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Walking the Gower Coast: Mumbles

Mumbles

I love looking at maps. I have been gazing at the map of coastal path around Gower for days now. The Peninsula juts out westwards into the Bristol Chanel. Its about 17 miles in length and 8 miles width at its widest point. I am planning to walk around its coastline, approximately 38 miles in length, maybe a bit less. I am, however, going to start with a map of Swansea Bay. People who have never been to Swansea make jokes about the place as if its somewhere to avoid. Quite the opposite. The hilly city sits alongside the sparkling sea and beautiful sandy five-mile beach.
Swansea Bay
Swansea Bay
I have decided to illustrate this series of post with my paintings and with (mostly) my own photographs. The paintings have been completed in recent years, some as a result of this trek, other are older. The photos are mostly from 2018 but a few are from my 2016 attempt to walk the Gower coast. I started my first attempt at Mumbles in 2016.
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Photo Credit: Gower Flight Centre
The pretty Victorian village of Mumbles sits at the far end of the western arm of Swansea Bay. This is where my journey around the Gower coast begins.
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Round Mumbles Bend
Mumbles was originally a fishing village. It did not catch fish but rather, oysters. It was, for a time, a thriving industry. Part of Mumbles is known as Oystermouth and many people often use the two names interchangeably to mean the same place.
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The Strange Afternoon (Mumbles & Oystermouth Castle)
Many people often associate South Wales with coal mining, and coal was certainly vital in locating the copper industry in nearby Swansea. It was the need for limestone, however, that changed Mumbles’ fortunes. Limestone was used as a fertilizer, in steel making, pharmaceuticals, and also as a construction aggregate (in other words, gravel).
Tide's In, Mumbles
Tide’s In (Mumbles)
Mumbles was made of limestone and that fact brought the modern world to the front door of this tiny fishing village in 1804 when the Oystermouth railway line was built in order to transport limestone from the quarries of Mumbles to Swansea Docks. This track was the world first passenger line, the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, carrying at first horse-drawn carriages, and later steam locomotives.
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Mumbles Pier from Knab Rock
The trains also brought many day trippers for a time. The railway is now long gone, closed in 1960, but there remains a sturdy promenade that runs along the sea front where the trains used to run. Locals and visitors alike still love to walk its length and admire the spectacular view across the sweep of Swansea Bay.
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Afternoon Stroll in Mumbles
The promenade runs up to Verdis, a popular ice-cream parlour and thence to the Mumbles Pier. The Victorian pier was built in the last years of the 19th century and was the last stop for the Railway. Here tourists could catch a paddle steamers for a tour along the River Severn and Bristol Channel. The Pier hosts a great cafe (with self-playing piano), an amusement arcade and tiny art gallery.
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Mumbles Pier
On the other side of Mumbles Head is Bracelet Bay.  Mumbles Head comprises two tidal islands. At low tide those with stout boots can walk out to the islands and look at the much-photographed lighthouse.
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Towards Mumbles Lighthouse
The octagonal lighthouse lighthouse was built in 1794 by Swansea architect William Jernegan, who also designed Singleton Abbey which later became part of Swansea University. This was the second attempt to built a lighthouse here. The first one started a few years earlier, designed by someone else, collapsed before it was even finished!
Clouds Gathering Over Mumbles Head
Gathering Clouds over Mumbles Head
This is where the real Gower coast walk begins! In my next post I puzzle over myriad bus timetables and eventually feel brave enough to leave the car behind! In the meantime here’s a cool video of a drone flying around Mumbles Head.
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Our favourite female artists (deceased) part 1

This is going to be a long list so I have split it into several parts. Its based on suggestions that have been made to me via this blog, facebook or in person. I have also found a few more on pinterest that I felt I had to add. These women are all feminist icons in my book as they were breaking accepted ideas of female behaviour and attempting to achieve financial independence. Something that all artists, male of female, dream of achieving today!

The 19th century 

These notable female artists pretty much all all came from wealthy families. They may have gone against convention by carrying on artist careers all their lives but they started from a position of economic and social advantage.

Mary Cassatts was an American painter who was born in Pennsylvania, but lived much of her adult life in France, where she worked closely with her friend Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. She never married but painted exquisite portraits of mothers and children.

 

Berthe Morisotcame from a wealthy French family and studied drawing and painting as part of her education with her sister. She was so good that she exhibited in 1864 in the Salon de Paris but in 1874, she joined the “rejected” Impressionists in the first of their own exhibitions. She married Eugene, the brother of her friend and impressionist painter colleague Édouard Manet. Interestingly, she carried on painting after her marriage and birth of her daughter, exhibiting under her maiden name.

 

Eva Gonzales was also French, born in Paris. She was the pupil of Edouard Manet. Like Morisot she continued painting after her marriage but died in childbirth in 1883.

