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Art as “Shared Experience”

I recently came across this article in The Atlantic which really interested me as it was sort of explaining some of the strategies my husband and I have been using in the last few years to promote ourselves as artists. I have often thought of my husband,  Seamas, as a creative director so was very interested by the term they use in this article, Creative Entrepreneur.


To give the reader some background, I had a car crash which led to PTSD and left me at my wit’s end, worried about my future, whether I could return to my job as a teacher and then returning to painting in order to help me cope with the emotional and psychological effects of my PTSD and simply just get through the day. Seamas encouraged me to paint as he knew it was helping me therapeutically. He then noticed my style was changing post PTSD and made encouraging remarks about certain areas to explore. I started building up quite a number of paintings as I painted everyday, all day, and would sometimes have 3-5 paintings per week. Seamas suggested trying to sell some of them via these online galleries he had come across on the internet.

We tried in hope rather than expectation to be honest. We were not sure if anyone would like them or if we were wasting our time. Fortunately we started selling paintings and giclee prints right from the start which was a merciful relief. However, we were still a relatively unknown “commodity”, I had not been to Art College, I did not have a following or a supportive network of artists to call on for support or attendance at exhibitions etc. We had to introduce ourselves to a local and an online community from “out of nowhere”? I was not attached to any Gallery as well, although had featured in a number in the South Wales area.

My husband was left with the dilemma of trying to promote an artist in a way that explained who she was, her work and her inspirations, where she was coming from artistically and so on. How could we connect with many in a short time how could be introduce ourselves and let others into our creative world and somehow be part of the process? Seamas had often talked about the power of telling personal stories, sharing experiences in order to connect with like minded minds.

First he got as many followers as possible on social media, twitter and facebook mainly. Secondly he set up a website on ArtWeb which is linked to over 20,000 other artist’s websites. He started this blog for me to write about my work. We started telling my and then our story. We let others into the creative process. That is how we got to know each other.

We then started blogging, we started writing about the work, the PTSD, our inspirations, we wrote long descriptions about the work to accompany work added to online galleries e.g. Artfinder,  blogged about “Me At Work” we made short videos e.g. about building a gallery in the back garden, all informing artlovers and collectors of the experience we had making or rather “producing” the art, as well as our influences, inspirations, in an effort to make them feel part of this process, this artist’s journey. It may have also helped sell some work we believe although if is difficult to say for definite, to correlate so to speak.

We believe the more an artist can take the artlover on the journey or the more you can share the story around the work, the more they will feel involved with the final work, in short it will mean more to them. They will have invested more, emotionally, into the work. They know more and appreciate more about the work. If they buy the work they often have already started a dialogue, a conversation about the work.

When we meet people at galleries I have exhibited in, people would often have very knowledgeable conversations with us about certain works, where they were painted, how they were familiar with this area, how the work resonated with them because of not only the depiction of this area but in the shared appreciation of this area. We shared a, or bonded over, a love of the area as well as how the painting interpreted this area.

The paintings were becoming more than the paintings. They already had added meaning. The text and words around the paintings provided a neutral space whereby we could meet others and discuss the work and it’s inspirations. The painting was not just our painting anymore. it was more than that. It “belonged” to others out there on the internet, in galleries, it belonged to the collector who had now hung it on their  wall, it belonged to the online gallery who had featured it and loved it because it was one of their favourites.

There was a life for a work beyond the actual painting. In fact there was life for the painting before painting. In the scouting for good locations, the photo shoot, the preparing of suitable images to paint.  All prior to birth.

So from the onset, we have been aware that talking about art, about paintings, the areas that inspired them, the artists that inspired us, what we were trying to communicate all seems to add value to the work. It allows others to be part of. We are of the view that it also helps sell the painting. In the art world the use of words and text is well known and established, especially in conceptual works, where sometimes words are the actual artistic materials just as oil can be for oil painters.

So we have always liked to join words to the final image, the final painting. Words allow one to celebrate the painting, to add to, to enhance, to embellish. If one can write half decent prose to a rural landscape, for example, it deepens the experience we believe. Anyway that is how Seamas and I have been proceeding for the last four years.

