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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.

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.

Pieter Aertsen, Butcher’s Stall with the Flight into Egypt, 1551
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.

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.


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”.

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.



Piccaso in Bull Mask


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.

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.

Mother and Child Divided.jpg
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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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).

Cattle for life


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.


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.

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.


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

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.

330px-Autel-Lyon-CIL-XIII-1751 (1)
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.

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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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.


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.


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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Six Hundred Sales!

I can hardly believe it myself! On Tuesday I sold my 600th painting via the online gallery My sales total had been stuck on 599 what seemed like an unbelievably long time – it was a week in fact. I have actually sold more than that either directly or through other online galleries. All of those paintings were unique too.  I have never gone in for mass producing generic scenes. I believe that novelty keeps my work “fresh”.

My work may explore certain themes such as the Brecon Beacons, Gower Woodlands, Swansea people, the Gower coast, but each painting is an individual. Each painting is of a real specific place or of real people. Perhaps that shows a failure of imagination on my part, I don’t know.

Although I may have had periods when I have felt a bit “flat”, such as after an exhibition, but so far I never actually run out of inspiration. This is partly due to the world around me constantly inspires me but also, more importantly,  because of the unfailing encouragement, inspiration and support provided by my artist husband, James Henry Johnston (known to his friends as Seamas – pronounced “Shay-mas”).


Seamas founded our Art business in the midst of one of the most difficult times of my life. I had developed PTSD after a car accident and this contributed to a breakdown. Painting was an essential part of my recovery (and still is). Not only did he give me crucial emotional support through an incredibly  difficult time, (all whilst sitting his Psychology finals) he set up a website and put some of my paintings on an online gallery called Artfinder. To our delight I started selling. Like many artists, I find the marketing side of the business challenging at times. I was terrified that people would be rude about my art and that would then affect my fragile confidence. Happily that has rarely happened.

So in those early days Seamas acted as “shield” and would write all those upbeat posts on Facebook about sales and upcoming exhibitions. He would also work on direct sales, face-to-face and online, negotiating terms with collectors. I have only really come to appreciate the sheer amount of time and effort he has put into promoting my work since I started working as a full-time artist and had to tackle platforms like pinterest and instagram. That term “full-time artist” is a misnomer as it might give you the impression I spend all say in the studio. I spend at least half my time working on social media and marketing.

Artfinder has been a massive part in being able to make that leap and become a full-time artist. Being self-employed is full of ups and downs, it’s very much “feast or famine” so to look back and see 600 sales over 5 years is quite amazing. Long may it continue. I was going to end this by quoting Samuel Butler, Victorian novelist and satirist who said; “Any fool can paint a picture but it takes a wise man to be able to sell it”, but I want to rephrase that with “Any fool can paint a picture but it take a genius to sell it.”

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Tenby Tide
Tenby Tide  Large professional quality signed and mounted print £45

[wpecpp name=”Tenby Tide Large Print” price=”45″ align=”left”]

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Curator for the day

I have been asked to be a curator for This means I will put together an art collection for the online gallery I am very excited and honoured by this chance. I have been represented by Artfinder since 2013 and I have sold 599 works through them. The site has grown and grown over the years and now represents over 10,000 artists.

It’s not the biggest site out there but for several years its been the best one for independent artists. I’ll explain why.

Each artist is given a lot of control over their own page or “store front”.  You can directly upload photos of your paintings to the site without waiting for an administrator to approve it. You can also directly contact collectors through their messaging system, rather than through the administrator. This makes customer care a whole lot easier.

There are many very talented artists on the site but the increase in the sheer number of artists has made it more and more difficult to be “seen”. So being a curator for the day is my chance to bring attention to the many excellent and talented artists on the site.

As a teenager I used to fantasizing about having the chance to do a supermarket sweep. I used to think about where I would direct my trolley and what to sweep into the trolley in less than three minutes. Funny, how that has no appeal to me these days although, I do like to get in and out of the supermarket in a short amount of time as possible! Twenty minutes, in and out and I am happy.

This is going to take a bit longer than that!

Andrew Reid Wildman

So I have my chance to “sweep” about 150 artworks into my basket or collection. I am very excited by this. Over the years I have book marked and pinned artworks that have caught my eye and here’s my chance to show them off to the world. I try not to think too much about it. There are some artists who spring to mind immediately like Jane Kell and Andrew Reid Wildman, whom I know I want to have in the collection and others I have to look in my bookmarked collection to remind myself of their names, and a few who present themselves to me as I look through the new art on the site.


