Perhaps I should have called this post “the invisible people”. I have a bit of a fascination with things and people that often go unnoticed. The unnoticed have now become the invisible. With the coming of the terrible coronavirus crisis, the sight of elderly people on the street is a thing of the past. They are now “self-isolating” for anything up to 12 weeks.
My confinement is more of a challenge than the “lock-down”. My broken leghas me confined to my bedroom and the bathroom. We have too many steep stairs for me to go anywhere else. I just look out the window and take satisfaction in the quietness in the street outside. As an artist, I am used to quite a high degree of isolation. Yet, I know that this level of isolation must be incredibly hard, especially for the elderly or vulnerable if they do not have the internet or can’t work messaging apps. Even if they can, it’s still hard. People need face-to-face interactions with other people, even if it’s only buying groceries at the local shops. I know my father is missing his shopping trips.
Swansea People painting by contemporary artist Emma Cownie
Swansea People painting by contemporary artist Emma Cownie
Swansea People painting by contemporary artist Emma Cownie
I hate how news reports of coronavirus deaths often like to report that a certain number are elderly or “had underlying conditions” as if that somehow means those people don’t matter so much. Every single one of them matters. They are all someone’s loved ones; nan, dad or sister, son. My husband has “an underlying condition” as do my parents, my brother-in-law and many of my friends. They are sheltering indoors, relying on the fit and young to keep the hospitals and shops up and running.
Swansea People painting by contemporary artist Emma Cownie
Swansea People painting by contemporary artist Emma Cownie
So today’s gallery of my people paintings has an added significance for me. This is a reminder of all the vanished; the people you don’t see on the streets. They are still here, at home, maybe, watching TV or listening to the radio. I hope that they are chatting away on skype or messenger or maybe like me they are just peering out their windows.
My “The Walk of Life” painting has added significance for me. When I painted it was struck by the old lady’s determination and how tiny she was in comparison with the younger people around her. I thought the composition captured the variety of life on Swansea, Oxford Street on a summer’s afternoon.
I never thought that I would have my own zimmer frame, but I do. I have to keep the weight off my healing left leg for another 4 weeks so it is vital for getting from my bedroom to the bathroom. It’s a fantastic bit of kit. Light and simple yet sturdy and reliable. Like the lady in the painting, mine has two wheels at the front and I will sometimes carry an object like a book in a bag from one room to another. I have tried holding stuff in my mouth but it just doesn’t work.
I am delighted that the American collector who recently bought this painting is a nurse who works with elderly ladies like this one. He will understand just how liberating a zimmer frame is to the disabled and elderly. During my stay in the hospital, I watched very elderly ladies, who had fallen, broken their hips and had them replaced, push past pain and discomfort slowly but steadily make their way up and down the ward with the help of a frame. Once they proved their mobility they could negotiate their return back home. I have a set of crutches but I like the frame better. So although “The Walk of Life” always was a celebration of the human spirit and determination, but I now know that the old lady is just getting on with her life. She probably doesn’t want applause or pity but she certainly might want to have a good chat.
While the rest of the world is on coronavirus lock-down I am confined to my bedroom with my leg in a very heavy plaster. Moving from the bed to a chair involves a lot of hopping and a zimmer/walker frame. It all takes a lot of effort to achieve simple things that I never gave much thought to before.
I broke my left leg. I have broken both lower bones and dislocated my ankle. Six days ago I had an operation to pin the bones in my ankle. My brother asked if breaking a bone is more painful than a toothache. The answer is definitely yes. I have endured 50 shades of different pain since I went for a walk with our dogs 2 weeks ago in my favourite woods, near Ilston, Gower. It was just about the worst time to break my leg, to be honest.
I had walked about half a mile along the side of the stream. I had bought a new camera with me and my attention was caught by the sunlight on a mossy tree. I decided I would move closer to take a photo. Instead, I stumbled over a muddy stick and as I put my left foot out to steady myself I felt it twist and a sickening snap. I rolled on the wet ground, hoping against hope that I hadn’t done something dreadful but the horrible pain told me that I had. My foot was bent out of shape. Just to think about it makes me feel ill, even now.
