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Playing the Market

Painting Markets
I love markets. I love outdoor markets and indoor markets alike. A busy market is fun to visit as a shopper, but even better for an artist. To be honest I often just look at the people and stalls and don’t buy a lot. It provides inspiration. There are lots of things to look at, the light, in particular, is what attracts me, whether it’s indoors or outside, there is always lots of natural light at a market. I also like the distracted people, and also the bright colours of the stalls and the people shopping or sitting outside at cafes (both in summer and winter). Swansea has a cracking indoor market that was rebuilt after the original market was blitzed during the Second World War. It has a wonderful barrel-shaped roof. The light is a combination of natural light and artificial light. The light in the painting below is natural sunshine that was streaming in from the roof.
Painting of Swansea market
Knick Knack Attack (Swansea Indoor Market)
Outdoor markets are more variable, the rain can make them rather sad places to be in but in the sunshine, they are great fun. The Uplands, in Swansea, has a monthly market.
Painting of People at Uplands Market
Uplands Outdoor Market
Painting of Swansea woman
On a Mission
Painting of Welsh women
Double Trouble (Uplands Market)
I particularly like the dogs that come along too. They are usually on leads but also sitting with their owners at outdoors cafes at and near the markets. The strong winter shadows make for a dramatic composition.
Painting of Dog
Well Deserved Treat (Uplands)
I also like the little “unobserved” vignettes, such as these children playing with a typewriter. I like to imagine the conversation this smart-phone generation might be having about this relic from the last century.
Painting of Children with typewriter
What does it do? (Uplands Market)
There is a Victorian indoor Market in Cardiff too. It reminds me of a railway station, with its steel fixtures, supports, and arches, the huge glass, skylit, two-tone ceiling. They have a record shop upstairs and several cafes.
Painting of Cardiff Market
Overlooking Cardiff Market
Cardiff painting
“Weighing it Up” (Cardiff Indoor Market)
There is a fish stall by one of the two entrances, it gets natural light from the left side. This stall is particularly expansive, the fish and crabs are displayed in a generous display shelf. There is plenty to choose from. Again, it was the light that drew me to this composition. Although we cannot see the customer’s face, only his back, I am speculating on the conversation he is having with the fishmonger. I love that word “monger”. Its a wonderfully old-fashioned word (probably Anglo-Saxon) for someone who deals in a particular trade, there are others like an ironmonger, cheesemonger and more unsavory ones like fleshmonger, scaremonger and warmonger. My parents live near Stroud, in the Cotswolds and I sometimes visit markets, there’s an indoor market most days of the week as well as an outdoor farmers market on Saturdays. I visited the market last Saturday.
Market at Stroud
Farmers’ Market, Stroud, England
Again, its the dogs that catch my eyes. There are lots in Stroud of different shapes and sizes. You can tell a lot about an area by its dogs. Fashions come and go in towns and cities like Swansea. Huskies used to be all the rage, then smaller dogs like French Bulldogs became popular, more recently cockerpoos are everywhere. When I visit Cirencester I see lots of dachshunds, in Stroud, there’s more a mix from larger lurchers, Jack Russells (my favorite dog), and very cute Chihuahua-mixes with Jack Russells. In Ireland, the towns also favor smaller dogs but in rural Donegal, it’s larger collies and black Labradors that are very popular. So as we drove the length of Ireland, I noticed that little Mitzie (our Dashund/Jack Russell cross) got admiring looks in Wexford but it was Biddy (our Collie cross) who was more popular in Donegal.
Painting of Terrier
Stroud Terrier
Painting of sausage dog
Just a Second
Again, it’s the “unobserved” that I am interested in. A dog on its own isn’t as interesting as one with its owners unless it’s looking “out of shot” at its owner. In “Just a Second” the dachshund is obviously hoping its owner is going to produce a treat from her bag. I doubt it somehow.
Two women and their dog painting
Table for Three
In “Table for three”, my most recent painting, the little pooch looks very much loved by its family, after all, as she has the best seat. I would not be surprised if she has been fed a biscuit or two or a slice of cake. Look,  there is a knife, and a stack of plates under the coffee cup on the left, evidence of food eaten.  There is a clearly comfortable vibe between the two women, whom I am guessing have been in a relationship for a long time. There are no smartphones to interrupt their revery in the sunshine. The woman on the left has difficulty walking as she has a walking stick in her hand. I love the rich red color of her hair, catching the sunshine. That color says to me I am still young at heart. It chimes with the red stripes of her partner’s top. This painting has caught a moment. It may an illusion. For all I know, they could be having a row, but I really don’t think so. I enjoy looking at the details in the picture and speculating and writing a story about them. If you want to see more of my people and or animal paintings please click here.
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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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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!

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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?

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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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