief of the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota. He was named “Jumping Badger” at birth, this clearly did not suit his personality. His father called him “Slow” because he was always very careful and slow to take action. He was later given the name “Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down”, or “Sitting Bull”, after displaying bravery in raiding party. He was a very dynamic and dignified leader who spent four years in exile in Canada, toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show but was later killed in an act of police brutality. 

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Beautiful Cow

Many years ago my sister gave me and wonderful book called “Beautiful Sheep“.There were others in the “Beautiful” series, pigs and cows I believe, but this is the only one I had.

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In it was a series of photographs of coiffured pedigree sheep photographed in studio settings. I spent a long time looking at these photos. What I particularly liked was the way the dark backgrounds made you really look at the sheep. Away from their usual settings of fields and farmyards, it brought out the natural gravitas and dignity of these animals.

I was inspired to revisit the subject of cows after researching and writing about the History of Cows in Art in the Ancient World and I decided to use this sort of approach, changing the background to look like a studio setting, to give the painting more of  Renaissance feel.

This is my first “Renaissance” cow. The title “The sitting” refers simply to the action of the cow as well as implying that she is sitting as my model.

The Sitting, an oil painting of a black and white cow
The Sitting

I am working on a companion piece called “Sitting Bull” which I will post very soon.

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Cows in Art (The Ancient World)

Well, here I go down another wormhole of History/ Art History. This time I have been pondering the place of the humble cow or ox in figurative art in History. It’s such along one I have had to divide it into two parts. It could easily be a book! It’s a very long history which is not surprising as humans have depended on cattle for their survival. Cattle have represented at different times such things as life, wealth, power and even the divine.

Man and cows, ox, oxen, cattle, go back a long, long way. People have been hunting, and more importantly from our point of view, painting bison and wild cattle in Europe for more than 17,000 years. I use the term “people” advisedly, as there is evidence, based on measuring hand prints, that the first figurative artists could have been women. Men may well have hunted these beasts but women would have been very familiar the anatomy of these beasts from cutting up their carcasses for food and clothing.

One of the largest animals in the “Hall of Bulls”, painted on the walls of a the Lascaux, caves in France, is a black bull. He is an incredible 5.2 metres (17 ft) long, making him the largest animal discovered so far in cave art.

Hall of Bulls
Hall of Bulls

There are many representations of cattle in prehistoric art in caves and on rock faces in Spain, India and Africa. Who knows what function these images served. were they meant to exert some sort of magical power over these animals? Were they a sort of prayer, or a pictorial shopping list for the gods?

If, wild cattle were important to prehistoric people, the domesticated version, were even more so. About 10,500 years ago, cattle were domesticated from as few as 80 wild oxen in southeast Turkey. These cattle could now be used for food and clothing but also as a beasts of burden, pulling ploughs and carts.  The Ancient Egyptians, who ruled Egypt over 5,000 years ago, used them in agriculture, for food, milk, leather, and also for sacrifice. These animals fulfilled dual practical and spiritual roles (as many animals did in Ancient Egypt).

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Cattle for life

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Cattle for the afterlife

They came to be considered so important that many Egyptian gods were considered to have the form of cattle, notable deities being Hathor, a very popular female god, Ptah (as the Apis Bull), Menthu (as the Bukha bull), and Atum-Ra (as the Mnevis Bull). The cow and bull are repeatedly represented in Egyptian figurative art, 2D and 3D, many bulls were also mummified.

Cattle had dual practical and spiritual role in the other Ancient Mediterranean agrarian societies too. The Egyptians, however, were unusual in honouring the female aspect of the animal through the worship of the goddess Hathor. She one of the most important and popular deities in Ancient Egypt, who personified the principles of love, beauty, music, dance, motherhood and joy.

 

Bulls were regularly sacrificed on altars in the ancient Greek religion, usually at an outdoor altar with hymn and prayer.

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After the introduction of a metal coinage into ancient Greece, this method of exchange was commemorated by stamping the image of an ox on the new money; while the connexion between cattle and coin as symbols of wealth has left its mark on the languages of Europe, as is seen in the Latin word pecunia and the English “pecuniary,” derived from pecus, cattle.

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Silver coin from C 4th B.C.E

 

The Greeks seem to have been very impressed by the strength and virility of the bull, worried by it even. I say this because a very famous Greeks/Cretian myth concerns a beautiful white bulls that King Minos cannot bear to have sacrificed, whom he saves only to have his wife also fall in love with the bull and later produce a bull/man hybrid baby, known as the Minotaur.