As I lay on the ground, I wondered what to do. I tried shouting “Help” a few times but felt silly/useless. What could I do? My husband was in Ireland. Fortunately, I had my mobile phone in my handbag and it was charged with credit so I rang for an ambulance and waited, and waited. The call handler told me not to move. It was cold on the wet mud. I took a photo of my bent leg. I have not looked at it since. I don’t think I can bear to.
I assumed that the ambulance would not be too long (I was very wrong on this score) and I started to worry about my two dogs, what would happen to them? I rang my neighbours Rob and Liz and told them what had happened and where I was. Rob said he would come for the dogs. So I waited. I lay and looked up at the sky. Blue patches and white clouds drifted by. It started to rain. Then the sun came out again. I was still lying on the ground. I don’t remember what my dogs were doing but they were nearby. I think Biddy, the collie-cross, tried to present me with a few sticks to throw for her. I clutched my injured leg, it really hurt. I rang my husband. It went to voicemail. “I am lying in Ilston Woods, I think I have broken my leg. I have rung for an ambulance. I have spoken to Liz and Rob. Rob’s coming for the dogs….” I felt bad about leaving him a message when there was nothing he could do.
After a long time, a family appeared on the track, a couple with their two girls. “Help, I think I have broken my leg”. I think they were surprised by this as they walked towards me very slowly. I told them that I had called for an ambulance and my neighbour was coming. They took my phone number and said they would go down to the road and look out for Rob and/or the ambulance. So they left me and I waited and waited. Company had distracted me from the pain in my leg and being on my own meant being with the pain. I rang my husband again and then Biddy started barking. It was Rob. Thank God.
“How long have you been lying there?”
“45 minutes. The Call handler said to stay where I was”
“That’s stupid advice. She can’t see your situation. You will get hypothermia. We need to get you up” So with great difficulty, Rob helped me up off the wet mud and I hopped in slow agony to a mossy tree, where I first leaned against a trunk and later sat on a low branch. He had brought a heavy hi-vis coat which he put around my shoulders. It was blissfully warm.
I wish I could say that was the end of it. That the ambulance came soon after but they didn’t. We waited and waited and rang the ambulance again. It was difficult explaining where I was to call handlers who were not local. They wanted to know the name of the church at Ilston. Ilston is the tiniest of Gower villages. There are about 10 houses. There is only one church. What did it matter what saint it was dedicated to?
So after another long wait, I asked Rob to walk down to the house opposite the church at Ilston to ask them to ring the ambulance, perhaps they would be able to give better directions. We had often passed the people who live here, they waved in a friendly manner and I was hopeful that they would help. Rob left with my two dogs, Biddy and Mitzy, in tow. I sat and waited. The pain was worse when I did not have any company to distract me. I looked at the mud by my feet. I was dimly aware of a robin on a branch a few feet away from me. And then like a miracle, little Mitzy appeared by my side. She was collarless. I was so glad to see her. She was not leaving me. Good loyal rescue dog to the rescue. I took her photo as a distraction from the pain.
Rob returned with David (and Biddy on her lead). David is 73 and lives in the house opposite the church. He made several trips along the track, and brought me many very welcome items like a big blanket, gloves, hat and a hot water bottle. I was really thirsty and he also bought a bottle of water but David’s wife had said I could not drink anything, her advice turned out to be right, so I just washed my mouth out with it. He made several trips. The last one in the dark with a torch. He took quite a risk, helping us in the dark. We got excited because the beam of his light reflected in the stream and it looked like two people were coming along the track, but it was just him. It got very dark, The moon came out and a barn owl hooted. We told him to go home, we were worried about him in the cold night air. He reluctantly set off.
I started to think that no one was ever going to come. I was so cold. It would be difficult enough to get me out of here in daylight but in the dark? I kept thinking up with ideas for getting how to get me back to the road; What about a horse? A wheelbarrow? One by one my desperate ideas were politely considered and sensibly dismissed. Rob was a reassuring presence. They will come he said. Then eventually, Rob said, says, “I think I can see lights along the track, more than one!”
