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Goodbye 2019 and Hello 2020!

Seamas and me!

A year’s a long time in art. When I look back at my paintings from early 2019, it feels like I made them much longer ago than that! This selection of “popular” (most likes/biggest reach) is based on my Instagram account, there are many more images that I shared on Facebook, that were also popular but are not included here. The work in progress photos are often very popular, sometimes they are more popular than the final painting!

The most popular nine posts/paintings are all of Donegal, Ireland, paintings.

Paintings of Donegal. Ireland
A selection of some of my most popular Donegal paintings from 2019

Here are my most popular posts/paintings of landscapes, people and animals of Gower, Wales and Stroud, England.

Paintings by Emma Cownie
Some more of my most popular paintings from 2019

Finally, a selection of commissioned work. I particularly enjoyed painting the beautiful Maine Coon cats, especially as pet portraits are usually of the canine variety!

Selection of Commissioned work from 2019
Selection of Commissioned work from 2019

My personal favorite from 2019 is this one. There is something about the neatness of the houses on the island that I relish in this painting.

Painting of Ireland
Owey in Spring

Of course, the irony is that one of my most popular posts of 2019 on social media was not a painting but a photograph that my husband took on the spur of the moment of us in woolly hats (and my new Donegal jumper) on Christmas Day!

Seamas and me!
Seamas and me!

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2020!

 

See more of my work here 

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The Burtonport Old Railway Walk, Ireland

Paintings of Ireland

Autumn brings incredible colours to the west coast of Ireland. As the grass and bracken die off, they turn a fantastic shade of orange and pink. The pink granite rocks that litter the landscape accentuate the warm colours. They have provided me with much inspiration for my landscape paintings of Donegal, Ireland.

Painting of Donegal Ireland
Autumn in the Rosses, Ireland

This series of paintings has been inspired by the Old Railway Walk which starts near Burtonport, near Dungloe in Donegal. There are no railways in Donegal anymore. There used to be. The line to Burtonport was built in 1903 as a joint venture by the British government and the Londonderry & Loch Swilly Railway Company to attempt to alleviate poverty in north West Donegal.

Steam train at Burtonport, Donegal
Steam trains at Burtonport, Donegal

The trains used to carry fish from the port at Burtonport in Donegal to Derry, in the neighboring county. It also carried many seasonal workers to and from Derry and Scotland.  After 1922 the line crossed from one country into another; from the Irish Free State into Northern Ireland.

Donegal Railways in 1906
Railways in 1906: Credit: Donegal Daily.com
Gweedore train station (Mount Errigal in the distance)
Gweedore train station (Mount Errigal in the distance)

In the 1940s, however, the Irish government decided to close down the railways in Donegal. I have never really found a clear explanation for why this happened but I am going to assume that the cost of running the line was an important factor. There were also concerns about the safety of the line.

Owencarrow Viaduct, Donegal
Owencarrow Viaduct, Donegal

In January 1925 disaster had occurred on the at the Owencarrow Viaduct when winds of up to 120mph blew carriages of the train off the viaduct causing it to partially collapse. Four poor souls lost their lives.

Owencarrow Viaduct
Owencarrow Viaduct

After the Second World War, the Irish government presumably decided it would cost too much to continue the maintenance of the line and it was closed in 1947. The Burtonport-Gweedore section closed in 1940. There is a great graphic on the Donegal Daily here illustrating the shrinkage and disappearance of the railways. Donegal became a very remote part of Ireland, with no railways and no (still) motorways. Communication with the area improved in 1986, however, when Donegal airport started operations.

Painting of the Rosses, Ireland
The Railway Walk, Ireland

It seems that for half a century nothing much happened on the old railway line. In 2009, however, there was a heavy snowfall, and some of the old railway line was cleared to access water mains that needed repairing. The remaining section was later cleared and gradually developed as a walkway with the support of the local community. A massive effort has gone into creating this beautiful and peaceful walk.

The Burtonport Old Railway Walk
The Burtonport Old Railway Walk

Here are some of my paintings inspired by my husband Seamas’s photographs of the railway walk.

