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Getting Ready for my Summer Exhibition

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Paintings ready for my art exhibition
I have a confession to make. The person who does most of the “getting ready” is not me – it’s my husband, Seamas. Yes, I paint the pictures, make sure all the edges are tidied up and my initials are on each painting but he does the fiddly stuff I hate. But he’s the one who helps me decide which paintings to have in the exhibition, he goes to buy the “D” ring hooks from the DIY shop round the corner, when we run out. Or yes, and another 4 balls of string. Then, he patiently sits down and measures the spacing at the back of the paintings, screws in the “D” hooks and then has to arrange the string so that 1) the painting won’t fall off the wall 2) it doesn’t hang too high or too long down from the brass hooks they have in the venue. He also went to the venue to double check how many spaces for paintings there are too. He’ll also help with the hanging on Monday afternoon and delivering the flyers to the local business and homes.

So if you are in Swansea in August please call by and have a cup of coffee in the Brynmill Coffee House – its opposite the entrances of Singleton and Brynmill Park and 5 minutes’ walk from the seafront. The Staff are super nice and the cake is delicious and they have gluten-free versions too. You can enter the draw for a limited edition signed print of “Outside Brynmill Coffee House“. There will be limited edition prints and greeting cards available to buy too. My paintings are a selection of scenes and people of Brynmill as well as some Gower landscapes. Photographs of the paintings in situ will follow soon!

Flyer for Exhibition 2017 - Final Version
Emma Cownie Summer Exhibition

 

© Emma Cownie 2017

 

 

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Fall, Bay?

Fall Bay, Gower.

Before our visit to Fall Bay, Gower, I’d read online that it was “one of the hardest bays to reach on the Gower Peninsula”.

My curiosity was piqued. The walk from old Great Pitton Farm, to Mewslade seemed easy enough. The coastal path climbed up past Jacky’s Tor, Devil Truck and Lewes Castle until it reached Fall Bay. Not so difficult, I thought. That was until I attempted the climb down to the beach!

The beaches at Brandy Cove and Great Tor Bay also require you to clamber down some limestone rocks before you reach the sandy beach. This path, however, was much more difficult to navigate, though. The way became very narrow and I had to wait several minutes to let two energetic families come past. Still, I have this idea that one must suffer to some degree in the creation of your art so I carried on. As I started my climb down, the “path” became much tighter and steeper as the way down twisted and the rocks were worryingly smooth. The final descent was very difficult, made much more treacherous by slippery rocks. I was amazed that I didn’t twist my ankle! So no wonder, the “beach is never crowded”.

The day had become overcast by the time we reached the beach. Tears Point rises above the beach at the west end. Worm’s Head and Rhossili, is just round the corner, but out of view. The grey light meant that the waves looked greener and the cliffs more red/orange. I was drawn to painting the light through the breaking waves, where the sand and sky is reflected in the narrow part of the wave. I also loved the chunkiness of the cliff where it meets the sand and how the surf swirled around it. I got my feet and trousers wet more than once!

Thankfully, it was much easier to climb back up the path than it was coming down.

Fall Bay Rocks, Gower
Waves at Fall Bay, Gower

© Emma Cownie Art

 

 

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Worm’s Head Lookout Station at Rhossili, Gower

Worm Head Coastwatch station
Painting Worms Head Station, Rhossili
Worms Head Coastwatch Station (SOLD)

This is another gem in the Gower landscape – the Worm’s Head Lookout Station at Rhossili.  I really enjoyed painting this. This stout and sturdy single story building is made of granite and was built over 120 years ago, around 1896. It sits alone at the top of the high cliffs that look out towards Worms Head and beyond to Lundy Island and to the Celtic Sea. The wind-blasted building has an 8m flagstaff and a 6m wind generator.  I was inspired to paint this because of the sharp summer shadows and the isolation of the tiny building. It oozes Hopper.

It is set in a very beautiful but dangerous coastline. Between the cliffs and Worm Head is the Causeway, a scramble of rocks and rock pools, which is open for 2.5 hours either side of low tide. The tidal rise here is the second highest in the world. However, it is fatal to attempt to wade or swim to when the causeway is flooded or partially so. The coastline and waters around Gower are lovely to look at and to paint but they need to be treated with great respect. The waters around the Worm can also be dangerous to small craft, fishing boats and surfers.

This is why I am very glad that a team of local volunteers for National Coastwatch look after the interests of visitors and seafarers, alike. Since 2007, from 10am till 4pm in the winter and 10am till 6pm in the summer the lookout is staffed. If at the end of watch the Causeway has not yet flooded and there are members of the public still out on Worm’s Head, the watch is kept open until everyone is safely back on the mainland. So although the Lookout Station looks somewhat bleak and empty, the front door is, in fact, open and there is someone inside looking out for us all!