 

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Theseus and the Minotaur

King Minos later had the Minotaur shut up in the “Labyrinth”,  an underground maze, and fed Athenian youths and maidens to him on a regular basis. That was, until Theseus, a prince from Athens, came and killed him and found his way out of the maze with the help of a ball of thread.

The Ancient Minoans also engaged in a spot of bull jumping, presumably before the ritual sacrifice of the animals. Again, this all seems tied up with virility and a conspicuous display of masculinity.

Bull-leaping
Bull Leaping

The Ancient Romans also sacrificed bulls for the well being of the people and the state and they are depicted in many bas reliefs.

The bull was also used a decorative motif in the mosaics that decorated the villas of wealthy Romans. Some of these designs show that bulls were also used as sport, in the gladiator’s arena.

There was a sacrificial element to these bloody games but also a punitive one too as “damnatio ad bestias” (damnation to the beasts) was reserved for military traitors, conquered foes, and convicted criminals bound for execution, which included those Christians accused of sedition and treason.  This is how early Christian saints, Perpetua and Felicity, were martyred in North Africa. They were sent to the amphitheatre and repeatedly gored and thrown by a bull before they were dispatched by a soldier’s sword.

The bull also inspired an instrument of torture that was also used on early Christains. The brazen bullbronze bull, or Sicilian bull, was originally designed in ancient Greece. It’s not clear if it really existed or was really good “fake news” made up to frighten people. The life-size bull was said to be made entirely out of bronze, hollow, with a door in one side. The condemned were locked inside the device, and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until the person inside was roasted to death. It was repudely used to kill several early Christians including Saint Eustace, with his wife and children, Saint Antipas and Pelagia of Tarsus.

Interesting, after all this maleness and display of masculinity, bull sacrifice, as taurobolium, also became connected with the worship of the Great Mother of the Gods, Magna Mater, from the mid-2nd century onwards.

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Three sides of a taurobolium altar, from Lugdunum (Lyon)

Another Roman cult, popular with soldiers, in which a sacrificial bull played a role was that of the 1st–4th century Mithraic Mysteries. In the so-called “tauroctony” artwork of that cult, and which appears in all its temples, the god Mithras is seen to slay a sacrificial bull.

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Mithras sacrificing a bull

So, after all this blood and violence of the Greco-Romano world, it will probably come as something of a relief that my next post will explore the somewhat gentler world of the cow/bull in Medieval and Modern society and culture. The spiritual/virility/wealth aspect of the cow/bull continues to be explored. However, we are reminded of the continuing violence and brutality meted out towards, the cow/bull in the work of artists of like Picasso and Hirst.

 

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Painting Cows

I am delighted to have sold “Koei 1509”, a painting of a South African cow, to a collector in Oxfordshire, England. The painting was based on a photograph by talented photographer Herman von Bon, who generously allowed me to use his image. Herman photographs the South African landscape along with its people and animals. I particular like his wildlife photography.

Oil painting of a Cow by Emma Cownie
Koei 1509

I like cows. I love all animals. I come from a family of animal lovers. I get pleasure from just looking at animals. I really enjoy painting them but I find it hard to part with my animal paintings.

Cows are the reason why I stopped eating meat a long time ago. When I was a post-graduate student at Cardiff University in the 1990s I spent a day cycling along the the flat marsh road that lies between Cardiff and Newport. It’s about 10 miles. On my way back, I stopped at a gate for a rest. I group of curious youngsters, Fresians, came up to gate to investigate me. They were cautious but seemed to egg each other on to come closer and stick out their noses to me. They amused me. I thought they were funny and sweet.

I stood for quite a while looking at them. Listening to them breathe. Cows have intelligent eyes. Big brown eyes. They weren’t essentially any different from the many animals my family had kept as pets over the years; cats, dogs and rabbits. Suddenly the thought came to me “I eat you and your friends”. I felt awful. Very guilty.

It felt very unnecessary.  I don’t need to eat meat. So I decided to stop. I’d been thinking about for for some time. People sometimes ask why I am a vegetarian and I could mention things such as the cruelty of factory farming, the environmental cost but I have never felt comfortable eating sentient creatures. I always felt a hypocrite for eating Sunday roast, no matter how tasty it was.