Painting of Donegal landscape, Ireland
Roshin Acres, Ireland
Ireland landscape painting
Long and Winding Road, Ireland

There are many features of the old railway remaining which you can view along the way such as stations, gatehouses, accommodation crossings, lots of pillars, cuttings, embankments, a bridge and rusty gates. There are also lots of shelters for walkers to hide from passing showers to use.

Photo credit: James (Seamas) Henry Johnston

Youtube video- Siúlóid an tSean Bhóthar Iarainn—The Old Railway Walk by Ralph Schulz.

Find out more about the Railway Walk by clicking on the links below:-

http://www.therosses.ie/walking.html

https://www.ireland.com/en-gb/what-is-available/walking-and-hiking/walks/destinations/republic-of-ireland/donegal/burtonport/all/1-94786/

http://www.walkingdonegal.net/article/walking-the-line/

http://magherycoastaladventures.ie/sli_na_rossan.html 

Getting here: From Letterkenny and Dungloe – SITI Rural Transport – Tel 0749741644. From Dublin – Bus Eireann@ www .buseireann .ie From Scotland & Northern lreland – Doherty Travel (00353) 749521867

https://www.donegalairport.ie/  There are twice-daily flights from Dublin and Glasgow to Donegal airport via Aer Lingus and Logan AirDonegal Airport : 00353(0) 74 95 48284.

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Across to Inishbofin

Painting of Donegal, Across to Inishbofin

Inishbofin, Inis Bó Finne in Irish, means Island of the White Cow. There are two different islands off the coast of Ireland bearing this poetic name. The name suggests the importance of cows in early Irish society. This is not surprising at all as cows have been vital in many ancient human societies. The “other” Inishbofin is off the coast of County Galway further down south. The one I have painted is off the coast of Donegal, near Machaire Uí Rabhartaigh (Magheraroarty).

It was a chilly, sparkling day when we visited in late spring. We walked along the quay at Magheraroarty and watched a The Queen of Aran ferry come in and pick up some passengers for Tory Island 9 miles to the north. 

Queen of Aran
Queen of Aran
Map of Donegal Islands
Map of Donegal Islands

Much closer than Tory Island is Inishbofin. It’s a mere 3km (1.8 miles) from the mainland. I took photos of the houses on the island with my zoom lens. They were still very small.

Inishbofin, Donegal
Inishbofin, Donegal

I originally wanted to paint this whole stretch of the island’s coastline but I realised that without a more dramatic (cloudy) sky, most of the canvas would end up being a lot of light blue and a tiny strip of land at the bottom of the painting. So I chose a section of the coastline and focused on the details of the houses that I could make out.

I get a lot of pleasure from looking at the clean lines of the old houses – I also enjoy a landscape with no cars. If you have eagle eyes you will spot a solitary caravan on the hill above the main street on Inishbofin. The island is approximately 1.2km wide and 2km long with a small seasonal population of about 50 people, who are Irish-speakers. I believe, a few hardy souls live there all year round

Here’s a lovely video about the people who live on the island in the summer months. It’s in Irish (as they are Irish-speakers) but there are subtitles.

I get very attached to my Donegal island paintings. I’m not sure why. Maybe its because I get such pleasure at looking at those unmodernized houses. I like the length of the image too. Perhaps it because, so far, I have looked across the sea at them and had to reconstruct the landscape with care.

Across to Inishbofin
Across to Inishbofin (detail)

It’s hard to explain, but it’s like my mind has “felt” the shape of the land, the rise and fall of the shingle beaches, the spread of seaweed on the shore, the rocks and hills behind the houses. It’s usually my paintings of animals that find it hard to part with!

Donegal Painting of Inishbofin
Across to Inishbofin SOLD
Inish Bofin beach
Inish Bofin beach

That house with a red front door on the right side of the painting is for sale.

Inishbofin
Teach Johnny, Inishbofin Island

You can see it here. It’s beautiful inside.

Many of the islands have seasonal boats. We are planning to visit one or two of these island in the next few weeks when we are back in Donegal. My list of islands to visit include:- Gola, Inishbofin, Tory and Owey. I don’t think we will manage more than two of those this visit. It depends on the weather and energy levels. 