At long last, the ambulance service had come. After 5 hours of waiting. Two figures dressed in green, a woman and a man, carrying torches were coming along the path, with David and his brother-in-law leading the way. I was so relieved. Once they were there, I knew they could sort everything out. And they did. Lyndsey the paramedic was lovely and reassuring. She worked under very difficult circumstances. It was dark and very cold. She checked my blood pressure, temperature and although I felt so cold my body temperature was normal (hurray for thermal vests, I say). I was given a small dose of morphine which had me seeing stars and then liquid paracetamol. They called Sketty Fire Brigade to put me on a stretcher to carry me half a mile down the track (and over the church fence) to the waiting ambulance. It was a long journey looking up at the cold frosty stars through the tree branches from that stretcher. It was a full moon. They carried me wordlessly. There was a short snort of laughter when I said “Well Done” after they had hoisted me over the churchyard railing.
It was a very long night. The journey to Morriston Hospital Hospital seemed slow. Where are we now? I would ask. It was the pain that made it feel that way. We waited outside A&E in the ambulance for quite a while. Lyndsey told me her mother was the first baby born in the NHS and called was Aneira, after the Welsh founder of the NHS Aneurin Bevan. Eventually, I was taken in for my first X-ray. I was visited by a number of doctors who introduced themselves to me by their first names; Jeremy, Mohammed, Chris there were others but I have forgotten them. After a wait, the doctors in A&E manipulated my leg (I was under light anesthetic) and put it in plaster so that the agonizing swelling could start to go down. The leg was X-rayed again. Everything was aligned nicely. Every now and then the average waiting time in A&E was announced on the loudspeaker. It started at 8 hours, later it was 13 hours and then by lunchtime the next day it was down to 2 hours. I lost track of time. I didn’t get much sleep in A&E. It was a fascinating place, very hectic. No wonder there are so many drama series set in Emergency Rooms & Casualty Departments.
Anyway, to cut a very story short I waited a day for a bed in the trauma ward. I then spent another 7 days waiting for the swelling to go down so the ankle could be pinned. I was “nil by mouth” for 4 days in a row but never made it to the operating theatre. Thankfully, on Monday I did, finally. It was probably just as well as the ankle specialist was working that day. The coronavirus emergency meant that the ward was rapidly cleared, as they needed the beds and staff elsewhere. I was sent home on Tuesday via Red Cross Ambulance.
All through this experience, I have been impressed by the kindness and amazing patience of medical staff as well as just how much pressure the NHS is under. The pressure has just intensified ever since. I would like to thank Rob and David in particular, who waited so long in the cold with me, and Liz and David’s wife, and anyone who I came in contact within A&E, Ward A (which then had to move upstairs to become Ward G), the operating theatre and the Red Cross. Thank you xxx
Postscript:- Biddy and Mitzy went home with Rob and slept all the next day. Seamas flew back from Ireland on a plane full of racegoers heading for the Cheltenham Races.
I am winding down the social media for a while because we are leaving the UK to spend some time in our house in Burtonport, Donegal, Ireland. The internet will be available on a very limited basis so I won’t be able to post on here until mid-April. I will be checking my emails but I won’t be posting much, if anything, on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.
I have mixed feeling about the enforced “break” from social media. On the one hand, I hate the way how it sucks up all your spare time and energy and how FOMO (fear of missing out) has you checking updates. There’s always the fear that if you stop “spinning all the plates” that people will forget about you! However, I am certainly looking forward to reading books, listening to the radio (there’s no TV either) and sketching and painting for fun (not oils but watercolour sketches).
I am very excited/nervous about the whole thing because I am driving there and it’s a long, long way.
Please be aware that any artwork purchased after 25th March will only be shipped after 12th April.
My Top 10 tips for selling art online. I am sometimes asked for advice on how to sell art online. To be honest, I feel like there is so much I don’t know about Art marketing, but I did sell over 200 pieces, originals and prints last year and half of these were direct sales to collectors so something’s working. Marketing and selling art takes an enormous amount of time and effort. At least 50% of my day is spent on marketing. The great thing about it all is that the longer you do it the more followers and fans you will gather. It’s an investment of time – but it cuts both ways. You will spend hours at the keyboard, posting away (sometimes wondering if it’s worthwhile) but you will develop a following. Some of it casual, some of it very loyal and dedicated indeed. You need to remember that it may take months or even years of following an artist’s work and career before a collector buys your work.
Your fans are invested their time in your you and your “journey” too so you need to keep them with you. So here are my top 10 tips (BTW there is no affiliate marketing in this blog post and there’s so much more I could say but I’m sticking to 10 tips for starters).