Sometimes I had to be convinced but Seamas always had this intuitive sense that this value added creativity counted for something, especially in terms of sales. So back to the article. We think The Atlantic article is  very pertinent in explaining this new role of having to be creative not only in crating art but in marketing and selling it. In their explanation of Art now involving the need to include those “online” in the process of and experience of creating this art and in the final appreciation of it. We add that it was mainly the Artfinder website that allowed this entrepreneurial creativity to work as it is a quite geeky website that allows greater interaction with those who may love or wish to buy your work. Online galleries have also led to the “democratization of taste” moving art from a sometimes elitist curator-led model to a more meritocratic one, perhaps?  Although it seems difficult to be purely non-curator.

“The democratization of taste, abetted by the Web, coincides with the democratization of creativity. The makers have the means to sell, but everybody has the means to make. And everybody’s using them. Everybody seems to fancy himself a writer, a musician, a visual artist. Apple figured this out a long time ago: that the best way to sell us its expensive tools is to convince us that we all have something unique and urgent to express. “Producerism,” we can call this, by analogy with consumerism… And the democratization of taste ensures that no one has the right (or inclination) to tell us when our work is bad…we’re all swapping A-minuses all the time, or, in the language of Facebook, “likes.” It is often said today that the most-successful businesses are those that create experiences rather than products, or create experiences (environments, relationships) around their products.

So we might also say that under producerism, in the age of creative entrepreneurship, producing becomes an experience, even the experience. It becomes a lifestyle, something that is packaged as an experience—and an experience, what’s more, after the contemporary fashion: networked, curated, publicized, fetishized, tweeted, catered, and anything but solitary, anything but private. Among the most notable things about those Web sites that creators now all feel compelled to have is that they tend to present not only the work, not only the creator (which is interesting enough as a cultural fact), but also the creator’s life or lifestyle or process. The customer is being sold, or at least sold on or sold through, a vicarious experience of production.”

It seems that we have caught the zeitgeist in some way over the last few years. We were unaware that others were articulating this, until this article. Today we need to see and read more about the “producer” of the work and often where it is “produced”. When we share photos of me or where I work, they get many more “likes” than the actual works. When we post a painting on facebook we have often observed that the painting when reposted as sold often gets more “likes” than before. People seem to like and applaud success and success stories. They like to be engaged in or part of that story and if an artist has a following over a number of years and those followers have (mostly)  been happy to share the ride to success, then there have been a number of years of followers had emotionally  invested also in the artists journey like “emotional shareholders”.

The art is not alone or isolated, it has been reared in a online community where often others, mainly strangers care for it. How do they care for it? By supporting, commenting, sharing kind words and words of encouragement, by talking about the work to others, by buying work, by retweeting, sharing and so on. They are active parts of the team. The producers thus are not just the artist but the followers as they are part of the production team. They also encourage certain works, in certain areas, and can discourage others, in certain areas. They keep you going when times are lean, in terms of sales and confidence.

Artists do not need to be starving artists in the garret. They can be successful be engaging this burgeoning online family. Many are eager and happy to help promote work if they love the work and in the realisation it is so tough to make a living as an artist.  Artists and those who love art are some of the most supportive people as they realise the heavy odds stacked against the artist. Work often sells through the promotional efforts of this community of supporters and followers. The more an artist shares with them, the more opportunity they get to engage and emotionally invest. They can not only help motivate the overall production, but also of specific types of work (who doesn’t take heed of “likes”?) in a strangely democratic, mass curating. The market also talks back and artist may profit from listening to the advice given.

The artist has moved from one of isolation to embracing a community of like minded others.  It is relationships that partly determines success. It is in engaging the populace not just the elite.








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Some Testimonials

Here are a number of testimonials I have received from previous artlovers who have bought  my artwork.


Art Gallery

Customer reviews of Emma Cownie’s art

Artwork icon Refracted Light

 An excellent limited print. Just had it framed which really sets it off.