For more information on National Coastwatch see https://www.nci.org.uk/wormshead

For an excellent online map of Gower see: http://www.mapsta.net/uk-os/gower/

Emma Cownie Art©

 

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Worms Head Gower

Oil painting Worms Head Gower
Kitchen Corner Boat House, Rhossili, Gower (SOLD)

We have lived on the doorstep of the Gower Peninsula for almost 18 years now. It’s small enough (19 miles in length) to make day trips from Swansea possible. As a landscape artist, it has given me inspiration for many Gower landscape and seascape paintings over the years. Yet, there is always some part I come across that I don’t remember having seen before.  It is 70 square miles in area, so that’s a lot of coastline, hills, valleys, woodlands, streams and fields to explore. I have always wanted to walk along the entire length of the coastal path, to see all the “linking sections” that we miss on the day trips. Perhaps, I will do it this summer.

Rhossili is always popular with visitors. It has an incredible view of the 3-mile beach of Rhossili Bay that arcs northward. In the other direction is Worms Head. This curious dragon-like, tidal island snakes off into the sea. I have seen seals on the leeward side of the island. At low-tide, the causeway can be crossed to the island. When we visited the tide was dropping and the causeway was revealing itself minute, by minute. Yet, the surprise for me was the Old Boathouse at Kitchen Corner. Kitchen Corner is a small bay to the right of the path that leads down to the Worm’s Head causeway. The boathouse was built in the 1920s and was up for sale in 2013. Looking at the real estate details, it doesn’t look like the new owners (if it was sold then) have painted the boathouse since! At low tide, the rocks below are exposed. I painted it when the green heaving sea was still at its feet.  I love to capture the deep green that you only see with a summer sky. It’s a distinct colour that is often found off the coast of West Wales, in Pembrokeshire in particular. I use a lot of turquoise and royal blue to try and recreate the tone in my oil painting. There were also fishermen on the ledges opposite the boathouse.

Buy limited edition prints here 

 

 

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Same Location, Different Views

I have just completed a painting “Summer Rain” which is an oil painting of the same view as in the paintings, “Outside Brynmill Coffee House”, “Night Walks” and “The Dusk Walk Home”, the later two which both sold via Artfinder. All are below.

“Night Walks was inspired by Hopper’s “Night Hawks” and “The Dusk Walk Home” was a commissioned re-interpretation of “Night Hawks”. Unlike these two latter evening-time oil paintings this is new painting “Summer Rain” is earlier in the evening as dusk descends and is in the summer rain. I have posted these in accordance with the progression of the day, from bright day to darker night.

Outside Brynmill Coffee House

Outside Brynmill Coffee House 50x70cm
Outside Brynmill Coffee House
Summer Rain - Brynmill Coffee House in evening rain 60x50cm
Summer Rain

Summer Rain
The Brynmill Coffee House is in Brynmill, Swansea and is a superior coffee house that allows artists to exhibit their work. It has live music too.
I will be exhibiting in the month of August and my husband James Henry Johnston is exhibiting in September.
It is great to have a local business which supports the arts. I salute them in these paintings.

The Dusk Walk Home

Dusk Walk Home
Dusk Walk Home – Private Collection

 

Night Walks

Night Walks - Brynmill in the night rain
Night Walks – Private Collection
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Passive Smoking

Oil painting of people in Swansea town centre
Passive Smoking

This, like a number of my recent and forthcoming works, will not be available to buy for the foreseeable future as they will be exhibited first but I am posting details of them to keep collectors and artlovers up to date with my recent work, inspirations, and directions.

This painting is a new painting is heavily influenced by North American artists in its colouring and in its subject matter, namely the frisson that comes from human interaction, in the most apparently mundane settings.
I loved this scene, as the man seems ill at ease and not sure whether to leave or remain. He may even feel guilty that he is kinda in ear shot of the couple’s conversation and may appear to be eavesdropping. He was there first and then the couple joined him, to eagerly gossip and have a quick cigarette break. They seem so comfortable in each other’s company compared to the man who seems very ill at ease, aggrieved at having to endure their smoking and the drifting grey-white fumes.

Buy here

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The Time In Between

 

Oil painting of woman waiting for the bus.
Time in Between – SOLD

The title refers to the time before one activity, after another activity has ceased. A limbo period filled with change checking in her purse, as she waits for her bus to arrive.

The composition is, as with many of my works, influenced the diagonal compositions as used by Henri Carter Bresson. The colouring is influenced by American artists such as Hopper and Eric Bowman. I have deliberately tried to imbue this portrait with pathos, elevating a mundane act into something semi sacred, as the light is Cathedral-like as it shines through the high glass panels of Swansea Bus Station onto her chunky cable knit cardigan.

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A Certain Something

Contemporary oil painting of Swansea man
A Certain Something – SOLD

 

A hot summer day on Oxford Street Swansea finds this old dude, sharply dressed for the summer heat.
The title again has two meanings – the man has bought a certain something for a precious loved one or he has a certain something as in presence or charisma, something not easily defined.

This is a signature type of painting for me – painting people walking around in their everyday lives. Painting moods, anticipations and atmospheres. Creating presence and pathos.