Your story – Be positive. Nothing succeeds like success. There’s enough depressing news out there and your art is (hopefully) an escape from all that unpleasantness. So it’s important to celebrate all your successes no matter how small; every sale, exhibition, painting-in-progress is a cause for celebration. Don’t ever be tempted to say that you aren’t selling or you hate online galleries. Instead talk about your latest project. Explain WHY you make your art. How does it make you feel?
Have your own website – there are many different hosting platforms out there. There are some that specialise in hosting artists such as artweb, fasco and artmajeur. They will all charge an annual fee (update: Artmajeur’s free plan now allows unlimited artworks to the site). You need to make sure that your site has ecommerce facilities. That means it doesn’t just function as a gallery but also as a shop where collectors can buy work.
Start blogging – a great way to tell your story is to write a blog. I use WordPress but there are other blogging sites like blogger and many websites will have a blog page integrated into the site. Your blogs don’t have to be great long essays but the important thing is to blog regularly. Some bloggers blog once a day, others once a week. Don’t be an occasional blogger. There’s nothing more frustrating than a blogger who only blogs three times a year. You will lose followers if you are inconsistent. Keep focused. Blog about your art and inspiration or art in general. Why do you make your art? How does it make you feel? Don’t blog about the news, your family, what you had for tea, latest fashions unless it’s directly related to art, and what inspires you. Which brings me to…
Social Media – there are lots of outlets, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, etc. You don’t have to do them all (I dropped Tumblr, for example as it was a bridge too far) but make sure whichever platform you choose to be, do it well. To honest no one platform is necessarily better than the others for promoting your work, all of them will do something to help. Don’t post twenty times a day – it will seem like you are spamming people and they will unfollow you. Once or twice a day is enough, maybe three times on twitter. The important thing to remember is that it’s called social media for a reason. You have to be sociable. If someone comments on your post it’s good manners to respond, with a “like” and a “thank you”. It’s important that you support other social media users and follow other artists, photographers of any supporters who like, comment on, and share your posts and return the favour. We all need encouragement. It’s important to encourage others. I have made many good friends out there in the online world. Again. like the blogging try not to mix business and personal stuff on your Art pages/sites – have a separate one for your own family stuff and stick to art-related things on your Art accounts.
Pinterest – It’s not just for recipes! It has 250 million users every month, with 25 million users in the US and about 80% are female. It’s not a social media platform but a search engine. It’s well worth joining to get your work seen and develop a following. It also a really good source of information about art marketing. I have learnt a lot about blogging, pinning, marketing, and websites from pins on Pinterest. If you want to see a selection, I have saved my Buying and Selling Art pins here.
Canva – is great for creating professional-looking blog covers, Pinterest graphics, and so on. I use it all the time. There’s also Pablo and Visme which does some pretty awesome infographics.
SEO – Use Key Words in your posts so that search engines like Google and Safari can find you. A website that is well optimized for search engines “speaks the same language” as its potential visitor base with keywords for SEO that help connect searchers to your site. I find this a vast subject but there are pins on Pinterest and sites like Moz.com will help you improve your SEO. Make sure that when you post your pictures on your website that you filling all the boxes.
Listen to Podcasts for marketing tips – Search in your podcast provider for Art Marketing or Artist podcasts. Some of my favourites are Artstorefront and Content Jam. There are plenty of others. I listen whilst I am painting.
Finally, Online Galleries – there are loads and loads to choose from. There is a very long list of online galleries here. It’s a bewildering choice. Some work better than others. There are massive ones like Saatchionline where it is difficult to be seen and smaller ones like Artbazzar that have less of a budget for advertising, there are others that charge to be on them like Artfinder and Artgallery. Others are still free to be on them such as Singulart, but they charge higher rates of commission. It makes sense to have a presence on several sites.
Just remember that putting all your energies into one website or social media site is foolish, as it’s like building your house on someone else’s land. They all change their algorithm, pricing policies, curators, and what might work for you one year may not the next. I’ll give you an example, last year Facebook shut down my Emma Cownie Artist Business page with no explanation. This is not uncommon on Facebook. I tried in vain to find out why it had happened and to get it restored, to no avail. I lost thousands of followers and their contact details. I was devasted. That’s not a story I usually share as it’s not a positive one but let that be a warning not to put all your eggs into one social media basket (thankfully, I hadn’t, but it still hurt).