Collectors wanting to buy any of my work will need to contact me by Sunday 23rd June (to be shipped on Monday) at the latest, otherwise, you will have to wait for your paintings until 16th July, when we return. 

Here are my other Donegal island paintings (I have parted with two of these).

donegal painting of Gola, West Donegal.

Spring Light on Gola – Seamas’s favourite painting!

Donegal painting of Gola Island
Oileán Ghabhla (Donegal) SOLD

Donegal painting of Owey Island

Owey Island (SOLD)

See all my available Donegal paintings by clicking here 

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The Power of Pine

My grandfather, Fred Cownie, used to work for the forestry commission, buying up Welsh farmland and planting swaths of conifer forests. Sadly, I never knew my grandfather as he died before I was born, long before my parents were married, in fact. Apparently, he was a sociable man who was popular with the farmers and forestry workers alike and I like to think he enjoyed his work talking and with people and tramping across the Welsh landscape. Sounds like a great job working with trees and people, not stuck in an office.

I love trees. My favourite trees are the elegant beech trees, with their copper autumn leaves. I also love the scotch pines that pepper the Gower peninsula. There’s a woodland at Whiteford point and also near Parkmill, which I have returned to time and again to paint.

Painting of the Wood at Whitford Sands by Emma Cownie
Wood at Whiteford Sands

Scotch pines are the only truly native pines to the UK. They spread across the British Isles after the last ice age but in Wales, the trees became extinct about 300–400 years ago, due to over-exploitation and grazing. I don’t know when they were re-introduced on Gower but this section of woodlands was almost certainly planted by a local landowner, possibly the owners of nearby Kilvrough Manor.  Amazingly,  mature trees grow to 35m and can live for up to 700 years!

Pine Wood, Gower
Pine Wood, Gower

We walked the dogs here last week and took photos. I like this section of woodland as the pine needles on the ground deaden footsteps and although birdsong can be heard, it seems quieter than the surrounding beech wood. Much of the wood falls into the shadow of a the valley side and direct light does not hit the trees until late morning in the winter.

Colourful Gower woodland painting by Emma Cownie
Slender Light (SOLD)

When the light hits the trees it illuminates their scaly orange-brown bark. This bark develops plates and fissures with age. The twigs are green-brown and pretty much hairless until you reach the highest parts of the tree, 20 to 30 metres high. I love to stand looking up at the tops of the trees, swaying with the wind. On the ground the tree trunks appear stock still. I like to think its a good analogy for life, you have to bend with the wind.

Oil painting of Gower woodlands by artist Emma Cownie
Enchanted Wood 

The great thing about Scotch Pines is that they are so quiet and light, unlike conifers forests which can be pretty dark.

The sun went in so whilst I was waiting for it to reappear I filmed this 360 degree shot, I tried to pan very slowly but I don’t think I was slowly enough! There is a stream nearby that has dried up from lack of rain over the summer. It sounds daft but when I am out walking I often ponder their stoic nature. They can’t move, they have to accept where they are in the wood. Some people believe that they communicate with each other through their roots. I’m not sure what my grandfather, Fred, would have made of that!

 

You can but limited edition mounted prints of Gower woodland here

Woods Near Ilston and Parkmill, Gower
Woods Near Ilston and Parkmill, Gower

 

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Morning on Mewslade

I am not well. I have a virus that makes me feel tired, my arms in particular feel heavy, my throat feels sore and I struggle with social interactions. The sense of illness ebbs and flows. I start off the day feeling rough but by the evening, I feel a bit better. Yesterday I felt terrible most of the day but strangely found myself defrosting the freezer at 8pm. I had fancied an ice lolly to ease my sore throat but I noticed that freezer door would not close. Obviously, the last person to use the freezer had not shut the door properly. So,  I cleared the freezer of its content, switched it off, and got the steam cleaner out. Forty-five minutes later all the ice was gone and the content was back inside neat frost-free drawers.

