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!
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.
“This is an oil painting of the Table Mountian in Mid Wales.
I painted this because I loved the colours of blues, turquoise and purple which blend pleasingly with the blue-greens and terracottas of the trees and land.
Nature unearths such lovely rich colours and casts them wide in lovely complementary chromatic patchworks.
I would say this painting is inspired like so many of my mid-Wales landscapes by one of my favourite painters, Robert Bevan, whose landscapes have influenced how I paint this type of hilly upland landscape as opposed to the landscape I paint of Gower Peninsula which is usually in my own unique refractionist style which in itself influenced by expressionism.
I love the idea that colour expresses emotion, transports and alleviates the self and a creates an emotional response to a place depicted in a painting. Ideally I like to transport the viewer to the place so that the viewer somehow feels they are there or have been there in some sense. That is somehow familiar to them.
In this painting I hoped to transport one to soft lazy warmnesss of summer in the fields of Mid Wales. The velvety feel of the Table Mountain helps heighten this feeling of softness. The warm summer breeze can often give this sense of snoozy softness and I hope some of this is conveyed in this painting with the manicure trees like hairdryed Bouffants and the dusty dryness of the terracotta.”
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.
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.
“Emma Cownie’s paintings have tremendous visual impact…painted on both larger and smaller canvases, and each piece is as vibrant as the next. Her choice of colours represent mother earth in all her glory. She tends to go for more exaggerated hues..; it is what makes these paintings memorable. She also did a seasonal series with a viewpoint from Symond’s Yat, a place of natural beauty. The paintings that stood out to me were ‘The Mossy Beach’, ‘Down by Killy Willy’ and ‘Pennard Pill’ on the larger canvases. I pictured her sitting amongst all that beauty painting away in her unique sense of reality. I would be surprised if she didn’t sell one of her pieces at this exhibit. They are quite grand.”
Hi everyone, it’s been a while, a long while since I last blogged, some 4 months or so. I have been very busy. I will bring you up to date with what has been happening with my art and art business in the next few blogs.
Here I just want to mentioned that I am currently exhibiting in GalleryOMP which is at the Old Mayors Parlour, Hereford. I will exhibiting with some other great artists until the 24th April 2016.
Here are some images from the exhibition “Seeds of Change”!
“A Bar at Noah’s Yard” – a centre piece painting, painted especially for my art exhibition in Noah’s yard in two weeks time!
This painting of a well known bar in Uplands Swansea called Noah’s Yard, is modeled on the famous Manet painting “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” but with two differences. The scene is now down town Swansea and the work is expressionist not impressionist. I love the use of expressionism in urban scenes as it can seem more vivid and dynamic, muscular and rhythmic, more funky even.
One day my husband and I walked up this steep hill overlooking Cheriton in Gower Peninsula and when we arrived at the top we were amazed at the view which was a view of practically all of Gower.
We walked on and on and eventually walked to where we could see the world famous “Worms Head” peaking it’s head and neck out of the water like a rising dragon, with it’s humped back submerged behind.
I thought this would make a lovely and unusual painting, this view and perspective.
Most paintings of Worms Head are from the perspective of glorious Rhossili or from the great beautiful expanse of Llangennith beach but this view has something else. It looked like Worm’s head was a great beast swimming round the corner of the hill in the distance. I loved the patchwork of fields and colours, especially how they flowed down the hill and twisted around it, giving a really pleasing fluidity of movement. I tried to catch this fluidity in this painting.
“This painting is of the straggling wisps of cloud left on the hills in the Black Mountains after a passing storm. It was an amazing scene, this steam-like vapour rising out of the backs and humps of the hills. It looked as if the hills had just had a shower and the appearing sun was drying them off. I loved how the low lying clouds combed the trees and hedges as they floated past. The sun, shining through to illuminate this effect, seemed also to grow patchworks of colours from the fields around the surrounding landscape, as if the light was a nurturing spectral beam. The colours in the Black Mountains after the weather breaks on the hills are heavenly and this is what I hoped to convey. ”
An expressionist oil painting of the world famous Rhossili Bay at the far end of Gower Peninsula, itself the first designated Area of Outstanding Beauty in Great Britain. Autumn has draped a coppery red blanket on the hillside and the windy waves have etched patterns of light mauve and blue in the sand.