It’s always sensible to be on several platforms and sites and encourage your followers to follow you on different platforms. You can do within many ways such as an email signature with links to your social media platforms. There’s so much to learn and there are plenty of people out there who will offer tempting online courses on Art Marketing but I prefer to teach myself. I hope that this post will help other artists get seen. I welcome any comments, suggestions from other artists or commentators
Delighted to have Sold this classic “urban folk” painting “Night Jacks” to a collector in Utah in the US via Artfinder !
“The title of this expressionist “urban folk” painting takes it’s title from Hopper’s “Night Hawks” – I have “Britishized” Hopper’s painting which was set in an American diner by using a British alternative or even equivalent the ever present Fish and Chip shop instead as it seemed appropriate. The second part of the title, Jacks, refers to a name we have here in Swansea for people who come from Swansea.”
This is one of my favourite reviews of my work from Gallery OMP in Hereford, England.
“Looking at Emma’s painting you may get a sense of Paul Gauguin’s use of yellow and red, Robert Bevan’s blue green trees with purple, Henri Matisse’s simplification and exaggeration of form and Andre Derain’s bold definition of shape within the landscape. Emma likes the Fauvist simplified forms, use of lines and bold combination of colours. Emma challenges herself not to keep producing paintings in one style or influence, and is reactive to the scenes and feelings she is faced with when in front of a potential subject. She has created at the other end of the light spectrum too, capturing night-time urban, city scenes. There are so many subjects for Emma to apply herself too, as she is located in Swansea with so many different types of landscape close by – woodland, mountain and coast. It’s all about the light for Emma, capturing the excitement of it playing on her subjects. A true case of what’s left out by the artist with a clever use of colour to take the viewer’s mind on a journey into the depths of the image.”
Review – Gallery OMP, Hereford.
Large Limited edition mounted prints are available here
It is great to finally have this recognition from Artfinder as a top selling, most followed and popular artist over more than a 3 year period. I have argued for a couple of years that Artfinder should have a two tier system that differentiates between those established, best selling artists and new artists joining Artfinder so that the searching and selecting of art is easier rather than choosing from an ever-changing amorphous mass of thousands of pieces of art. They seem to have responded to this need with these lists of popular artists which is positive development; positive for artists, collectors and Artfinder alike.
Before it was easy to “disappear” on Artfinder, now artlovers visiting the website can clearly see, and differentiate between, most popular artists as well as new, up and coming artists.
This is the second in a series of urbanscapes in which I paint cities other than my home city of Swansea. Here we start with the first painting of a busy street in New York There will be urban cityscapes to follow of London and more of New York, among others. I love the brash, invigorating colours of New York streets, how they demand to be seen, noticed and paid attention to. The fluorescent and neon sign lights from banks of advertisements blend with a river of colour, awash in the rain soaked streets below. I love how the orange yellow taxi wheels spin up grey-green spray as they tear up the streets. How the garish orange-pinks compliment the deep greens, bible blacks and devil reds on the wet roads.
All the colours seem visually orchestrated by the elements and the street bustle in a chromatic symphony. Chaotic but in continual synchronicity.
This is the first of a series of urbanscapes in which I paint cities other than my home city of Swansea. Here we start with a city close to me, Cardiff. There will be urban cityscapes to follow of London and New York, among others. This is a painting of Bute Terrace in Cardiff with two imposing hotels, including Radisson Blu, in the distance.
I love how the mingling glare of white car headlights and the blaring red of brake lights evokes a sense of busy movement and traffic jams. One of the most common signature sights of the city.
“Freedom of the Road” which takes it’s ironic title from the taxi in the painting parked in the wrong side of the road and pointing the wrong direction as if it had freedom of the road. This painting is 80 x 60cm
This painting is a bigger version of a recently sold oil painting “Taxi from Uplands” but from a more distant view point, to include more of the atmospheric, rain soaked road. An evocative night time oil painting of Uplands, an inner city area in Swansea with a taxi parked, facing the wrong way, in the middle of the road. It’s main dipped head light blares white down the shiny jet black road and intermingles with back-light reds and street-light amber and LED silvery white. They all seem to wash and stream down the wet city road with the rain.