 

Beatrix Potter – I grew up with her books. She was an English writer and illustrator whose love of nature and animals resonates in her work. There was a delightful film about her early life called Miss Potter made a decade ago. I would say that this film was particularly notable as one of the few films in which Ewan McGregor isn’t deeply irritating! After she married , she continued to write stories and to draw, although mostly for her own pleasure.

 

Gwen John, a personal favourite of mine. She was a Welsh artist, sister of painter Augustus John. Her family were not particularly wealthy, but they were respectable middle class people (her father was a solicitor). The family had a decidedly artistic bent as an aunt was an water colourists and both parents encouraged their children’s creativity. Gwen studied at the Slade school of Art in London but worked in France for most of her adult career. She struggled for money and was a squatter in a derelict for a time, an artists’ model and largely, despite a number of notable romances (with both men and women), she lived a solitary life with her cat.

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Gwen’s cat

Her paintings, mainly portraits of anonymous female sitters, are delicate and initimate works. She stopped painting in the last 6 years of her life.

 

Laura Knight

Of all our female artists, so far, Laura Knight came from the poorest background. Her family had had money but lost it and Laura (born in 1877) grew up amid financial problems.  Her mother taught part-time at the Nottingham School of Art and had Laura enrolled as an ‘artisan student’ there, paying no fees, aged just 13. At age 25, Laura married fellow artist Harold to whom she was to be married for 58 years.

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In 1913 Knight made a painting that was a first for a woman artist, Self Portrait with Nude, showing herself painting a nude model.

 

 

 

 

 

During the Second World war she completed 17 paintings for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. She also painted for WAAC in 1946  The Nuremberg Trial. This painting departs from the realism of her wartime paintings, in that, whilst apparently realistically depicting the Nazi war criminals sitting in the dock, the rear and side walls of the courtroom are missing, to reveal a ruined city, partially in flames. I clearly remember this painting being in the GCSE “History of Germany 1919-1945” textbook I used to teach from in my teaching days.

She was the first woman to have a major retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy, with over 250.  I love the light and colour in her works. It doesnt matter what she is painting – a village, war work or a nude the colours just ring out. 

 

To follow: The female artiss of 20th century.

 

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Our favourite female artists (part 3)

I am only including living artists in this list (my husband, pointed out that I had missed Gwen John). These are based on suggestions made to me and a few more that I have discovered on Pinterest. I have enjoyed looking up female artists and found it quite inspirational. Many of these artist work on large-scale pieces and I often lack the confidence (never mind the space) to tackle large works. Certainly, it seems that quite ordinary work can become exciting when it is over a metre in size! I was also interested in the artists who used their work as social commentary, especially the Americans. What makes female artists different from male artists? Is it a lightness of touch? Subject matter. Gone are the day when female artists contented themselves with paintings of flowers and families.

The Australians 

Betty Mbitjana

Betty comes from a family group and community which has produced some of the most famous and influential Aboriginal artists. She is the daughter of famous artist Minnie Pwerle.

 

Jenny Sages She was a freelance writer and illustrator for Vogue Australia until the 1980s before starting full-time painting in 1985 at the age of 52.

 

Nalda Searles, works in fibre textiles and her has a strong connection to the Australian landscape.

 

Wendy Sharpe, is amazing. Her atmospheric paintings have such energy. They love her in Australia too as she one of Australia’s most awarded artists. She has been a finalist in The Sulman Prize twelve times, and The Archibald Prize six times. She has held over 59 solo exhibitions around Australia and internationally.

 

Americans

Bev Lee, usually works in pastel. Her portraits have a wonderful lightness about them.

 

Amy Sherald is based in Baltimore (where “The Wire” was set). Her work started out autobiographical in nature, but has taken on a social context ever since she moved to Baltimore.

Anna Valdez, originally trained as an archaeologist, and her still life paintings, especially the very large ones, are bursting with colour.

 

Toyin Odutola 

Her work explores her personal journey of having been born in Nigeria then moving and assimilating into American culture in conservative Alabama.

My final list will be of deceased female artists and it will include all the suggestions that have been made to me via this blog (as well as a few of my own).

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Here’s to 2018

Cropped Happy New Year

See the Facebook collection here 

Thanks also goes to to Hattie and Bingo, my cats who “help” with the wrapping of the paintings (usually by looking alarmed and running away) and Seamas my husband who always encourages me and works so hard with photography, exhibitions and social media (and much, much more).

Cats Help
Hard working Hattie and Bingo taking a nap
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My favourite female artists: Part 2

My first blog focused on American contemporary female painters.  Some of these artists I admire, or just like but I don’t think they necessarily influence my work in the way that the American painters in my first list do. Again most of them are not especially famous but I thought I’d share their names and examples of their work. Apologies for the randomness of this list, its sort of in the order in which I thought of them.

Elizabeth Geiger, another American artist. I absolutely love her treatment of light in her work, with interior and exterior scenes.