Oil painting of Hereford Cow by Emma Cownie
Hereford Red (Sold)

 

Many of my university friends were veggies but I didn’t like many vegetables (potatoes and peas was about it for many years) and I wasn’t sure what I would eat. To be honest, I was lazy. I had to learn to cook vegetarian meals. I started with a lot of pesto and pasta. A friend of mine recommended a Rose Elliot cook book and I painstakingly read the recipes (there were no photos in the book) and I eventually learnt a few recipes off by heart.  It was a bit of a slog but I felt much better for it, physically and mentally.

 

Although I don’t think that I paint cows all that often, they have added up over the years. I love Hereford cattle in particular. I was born in that English county and I love the russet red of their coats. You don’t see that many of them on Gower.

Colourful Painting of cow
Punk Cow (SOLD)

I seems to have painted Frisians the most – probably because I like the contrast of their black and white coats.

Oil painting of black and white cow in Gower landscape
Gower Cow (SOLD)

Gower Cow

I never paint “generic” cows. These are all real cows. All individuals. I found Gower Cow on the slopes of Cefn Bryn at the Penmaen end. She was chewing the cud with a small group of friends.

Painting of Cow at Pwll Du, Gower
Grazing at Pwll Du

The cow at Pwll Du was also with a group of friends, small herd I suppose, who came out of the undergrowth and started grazing on the grass by the stream at Pwll Du.

 

Writing this post got me thinking about the History of the cow in Art. There’s a lot to it so I have decided to save that for my next post.

 

Painting of black and white cow by Emma Cownie
On the Move

 

To see available animal paintings click here

To see large mounted animal prints click here

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Mewslade Relections

Oil Painting of Mewslade Bay, Gower
Mewslade Reflections (SOLD)

 

After working on my New York interior, I felt ready to return to the theme of rocky coasts. I was revisiting Mewslade Bay again, but a more panoramic composition with the tide coming in. My previous painting had been all about majesty and rocks but this one was different, it was more about colour and light. In particular I wanted to revisit some of the shadows that I’d found hard work in my previous painting and find out if I had left the “difficult bits” too long and whether I should have tackled them sooner.

Start of a landscape painting in oils
#1

Unfortunately, this painting fell into place a lot quicker than I expected and I only remembered to take a work-in-progress photos after I’d “solved” the rocks. I think that the addition of the grassy promontory, called “Devil’s Truck”,  helped add a lot of interest and colour to the composition. It draws the eye to the left of the painting and away from the less interesting (in my opinion) shadowed part of the cliff in the centre. In the early stage of the painting, the foot of Jacky’s Tor (the peak on the right of the painting), is too light but I will adjust that later.

Work in Progress landscape of Gower
#2

I paint the sand/reflection that will be partially covered by an incoming wave. I leave it to dry over night.

Working in Progress on oil painting of Gower
#3

I darken the foot of Jacky’s Tor.  I am a bit nervous about painting the incoming sea but my artist husband just advises me not too “think” about it but just paint it. He’s right and I consciously shut off my critical voice (or is that the left hand side of the brain) and get on with it.

Painting of Mewslade Gower South Wales
#4

I complete the sky. It passes the view-from-the-other-side-of-the-room test. I am pleased with it. It is less monumental than my previous Mewslade painting of Jacky’s Tor but I like its colourful energy. The warmth of the beach brings a lot of elements of the painting together.

Landscape painting of Gower Coast, Mewslade
Mewslade Reflections (Sold)

To see original artwork for sale click here

For large mounted prints click here or regular sized mounted prints here

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New York Commission

Commission by Emma Cownie

This is a commission piece I have been working on this week. The brief was to paint this beautiful sunlit New York apartment. I was sent a number of photos to work from, the plates and dishes had to vanish, so the main focus of the work was the light and shadow on the patterned table cloth.

A number of New York water towers could be seen outside. I was quite intrigued by these water towers. I had no idea that they were a feature of the Manhattan skyline. I looked up some more photos of these urban water towers and was quite blown away by how many there are!

 

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NY Water towers

Sadly the water towers are not a big feature of the painting, but you can see two of them quite clearly from window on the right hand side of the painting.

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Original photograph

I love the clean lines of the shadows cast by the window on the table and the parquet flooring and decided that clarity was essential in the composition. So I played around with the original image using an open source program called Gimp (which is a lot like Photoshop) and simplified the image. I “cleared” the table and removed the sleeping hound on the carpet. The resulting images was far from perfect but gave me a claener image to work from.

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After  “Gimping” – an empty table

I further simplified the image by painting a plain rug. I also lighten certain parts of the painting, such as the wall behind the table. In this way I wanted to create a feeling of airiness and light.