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JA, Woodbridge, 14-Nov-2014

Artwork icon Fauvist Wood

 Fantastic piece, superb colours and it has a real presence, going to be much enjoyed for many years! Thanks

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JG, Cork, 2-Jun-2014


Positive Positive Positive Positive Positive  Superb. This artist has received the highest accolade ArtGallery can bestow – they are considered a superb artist both through feedback from customers and from ArtGallery’s own relationship with the artist. Our customers are delighted with this artist’s work and their ability to deliver on time. ArtGallery has had many positive experiences with this artist and is delighted to recommend them very highly.


Customer name: Henrietta Hunter
Order date: Jan. 31, 2015
Order number: #17798

“Smoke across Dyffryn Crawnon” by Emma Cownie
Oil painting

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Customer’s comments:

Buying the most expensive painting I have got so far was made much easier by the help offered by Emma. Service, delivery, info and even a follow up made every step a delight. Every time I pass this painting I can’t help smiling

Customer name: Veronika Archibald
Order date: Jan. 20, 2015
Order number: #17378

Perpetual Light

Perpetual Light by Emma Cownie
Giclée print

Down Cwmdonkin by Emma Cownie
Giclée print

Brandy Cove Stile by Emma Cownie
Giclée print

Refracted Light

Refracted Light by Emma Cownie
Giclée print

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Very happy with my purchases.

Customer name: John Fetcho
Order date: Dec. 30, 2014
Order number: #16468

Inner Lit

Inner Lit by Emma Cownie
Giclée print

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Customer’s comments:

No issues with this artist. I would do business with her again.

Customer name: karen scanlon
Order date: Feb. 1, 2015
Order number: #17818

Rocky Robin by Emma Cownie
Oil painting

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received the painting in a very short space of time I adore the painting, very positive experience purchasing from Emma

Customer name: Royston Gazzard
Order date: Dec. 27, 2014
Order number: #16360

Geraint the Gower Bull by Emma Cownie
Oil painting

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Over all very pleased with painting and delivery

Other Personal Comments From Artlovers on Artfinder
Golden Bull
“Geraint the Gower Bull “looks great on my wall” Royston, Gloucester, England, UK – 8th January 2015

Dear Emma,

I thought I would let you know that my husband gave me your picture for Christmas. I adore it, and it looks totally fabulous hanging in our kitchen. Thank you for producing such an amazing piece of art,

Yours Sincerely,


26 Dec 2014, 11:07 a.m.



I am really looking forward to having the painting.

Once we found your work, it was hard to choose. I loved some of the landscapes (we lived in the UK for a couple of years and I am a sucker British countryside – so different from Australia) and the couple of ‘bridge’ ones were captivating too. But I just kept coming back to A Summered Garden because of the way the light plays on the leaves and because of the depth of colour.

I have already shown off your work to some friends and will continue to!
Many thanks
Mia, 10 Nov 2014, 10:12 p.m.

I wanted to let you know that we got the painting and it is spectacular. We were going to put it in our bedroom above our bed but in fact we realised it would be wasted there a bit. We put it in our lounge/family room which is open and sunny and looks out onto our garden. It is just perfect there. We haven’t got it framed yet but it is just beautiful still.
Even my 7 year old son thinks it is amazing.

I am so glad you could ship it and I am so glad we chose that painting.

Thanks again Mia,

27 Nov 2014, 9:40 p.m.

Hi Emma

Sorry its taken me so long to get in touch. I just wanted to say thank you for the beautiful painting. It takes pride of place in our front room. We all love it, even my 5 and 7 year old daughters.

Best wishes


9th Oct 2014 7.56 am


Hello, I’ve just this moment purchased 3 of your prints and just wanted to say how wonderful I think your artworks are, just glorious. I wish I had the funds to purchase an original …maybe one day I’ll be in that position. In the mean time, I have added you to my favourites on Art Finder and I’m looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful creations. All the very best, Gill .

24 Sept, 2014 12.15 pm  



Thank you so much for the speedy delivery. I loved this work so much that I immediately got online and ordered another one. The quality of the print is amazing and the colours are beautiful. I cannot wait to have them framed and hung.