 

Este Macleod, does a lot of designs involving plants and birds but its her still life work that I particularly enjoy for her bold use of colour. They have such presence.

Jo March, does delightful colourful landscapes.

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Shani Rhys James  Her work is impressive, often very large-scale and has a powerful presence.

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Zoey Frank 

is one of those artists who makes it look easy. You know it’s not easy it’s just that she’s very, very darn good.

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Viv Owen is an excellent figurative/portrait artist whose work I have come across on http://www.Artfinder.com.

 

Finally, one more American, Hope Glangloff whose distinctively colourful portraits remind me of both the work of Lautrec and Schiele.

I’ll probably think of another 10 artists as soon as I post this. If you have any other suggestions for living female artists I love to hear about them.

 

 

 

 

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Snow Remnant (I found some old snow)

I got to walk on frozen snow earlier in the week. I had to travel all the way to the Cotswolds to find it. There had been a foot of snow the week before but it had almost all gone. Almost. There were remnants left in the cold corners of the fields where the low winter sun’s rays did not directly warm them. It even rained a few times when I was there but these remnants did not melt. It was too cold. So, I got to experience a small thrill as my boots crunched on the ice. It was fleeting but fun.

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Snow Remnant
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My favourite female artists: Part 1

The famous ones

I started this list as a challenge to myself really.  I began thinking about women artists and was shocked that I got as far as Tracey Enim and then my mind just went blank. I looked up a few more names on google and added a few more to the list: Jenny Saville, Yayoi Kusama, Brigette Riley and Maggi Hambling. They were important and interesting but I couldn’t honestly say they particularly influenced my work although I love the colours that Riley and Kusama use in their pieces.

I do really like the work of Rachel Whiteread who makes massive casts of the interiors of buildings and other unexpected objects like hot water bottles. She would have been part of Swansea’s UK City of Culture events in 2021.

Then I looked at my pinterest account and realised that it was jammed packed with contemporary female painters. Some I just like and others that inspire me. They are not especially famous but I thought I’d share their names and examples of their work.

The Americans 

Jennifer Pochinski 

Pochinski has a wonderful fluid style. Such energy and confidence to leave so much undefined.e0de9842bcd45ce83115f1405aaff9f2.jpg

Carole Marine 

I love her use of colour and light colour. Since October 5th, 2006, she has been creating one small painting almost every day.

Peggi Kroll Roberts

Again wonderful colours and impressionistic looseness of style that I find very appealing.

Jessica Brilli

A much tighter “stylised” form of painting but that same use of strong colours and emphasis on sunshine.

 

Leah Giberson

Again strong colurs, sunshine and an interest in mid-century buildings.

She also does a lot of paintings of Airstream trailers but I don’t care so much for those paintings. Although they are technically excellent, I find them less interesting as subject matter.

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So, I think you can see that I am somewhat obsessed with sunshine and colour! I will also write a blog on living British female artists that I like.

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What a wonderful surprise!

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Know how to make an artist happy? Give them art supplies. Stuff to play with. Great Art (whom I buy the majority of my wonderful linen canvases and paints from) sent me a lovely surprise this morning. They sent me an “art box” and a Seasons Greetings card. I am absolutely delighted. The two artists in this house will be fighting over the contents, however, those chocolates are mine! Thank you Great Art!

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Snow, snow, everywhere but here.

In the Brecon Beacons it has snowed. In Stroud, where my parents live, it has snowed. Here? Nope. We had about ten minutes of sleet yesterday morning and that’s it.  That’s what you get for living next to the sea, mild winters and damp summers.

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Winter Beacons

The last time it snowed here was about 7 years ago. I’ve been a long time waiting.

I love watching snow falling out the sky. I like to stand outside and look up into the sky and watch the flakes tumbling one after another down to the ground. I love the muffled sound and the creaking sound under foot. But its not to be *sigh*. It’s just not the same with rain!

Winter Snow on Mumbles
Wintery Mumbles c. 2010
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Glynn Vivian Open Exhibition

Christmas Shows (2 of 2)

In October 2011 the gallery was closed temporarily for a £6 million refurbishment and recladding of the 1974 extension. It wasn’t opened again until 2017. That’s almost 6 years closed.

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The Glynn Vivian looked like this for over 5 years

Then this  summer it reopened.

So when the gallery announced that it was going to hold an Open Exhibition this December there was a lot of interest from Swansea-based artists. The opening event on Saturday was super packed. We had to queue to get in.

My two paintings were “Round the bend” and “Glamour Glamour”

Seamas, my husband (James Henry Johnston) also had a self portrait in the exhibition. I thought his painting looked really good!

There was lots of really interesting work there. I really enjoyed the fact that there was a lot of variety and the walls were packed with work. The standard was very high. I intend to return when it’s not so packed to have a another look.

“Round The Bend” Oil on Linen Canvas 55 x 46 cm unframed