“Emma’s paintings paintings are lively and capture the fleeting moments of day and night in the Swansea streets. A very strong visual impact is derived from bold blocks of colours and an expressive palette that is widely used in modern art and pop art. The cinematic compositions and dramatic use of light and dark in her artworks, particularly in those night scenes where I observe some tranquility and alienation in a busy city, almost draw a subtle connection to the pieces of Edward Hopper.

I particularly like the figurative works which I think capture the everyday nuances of normal people going about their daily life”

Rise Art – Insiders Review

 

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Still Time

 

Oil painting of elderly Swansea man
Still Time – SOLD

Delighted to have Sold “Still Life” via Artfinder a day after adding to my store! Going to the USA! ‪#‎artfinder‬ ‪#‎swansea‬

“A jaunty elderly man, all dressed and booted on his way to the shops in Uplands, Swansea.
I loved his cheerful sense of purpose and his 1970s sunglasses, that slightly look at odds with the rest of his clothing.
The title of the painting has a double meaning as in still time to get to the shop and a moment of time frozen in time, made still. Still time.

 

This is a signature type of painting for me – painting people walking around in their everyday lives. Painting moods, anticipations and atmospheres. Creating presence and pathos.

“Emma’s paintings are lively and capture the fleeting moments of day and night in the Swansea streets. A very strong visual impact is derived from bold blocks of colours and an expressive palette that is widely used in modern art and pop art. The cinematic compositions and dramatic use of light and dark in her artworks, particularly in those night scenes where I observe some tranquility and alienation in a busy city, almost draw a subtle connection to the pieces of Edward Hopper.

I particularly like the figurative works which I think capture the everyday nuances of normal people going about their daily life”

Rise Art – Insiders Review

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PTSD Creates the Need to Paint

How Art helps soothe my soul

I have a mental health condition that I have had to learn to live with, which I can forget about for days at an end when things are going well, but it continues to limit my life and my career both as an artist and as a teacher. I face difficulties because I look and sound reasonably normal in conversation, I can do a lot, like teach 5 lessons in a day or paint a picture over three days. However, I suffer anxiety and I have difficulties with fear-based thoughts. I can also run into “brick walls” energy-wise. I have to have “rest days” in the middle of the week.

I need to sit at home and paint to restore my energies and spirits. The repetitive movement of the hand somehow calms me, as does familiar actions. I have met others who are going through traumas who cut up magazines for collages or build structures to occupy and calm their frayed nerves. I have always painted so this soothes me.

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“Passive Smoking”

 

I am usually pretty shattered by the end of my third day of teaching. I cannot travel far because of limited energy levels and this has limited me to do exhibitions to within a 2 hours driving limit on A roads (I can’t do motorways because of panic attacks).

When I first developed PTSD 4 years ago, I was totally bewildered by the experience. I had been involved in a minor car accident and had briefly lost consciousness. This was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and over a matter of weeks I came apart at the seams in way that that seemed as comprehensive as it was unexpected. Looking back I can see that I had lived under enormous stress in my personal and professional life for many years and an earlier traumatic incident when my dog had been killed on a busy main road provided the “crack in my psyche.”

At different times I shook like a leaf, cried most days, experienced the blackest despair, experienced flashbacks, had nightmares, and became very emotional at anything to do with death or war. I could not bear horror on TV and “The Walking Dead” gave me nightmares after I watched it once. Never again.

I was hyperviligient, I no longer felt safe; every car on the road was coming directly towards me. I flinched at minor accidents (I remember leaping out of my chair when someone dropped a cup on the floor in the staff room), and mis-saw things out the corner of my eyes (I mistook a hoverfly for a zeppelin in the sky).

I also felt utterly and completely exhausted.

Social interactions were very difficult, except with the kindest and most sympathetic people. I avoided people. I remember panicking when I saw a work colleague out in town and hid under a table in a cafe to avoid them!

I found it extremely difficult to trust people and felt very alienated from people who had been friends.

Painting was the only thing that gave me hope. I felt like such a failure and it gave me a tiny measure of achievement. It has been a Godsend and I can honestly say that I cannot live without it.

I remember experiencing utter exhaustion for about a year after I’d had EMDR therapy (which was extremely tiring in itself but thankfully it helped “plug in” the wire in my head that had become unplugged”). The following year I was just exhausted all the time, in the third year I improved to tired all the time and now I have days when I am not tired but I have to careful to marshal my energies wisely.

I went back to teaching after counselling but I could only cope with working three days a week. It has been a tremendous struggle and I was very proud that I managed to keep my job, even if it was only part time.

I have been devastated, recently as I have recently been given notice of redundancy. My union is very helpful and supportive but the future remains very uncertain.  Painting is helping me cope on a day-to-day basis.

The popular perception of PTSD is that you have to be in the army or the emergency services to develop it, but I think that its more common than people realise; years of bullying as a child, rape, domestic abuse, living with an addicted partner/parent, even the distress of nursing a loved through a terminal illness can trigger the condition.

However, that’s not to say that everyone who has had trauma in their life will develop PTSD, I think it depends on how long they have endured stress and their sensitivity as a person. Two people may experience the same event and react differently.