Kindest Regards

23 Jul 2014, 10.56 pm

Hello Emma, thank you for “The Bench”. The picture is excellent. I love the bright colours and the way it leads off into the woods. I have put it in a bedroom on a pale green wall with orange bits (cushions etc) and it looks fantastic. I have not framed it. Best wishes, Michael.
2 Jul 2014, 2 p.m.
Hi Emma,

Thank you so much for my prints, they are stunning.

I hope you don’t mind me asking but do you have any recommendations from framing? Type of mount and frame?

I want to make sure the frame does them justice!

All the best


23 Jun 2014, 8:54 p.m.

inner light
Thank you. I absolutely love it. It’s beautiful and takes my breath away every time I glance at it. Your work is lovely. I hope to buy another of your works in time, Alexandra.
17 May 2014, 10.38am
singing ringing tree
Thank you so much for arranging the shipment so quickly. I am very excited and cannot wait to receive the painting. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it.Thank you
Lyn. 14 May 2014, 8:34 p.m.Hi Emma, My painting arrived today and I am delighted. It is beautiful, it will be loved and cherished.Thank you so much Lyn16 May 2014, 7:46 p.m…. and your work is amazing.Every time I look at it I smile, You really are shipping pure joy and happiness, thank you.16 May 2014, 7:46 p.m.moo!
Dear Emma Thanks for sending MOo. It was just what I was looking for, I love it. Thanks Mairwen  04 2 May 2014,
up cwmdonkin
Thanks for your message Emma. I really like your work – this is the second piece I have bought of yours. The first (Down Cwmdonkin) is beautiful and hanging in my sitting room.
Brandy Cove Stil
I look forward to having Brandy Cove Stile (which reminds me very much of the walks I took as a child) too. Both feeds my love of woods. Your colours are superb.
1 May 2014, 3:49 p.m.

fauvist wood

Thank you, Emma, I’m looking forward to hanging it on my wall. I love your paintings! Happy New 2014. Heather.

4 Jan 2014, 11:29 p.m.

windswept trees

Thank you so much. It has arrived and I love it. Took it to the framer’s today (but they were shut!!!). i’m looking forward to putting it up on the wall.
Thanks again


16 Oct 2013, 4:24 p.m.


Cornish Harbour 1


cornish harbour 2


Now your style struck me straight to the heart. And I said to myself “if I were a painter – that is how I would like to paint”. So that is what brought me to you.

I look forward so much to receiving the paintings and thank you so much for your wonderful thoughtfulness.Do You ever take on students for a crash course in your technique?

With best wishes,


19 Jul 2013, 9:07 p.m.


beech by the brook
Oh Emma, it’s amazing !! Can’t eulogise as much as I’d like …anyway will post to fb and your timeline this evening. I love it !!!
01/01/2015 9.10 a.m.


Oh my word!!!! Rooster just arrived and he is BEAUTIFUL!!!! Brilliant!!!!! I LOVE HIM!!!!!!!!

The cooling glade
 Ah yes, it really shows through in your work. The light in the distance… It’s why I fell in love with your art and this painting in particular. That it reminds me of two different but still very special places was probably what clinched it (I spent the weekend, after I picked up your card at the Uplands fair, trying to decide which of the 8 paintings I’d short listed I should buy). It’s also spurred me to start painting again. So thank you!
I brought the painting home last night and unwrapped it. It is magnificent! I spent the evening admiring how it changed with the changing light. Lovely.
green umbrella
Hi Emma, pic has arrived,it’s lovely! Thankyou! I will send you a photo when it’s framed.
Leigh Anne,
Emma Cownie Artist
after the wild beasts
Dear Emma I just wanted to inform you that “After the Wild Beasts” has reached our address in excellent condition. The colour palette is gorgeous. The painting has a life of its own. I can’t wait to frame it and put it on display.
21 September 2014 12:42
Hi Emma, picture is finally framed and on the wall. Jane loves it! Thanks again, Gareth