Snehal Page
James Earley

I have largely gone with works that highlight colour and light such as Snehal Page’s vivid oil portraits and Sri Rao’s colorful landscapes.

There many artists’ who skill with the paint brush has me in awe especially people like James Earley and Abi Whitlock.

One hundred and fifty painting may seem like a lot but it isn’t. I want to include as many artists as I can with out the collection becoming too “bity”. So some artists get as many as 4 paintings but other only one. I am hoping that the choices I have made will tempt collectors to click on their names and take note and “follow” them or even better buy their work/s. I believe that art is about a conversation between the artists and the viewer.

John Kerr

I say conversation, but I believe that good art provokes an emotional reaction in the viewer; whether it is joy at the remembrance of a summer’s day at the seaside, or empathy with the humanity in another’s face or posture.

James Henry Johnston



As viewers we invest a lot of energy in choosing our favourites, we follow their progress and want them to do well. I am only the 5th artist (I think) who has been asked to put together a collection but I am hoping this a successful collection and other artists are asked to do the same thing.

If you wish to view the whole collection, you can see it here

Part of my collection
Another selection




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Pet Loves in the modern age

This part two of photo-essay on great artists who have either painted their pets, or other people’s pets as a way of proving that pets are a proper subject for serious artists.

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo had many pets and they frequently appeared in her biographical portraits. In the case of her deer she identified so closely with the creature she painted herself as a hunted deer.

Salvatore Dali had some strange pets and he used them for publicity (hence the anteater in Paris) as much as anything else. I don’t think he cared much for cats (see the amazing photo below) however, some dogs did feature in his surrealist paintings.


I was going to say that fellow Spaniard, Pablo Picasso, clearly did not like cats, either.

However, I suspect, Like many cat owners, he was ambivalent about cats’ hunting skill and their drive to kill, even when they are well fed. Perhaps that was why he was fascinated by a cat’s encounter with a lobster, which he painted several times. However, a number of much less vicious cats, kittens in fact, also appear in his paintings.

If we look at the photographic evidence it seems clear that Picasso clearly liked both cats and dogs. His absolute favourite dog was a Dachshund called, Lump.  “Lump had an absolutely pampered life there. Picasso once said, ‘Lump, he’s not a dog, he’s not a little man, he’s somebody else.’ Picasso had many dogs, but Lump was the only one he took in his arms.”

And pampered Lump clearly was. He died ten days before Picasso, on 29 March 1973.

Talking of dachshunds. I love the Italian futurist Giacomo Ball’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, painted in 1912. Look at that tail go!


Ammerican pop artist, Andy Warhol was also a fan of dachshunds.

British painter David Hockney is also a massive fan of the short-legged pooches.

British painter, Lucien Freud was famously fond of dogs especially his pair of whippets whom he often painted.

American artist Andrew Wyeth painted a number of beautifully atmospheric paintings of his Labrador-type dog.

Time for some cat lovers, I think. Less well known, is the British artist Ruskin Spear who painted many wonderful pictures of his cats.

Another, lesser known British artist, Beryl Cook, painted some fabulously plump cats to go with her full-of-life people.

More cats and a lobster, only this time the lobster is outnumbered.c1977-beryl-cook-signed-lithograph-print-four-hungry-cats-01_01 (1).jpg

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is another cat lover. He lives with about 40 of them in his Beijing home.

Swedish artist Benjamin Björklund paints very beautiful and atmospheric portraits of both humans and animals. He is interested in the emotional states of his subjects, whether they are his members or (his Great Dane), his pet rabbits, mice, rats, and guinea pigs, as well as the wild animals outside.

I’ll end with Jeff Koons. The American artist is known for working with popular culture subjects, and he has also used as dogs as subject matter in his work. “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sold for $58.4 million at Christie’s. ” Possibly, his reproductions of banal objects such as balloon dogs should prove that animals are an uncool subject matter?

Balloon Dog

And yet “Puppy” his installation of  flower-filled a giant West Highland Terrier is pretty awesome. I think that it honestly doesn’t matter what you paint, cats, dogs, cows or people but how you approach your subject that matters.



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International Women’s Day in Swansea

Last night International Women’s Day celebrations were held at Cinema & Co on Castle Street, Swansea. The place was packed. I know it sounds a bit daft, but I didn’t expect so many women to be there. Or maybe, I expected more than six men to come along, (of those one was a was a performer, another was a film-maker, another was one of the caterers and another was my husband, Seamas).

