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Looking the Other Way

People in Stroud by Emma Cownie
Painting of people on a bech in Stroud
Looking the Other Way

I needed to paint this picture. I have painted a lot of landscapes lately and I was missing the challenge of the human form. Or rather painting light on their clothes and faces.  I was spending the week with my parents who live near Stroud. My favourite day for street photography is on Saturdays when there is a farmers’ market and there are lots of people and dogs. I like painting dogs in particular. These three friends were enjoying the autumn sunshine on a bench in Stroud. I liked how they sat close together. Are they related or just friends? The two on the left have a similar style. Perhaps they are married? The street is very steep and although the bench is level, its always as if gravity has pulled the three of them to one end of the bench.

I loved the colours of the woman’s green mac and purple hats and how they worked so well with the men’s pink and blue tee shirts. They seemed to sit in a comfortable silence a lot of the time. The pigeons were not important. They were just hanging around. People often eat here as a baker’s shop is near by. The pigeon in the foreground was in the process of stepping forward, and she is forever preserved as if she only has one leg. When  I lived in London, a couple of decades ago, I often saw pigeons with toes and feet missing. They were presumably eaten away by a sort of pigeon leprosy, so I always delight in seeing a pigeon with healthy feet. The man in the pink top looks down, is he looking at a pigeon or just lost in thought. Later on, I spotted this trio walking around the town, the lady in the green mac still in the centre of the trio. On another visit later in the week, the man in the flat cap was sitting on the same bench on his own.

 

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Hay Fever

Painting of Stroud Market
Painting of a Stall at Stroud Farmers Market
Hay Fever
Here’s another footnote to last week’s post about the inspiration provided by markets. It’s the last, I promise. Sometimes, I feel the need to take a break from one sort of subject matter to paint another. I’ve painted quite a few landscapes lately and so I relished painting what I call “people portraits”, or paintings with people in them. Unfortunately, these sorts of paintings they don’t sell so easily as landscape paintings, I don’t know why.  So painting people paintings is a bit of an indulgence. Saying that sometimes I need to change what I am painting to keep my style fresh. Too much of the same subject and my painting goes off a bit. It was the bottles that called to me. So many of them in the sunshine. I was attracted to the light and colours in this composition. Painting all those bottles was wonderful, slow,  self-indulgent joy. It took quite a while and I swear that everything bottle is slightly wonky but it still works as a painting because its about light and colour, not perfect bottles. The stallholder looks slightly embarrassed to be sneezing, surrounded by a colourful forest of bottles. I liked the stallholder’s green top too as it nicely complemented the colours of the bottles. There’s also a green jacket on a chair back, to the left of her, repeating this theme. I simplified the composition, removing certain element that distracted from the bottles and shadows on the purple table cloths. I have a great deal of sympathy for the stallholder in the picture as I have developed hay fever this year. I may have had it before. I assumed that hay fever meant you sneezed and had runny eyes when you went near the grass. How little did I know! I had sneezing, itchy eyes, itchy throat and felt altogether rotten and very fatigued. It made me very ill. I thought I had a virus or a horrible cold. Eventually, my mother suggested it could be hay fever. I bought some over-the-counter antihistamines. Miracle Cure! So now, I consciously head for the coast to avoid the tree pollen, grass or whatever is out there that I am allergic to.  
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It’s a dog’s life

Painting of small dog

Just a footnote to my last post really about painting scenes at markets.

Painting of Small Dog for sale
What Now? SOLD

One of the small dogs spotted at Stroud a fortnight (2 weeks) ago. This tiny girl was waiting for her people to stop talking so she could carry on leading the way forward.

Apologies for the short post but I am having trouble typing for any length of time due to pain in my hands. A vigorous Yoga session a couple of months ago either sprained my wrists or set off something like arthritis, I am not sure. Anyway, I have had some sort of intermittent pain in my hands (the right one especially) for weeks now, but it’s particularly bad when I type or text!

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Cotswolds Tracks and the Chalford Donkeys

Stroud from the Train
Stroud From the Train

My parents live near Stroud in the Cotswolds. The best thing about the Cotswolds, like South Wales, is the hills. It provides many higgle piggedly vistas and views. Their house is part of a modern estate in the village of Bussage at the top of a very steep hill.