I have struggled to write this post. I deleted my first two attempts as I kept going off at tangents (see defrosting freezer above). Thankfully, illness hasn’t stopped me painting. I started this large painting (92×73 cm) of Mewslade Bay but I made slow progress. Mewslade Bay is just round the corner from Worms Head and Rhossili Bay. There is no beach to speak of at high tide. At low tide, however, the sandy beach can be reached if you scramble down over some slippery rocks, and thick beds of seaweed that have been washed up against rocks. I had got up at 5 am to drive down to Mewslade to catch it at low tide. Although the majority of the sky was clear there was a spattering of mackerel clouds just above the horizon. The light was hazy and I had wait 45 minutes before I got a blast of bright sunshine on the cliff face.

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I think I should have started with darkest parts of the image, rather than the lightest parts. IMG_2809-001

As I had to go back and darken the rocks in the distance and in the shadow of the furthest peak.

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Adding the beach and shadow under the cliffs helped “intensify” the dark part of the cliffs.

Oil painting Morning on Mewslade by Emma Cownie
Morning on Mewslade

Finally, adding the morning sky made sense of the blues and purple shadows on the east facing cliff faces. Some paintings seem to make sense straight away and with others, like this one, you have to wait until all the elements are in place. I particularly love the way the peak in the foreground casts its shadow on the second peak. It reminds me of a tiny Everest! The bright morning light makes the rock face look like a snow covered peak.

 

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The pleasures and frustration of panoramic paintings

Who hasn’t attempted to create a photographic panorama? Back in the 1990s when cameras contained stuff called film, I remember often standing looking at some amazing view, and then slowly pivoting from left to right (and then right to left in case I’d missed something) taking a series of overlapping photographs.  The hope was that I would recreate a some stunning vista; such as the Grand Canyon, the London skyline, or even the lovely Alhambra. After a long wait, the photos would come back from the developers and I’d dutifully stick them together. The results were usually underwhelming.  Rather wonky. If, you tried really hard you could sum up the awe of the view that had inspired you, sort of. I don’t think the sticky tape added to the overall impact, either. I give you in evidence the example below which I found lurking in one of our crowded cupboards:-

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Oh dear. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed by their efforts to capture their holiday vistas in this way as companies like Kodac developed special disposable panoramic cameras so you did not have to tape your photos together. I will never know if they were any good because I never had one.

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So, forgive me if I have pretty much spurned panoramic compositions until now. In fact, I have had a long phase where I chose portrait orientation for my landscape compositions whether rural or urban. I really liked the sense of piles of houses on houses, or field upon fields. It works well in hilly Swansea and mountainous Wales.

It’s not like I never tried narrow canvases. I did use a couple of small narrow canvases to paint Mumbles, the village at the end of Swansea Bay. The paintings turned out well but I didn’t really enjoy the experience. I didn’t really ask myself why  not until now. I think  it was partly because I was in a portrait orientation “groove” and partly it was because the canvases were too small, they felt mean and didn’t really convey the essence of Mumbles.

It was a client who got me using panoramic canvases again. He wanted a landscape painting of May Hill in Gloucestershire. We originally discussed using a 80x60cm canvas but then he decided he wanted a narrower canvas; 80×40 cm. This was inspired. This immediately improved the composition because instead of the landscape getting lost against too much sky, it actually balanced the composition. It gave the land in the painting more immediacy and intimacy.

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Full size source photo
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May Hill 80x40cm

Now, you might say that this is not particularly “panoramic” but it got me thinking. Narrower canvases would suit coastal paintings because too much sky often has the effect of “shrinking” the land/coast in a composition. I’ll give you a photographic example:-

So using a long narrow canvas works really well with compositions for certain scenes, such as the one of Worms Head I have shown above.

All good so far, but what about the frustrations? There are the logistical issues surrounding using longer canvases. It may sound daft, but they are long. I find it hard to store them in my small attic studio. They poke out. When it comes to painting, I found that painting of the far left or right of the canvas quite a challenge. You see, I don’t usually bother with using the clamp at the top of my easel when I am painting as I often like to rotate my paintings and paint a canvas “upside down” or even “sideways up/down”. Oh, no. I have to clamp my painting in place or else it flips away from me when I press on it to paint any part either side of the central part. Rotating the canvas becomes a hassle too. My arms are not quite long enough to adjust the clamp without standing up.