The night was made up of a series of short films, a couple of musical performances, a mini TED-talk and quite a few “Cake Breaks” (yum).

Watching Filmm.jpg

This year’s exhibiting artists were Aida Garton, Ally Jay Phillips, Alyson Williams, Amber Hiscott, Amelia Thomas (Unity), Amy Goldring, Angie Stevens, Ann Jordan, Ann Lucas, Carol Lawrence, Catrin Jones, Chris Bird-Jones, Claudia Mollzahn, Emma Cownie, Fran Williams, Hana Scoular, Kara Seaman, Kat Ridgeway, Kathryn Trussler, Kate Bell, Laura Niehorster, Leanne Vaughan Phillips, Louisa Helen Johnson, Lynne Bebb, Nazma Botanica, Natie M Davies, Patricia McKenna Jones, Rose Davies (Scribblah), Rosy Ind, Rhona Tooze, Sally Davies, Sally Price, Tina Wisby.

Those are female Welsh rugby players, by the way.

Former Cricketers.jpg
Me and my painting “Former Cricketers”

For me, the stand out performance of the night was Rufus Mafusa,  with her hip-hop dancers, who has been described as “a hip-hop educator, performance art poet, rapper, lyricist, writer and all-round creative soul”. She looked like a 21st century Rosie the Riveter. See below. She was wearing a 1940s style play/boiler suit with a red bow in her hair. Her thumbing performance of “Daughters of Dylan” brought real energy to the evening.


You can hear more of her work here.

Friends, poetry, music, art, political talks, film, dancers, food, what more could you want?

Special shout out to Rose Davies (aka Blogger Rosie Scribblah) Rosie for organising this brilliant event and cooking so much wonderful cake.


Me and fellow artist, Nazma Botanica- we match!

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Pet Loves in the 19th century

Although I love painting landscapes, whether streetscapes or woodlands, I also like to paint animals. It doesn’t matter what I paint a street or a donkey – I response to colour and light in a subject. Yet, whenever I paint a dog or sparrow I have this sneaking suspicion that serious artists don’t do this. That somehow paintings of animals are frivolous. That by painting a donkey on the beach I am ruining my credibility. So I have put together this photo-essay to challenge the thought that paintings of animals, particularly pets, are not a proper subject for serious art.

The English Victorians loved their animals and children, in that order. They happily sent other people’s (working class) children to work in factories and mines, generously limiting their working day to “only” 10 hours in 1847, but had founded the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals a full two decades earlier. In the late C19th century artists made a good living from painting art featuring animals. Charles Burton Barber specialised in sentimental paintings of children and animals.

Edwin Landseer painter and sculpture was, in many ways still is, the master of the animal painting.

Some of the narrative that underpins his art is probably too sentimental for modern tastes, such as “Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner” (below) but we are dealing with a society that created the legend of Greyfriars Bobby (updated by Hollywood in 1949 in the Lassie film “Challenge to Lassie“).

Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner

The impressionists in France, however, looked at animals with a much less sentimental eye. The Father of impressionism, French artist, Édouard Manet liked to tackle modern and postmodern-life subjects, and several of his contemporary portraits included pets.

In the 1860s Manet painted one of his most controversial paintings, “Olympia” of a prostitute, with her servant and cat. The black cat traditionally symbolized prostitution.

Other impressionist artists like Renoir, Monet and Gauguin also painted every day scenes, which sometimes included the pets that shared their homes and the homes of their friends.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir portraits are bristling with pets, mostly dogs.

Yes, you do recognise that little black and white, pooch. That’s Tama, who was also painted by Manet. Tama was a Japanese spaniel who belonged to his friend Henri Cernuschi, a banker and collector of Asian art.

Paul Gauguin

Claude Monet’s cat


Rosa Bonheur, another French painter and sculpture, was known as painter of animals or “animalière” was known for her artistic realism. Her paintings are very beautiful, although her hounds do look very solemn but not overly sentimental or twee.

Don’t make the mistake of his think that she was “just” an animal artist. Bonheur has been called “the most famous woman painter of her time, perhaps of all time”. She also painted Ploughing in the Nivernais, a truly epic painting (it is massive – 133cm×260cm or 52in×100in) which was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1848, and now at Musée d’Orsay in Paris. I stood in front of this painting in 2012 and marveled at her realistic depiction of the mud!


The exception seem to have been, Vincent Van Gogh, who does not seem to have been much interested in pets. He once drew an old lady with her dog and painted a couple of cow paintings.

Henri Matisse was definitely a cat lover.