New York Apartment, November Light
New York Apartment, November Light

I also lightened the red chair on the right hand side so that it could seen more easily seen and its beautiful curves more easily appreciated. This way it became an integral part of composition, with the red theme in the buildings on the left window, reddish shadows on the wooden flooring being balanced by the red carpet, chair and red in the painting above it.

The shadows have exciting dynamic to them; with the cool shad

ow across the table cloth contrasting with the hot shadows cutting across the floor. My favourite part of the painting was the slice of sunlight on the table leg.

The client, I am pleased to say, loved it. She was very generous in her praise, saying “it is more truthful, beautiful than real life!”

Want to commission your own unique piece of art? Click here.

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Morning on Mewslade

I am not well. I have a virus that makes me feel tired, my arms in particular feel heavy, my throat feels sore and I struggle with social interactions. The sense of illness ebbs and flows. I start off the day feeling rough but by the evening, I feel a bit better. Yesterday I felt terrible most of the day but strangely found myself defrosting the freezer at 8pm. I had fancied an ice lolly to ease my sore throat but I noticed that freezer door would not close. Obviously, the last person to use the freezer had not shut the door properly. So,  I cleared the freezer of its content, switched it off, and got the steam cleaner out. Forty-five minutes later all the ice was gone and the content was back inside neat frost-free drawers.

I have struggled to write this post. I deleted my first two attempts as I kept going off at tangents (see defrosting freezer above). Thankfully, illness hasn’t stopped me painting. I started this large painting (92×73 cm) of Mewslade Bay but I made slow progress. Mewslade Bay is just round the corner from Worms Head and Rhossili Bay. There is no beach to speak of at high tide. At low tide, however, the sandy beach can be reached if you scramble down over some slippery rocks, and thick beds of seaweed that have been washed up against rocks. I had got up at 5 am to drive down to Mewslade to catch it at low tide. Although the majority of the sky was clear there was a spattering of mackerel clouds just above the horizon. The light was hazy and I had wait 45 minutes before I got a blast of bright sunshine on the cliff face.

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I think I should have started with darkest parts of the image, rather than the lightest parts. IMG_2809-001

As I had to go back and darken the rocks in the distance and in the shadow of the furthest peak.

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Adding the beach and shadow under the cliffs helped “intensify” the dark part of the cliffs.

Oil painting Morning on Mewslade by Emma Cownie
Morning on Mewslade

Finally, adding the morning sky made sense of the blues and purple shadows on the east facing cliff faces. Some paintings seem to make sense straight away and with others, like this one, you have to wait until all the elements are in place. I particularly love the way the peak in the foreground casts its shadow on the second peak. It reminds me of a tiny Everest! The bright morning light makes the rock face look like a snow covered peak.

 

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Paintings as Emotional Creations

Paintings as Emotional Creations
Three Cliff Reflections
Three Cliff Reflections

I am delighted to have sold this painting, Three Cliff Reflections, to a collector in Scotland. As is so often the case, the collector has a connection to the location in the painting, having visited it and climbed to the top of the peaks quite recently. I hope that the painting brings back happy memories of the summer.

As a painter, I feel that I have succeeded if I my work can provoke an emotional reaction. I would feel that I had gone wrong somewhere if someone said “that’s interesting” or “it’s technically skillful”  about one of my paintings. Not that there’s anything thing wrong with being skillful, I just don’t want it to be the first thing they say.

They don’t have to be entirely happy emotions, either. I once had a friend who said a painting of mine, “Park Bench in the Snow” made her want to cry.

Park Bench in Snow
Park Bench in Snow

I am not sure why she wanted to cry, I think she said something about it reminded her of  the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. That film always makes me cry too. Mind you, I was particularly fond of this painting and was pretty sad when I had to part with it. I didn’t cry though. I do have favourites, and this was one.

Quite a few of my people portraits have a bitter-sweet quality to them as I am drawn to the fragility or vulnerability of the sort of people who are frequently overlooked by our instagram obsessed  society.

Brief Encounter
Brief Encounter

Or amusing quality, I hope. I like observing little moments that are easily missed. Like these two children at the Uplands markets examining an old manual typewriter.

What does it do
What does it do?

I also like watching for moments between dogs and their owners, in particular.

Just a Second
Just a Second

Back to Three Cliffs Bay. This painting “Human Concern” (below) was based on a scene I observed at Pobbles Bay,  last summer. Pobbles Bay is right next the Three Cliffs Bay. The little Jack Russsell stood and watched his humans off in the sea, with such intensity. It amused me. I also found it very touching.

Human Concern
Human Concern