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Rhossili Sunset (SOLD)

This may all sound very lazy but once I start painting I get into a groove or “flow” and can barely be bothered to move from my central position other than put my brush on my palette and then onto the canvas. This is why I usually end up drinking lukewarm tea even though it’s in a thermos-style travel mug. It’s very rare that I get up to change the station on my radio. This is how I end up listen to sports programs (even football matches) although I am definitely not a sports fan.

The satisfaction of a well-balanced composition and having less sky to paint is worth it.

Worms Head Rhossili
Worms Head, Rhossili (80x40cm) (SOLD)

Then comes the issue of how to show it on my website and social media. There is no problem uploading the image to artfinder.com – it comes up as a complete image on my page.

Artfinder Page
My Artfinder page

However, when I uploaded it to my website the thumbnail cropped the image (see below left).

Panoramic.JPG

So, I have to go on canva.com and create a new version of the image. I paste the image on a white background so the image will viewed whole. Thus:-

Panoramic V2.JPG

Finally, Instagram. I have the same issue with Instagram as I do with my own website in that it only shows part of the image so I decide to chop the picture into two halves and upload them separately. Only I do it the wrong way around at first and end up with a back to front image. I make a note (I draw a little diagram in fact) the right side has to uploaded first and the left second.

Instagram
My instagram page as view on my PC

It looks better on my smart phone. But you see the problem, as new images are uploaded it is pushed along the feed and gets split up between the lines of images. I also don’t know if people looking say the left side of the painting will understand that it’s part of a pair. They’ll just think it a painting of a beach and won’t realise that there’s a long mountainous headland to go with it. *sigh*

Never mind, I think that the best way to show off the panoramic paintings is on this blog!

Here’s my most recent and ambitious long landscape painting. If you click on the title you can see a bigger version.

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Taking the Long View (SOLD)

 

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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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It’s All About Me!

Emma Cownie Exhibition
Me at the Glynn Vivian, Swansea

I was born in Hereford, and educated in Cardiff. I am a professional artist, specializing in oil paintings of the landscapes of Wales and Donegal, Ireland. I have exhibited in various galleries, online galleries, in print and on digital LED screens throughout London, UK.

bingley

I have one of the top best selling artists on Artfinder over the last five years and have sold widely on other online galleries. I have sold hundreds of  pieces of artwork online. I have had hundreds of happy collectors and my artwork hangs in homes across the world and in numerous countries.

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I love light and colour. In my art, I am drawn to light and shadows and how they shape our emotions. I remember visiting the South of France as a teenager and being mesmerized by the dazzling light, I have been attempting to capture that excitement about light in my paintings ever since.

A Gap in the Clouds
A Gap in the Clouds (Gower)

I try and make my colours bold and bright but as realistic as possible. I aim to make people look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary beauty in it.

I offer a personalised approach to art for business and I sell affordable, original and limited edition artworks to companies, such as John Lewis, across the globe.

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Whether you would like a single piece for your office or boardroom, or are looking for larger numbers for a hotel or restaurant chain, I can help provide the right art for you.

The paintings are wrapped securely in bubble wrap and cardboard packaging. All paintings also have a Certificate of Authenticity. Most of my paintings are sold unframed. This is to lower delivery costs. If the paintings have been framed it will be stated. 

 

In my paintings the effect of light is often ‘heightened’ and similar to the sophisticated, precise ‘Pixar’ like animated light. I seek to paint the ‘experience’ of light on colour and form.

Donegal Painting
From Cruit Island, Ireland

To achieve this requires the heightening of the effect of light otherwise light can often be dampened or subdued by the absorbing colours. I am much more interested in how light invigorates, resonates, generates or dare I say it animates colour and form, rather than simply dressing it. This effect is underscored by my use of drawing lines around colours and form, as with the fauvists, and others have suggested this too gives off an animated feel or quality.

Over To The Lighthouse And Pier
Over to the light house and Pier (Mumbles)

I want colour to be the product of being generated, animated by light as if light was the genesis of colour. Thus light creates the colour in a sense rather than colour simply being illuminated by it.

Donegal painting of house on Arranmore

Rusty Roofed House (Arranmore)