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Eastcombe

I enjoy exploring the donkey tracks behind the houses. The village of Eastcombe is a 10 minute walk from their house. This is 4×4 territory, especially in winter when the steep lane are unpassable for regular car and quite treachorous for walkers too.

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Chalford Donkey 1935

The other side of Bussage runs into the top (and flatter) end of Chalford. Chalford Hill and Chalford have an extraordinary number of paths (28 km within the parish as a whole), winding up the steep hillsides. They allowed workers to quickly reach the mills in the valley – a majority of the paths leading straight down. They also enabled goods to be transported up and down the hill by donkey. They were used until the 1930s to deliver bread, coal and other household items to people’s doorsteps (Jennie being the name of one of the donkeys). In fact, many front doors can still only be accessed by a winding network of ‘donkey paths’. In those times Chalford was known as ‘Neddyshire’ which derives its name from the use of donkeys.

There was a modern version of this donkey delivery that ran for 5 years from 2008 to 2013. Sadly it seems to have stopped now. The donkey delivery service was run by to Anna Usbourne and her four and eight-year-olds, Chester and Teddy. They did run the Chalford Community Store’s weekly delivery service. You can watch a video about it here. If they had ranged as far away as Bussage (one and a half miles aay up a very steep hill), I know for a fact that my mother would have been ordering her groceries from the Chalford Village shop so she could have got a visit from Chester and Teddy the donkeys! Here’s a film about them delivering the groceries in the snow in 2011.

Donkey Delivery

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Jamie Doran

The Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan, who starred in Fifty Shades of Grey and The Fall, also lives in Chalford near Stroud and my mother says he’s been spotted in the local tiny Tescos Express with Eddie Redmayne. He has to shop somewhere. Anyway, sad to say that I have never seen either of them in there!

Country Lane
Country Lane

There’s a track that leads down the hill from my parents’ house to the Ram pub. You can also drive to it as there is a single track road to it. In the field beyond the pub there lives a black horse and a donkey. I don’t think the donkey there was ever a delivery donkey.

Back of Ram Bussage
Back of the Ram

 

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Cotswolds roofs and chimneys

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The Cotswolds is an area that takes its name from the Cotswold Hills in Southern England. I think of it being in Gloucestershire because that’s the part of the Cotswolds I am familar with, but it stretches into Oxfordshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Worcesterhire and even as far as Warwickshire.   It is about 25 miles across and 90 miles long, stretching south-west from just south of Stratford-Upon-Avon (where all 6th form students studying English “A” level use to be taken to see a Shakespeare play) to just south of Bath.

Lots of people have lived here for hundreds of years. Domesday Book (complied. 1086) is testament to that. It records the names of the same villages you’d see on a map today. It lists villages full of people and animals, especially sheep. It is from the sheep that the Cotswold originally derived it wealth. From their fleeces. The steep hills later provided the fast running streams for the water-power woollen mills that line the bottom of the Stroud Valleys.

The thing that marks a town out as being part of the “Cotswold” is the honey colour limestone that all the houses are built from.  The little village of Eastcombe is no different. It is nestles alongside the village Bussage, where my parents live. I often walk down to the post office at Eastcombe when I am visiting. The part of Eastcombe that I have painted here is accessed down a steep single track road and it can be pretty treacherous in the winter ice. Once upon a time, donkeys carried people’s burdens down these tracks. These days its 4x4s!  I like hilly places (I live in Wales, after all) because houses end up sprawling higgedly piggedly up the hills and I find that pattern pleasing. The Cotswold is a generally a tidy, rather manicured place, unlike the wild unkemptness of the Gower. I enjoy the contrast.

 

 

 

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Stroud from Rodborough Hill

 

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New oil painting “Stroud from Rodborough Hill” – £295 .

“I often catch the train to Stroud in Gloucestershire to visit my parents who live in Bussage, above Stroud.

This painting reminds me of the excited child-like feeling as the train pulls into Stroud train station, when the hill layered houses suddenly start to peek through the trees.

Not only am I excited to be seeing my parents but I am excited about spending time in the glorious Cotswolds.

I have never come across such a beautiful living landscape as the Cotswolds. I have never seen so many dwellings, hamlets and villages all built in gorgeous sun absorbing limestone, hugging hills and valleys. It is a magical place, as if plucked from a child’s fantastical imagination.

The airy anticipation is reflected hopefully in this painting, which is slightly summer balmy in it’s sunny excitement.”