“This oil painting is simple in construction and technique compared to many of my paintings. I only wish to express (most of my work is inspired by expressionism, especially the Pont Aven school) the brilliant final flowering of Autumn, the final raging against the light.
I simply used fired reds and oranges to express the feeling of the tree’s leaves being on fire, charred by Autumn and it’s burning light. It is this dying of the leaves that these trees are their most brilliant, their most beautiful. Not in green leafy health, but in glorious decay. There is also movement in the painting also as if the leaves and branches are moving as with raging flames.”
This is quite an unusual painting of Tenby into that the tide is fully in, and the boats bob on the lapping multi coloured strips of water, which add a crispness to the West Walian light and a rich vibrancy to the coloured Tenby terraced houses, which cwtch the Harbour and lighten the spirit with a sea-salted breathiness.
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Here is my 60 second interview on Artfinder in which I explain how painting was an integral part to my recovery from post traumatic stress disorder. I also explain my technique, inspirations, influences and how post trauma impacted on my art. Although I do not mention it explicitly in the interview “Fractured Light” was born and borne out of my worldview being fractured as the result of my post trauma which occurred as the result of a car accident. Thus the fractured perception of this painting represents my perception at the time. As my recovery continues and my mental health improves I find my painting also metamorphizes into being more expressive, coherent, unfolding, lighter and celebratory (if not relieved). Less fractured.
I have to add that my post traumatic illness has revolutionized my way of painting. By husband suddenly became much more interested in my work and has acted as my agent ever since. He was now sure that I had the necessary ‘scar on the soul’ to make it as an artist. That I had made the breakthrough. I still paint prolifically because I need to paint still, not only professionally but must importantly in a therapeutic sense. Painting is when I am most ‘whole’ alive, engaged, fulfilled, free from self and doubts. Principally I write about how art has been a massive and continuing therapeutic benefit to me even though I initially returned to it very ‘broken’ despairing and distraught. I hope to engender some hope in other suffering form this most misunderstood mental health problem. I do not mean to say art was the only part of my therapy. EMDR was a vital core to my treatment and I would recommend this to others also. Now I paint with urgency, painting, painting, painting.
Life is unpredictable, it is best to seize the day and to enjoy the precious gift we have to the best of our ability. Most suffers of PTSD will not relate to this sentiment at present in they are in the terrifying, disjointed, fractured, despairing heart of it. I have been there too! The light at the end of the tunnel probably looks microscopic and is, in fact, a train coming. The light does eventually become bigger and brighter until you arrive on the other side and experience a brightness until then never experienced with such intensity. There can be a rebirth from this dark tunnel.
The intrusive memories have lessened. I re-experienced and reprocessed the negative emotions- the fear, distress, helplessness, guilt, shame, faulty pride etc – which kept memories from being safely embedded in my hippocampus. Blaming myself for things beyond my control, that were not my fault, never were my fault. Random happenings, with no logic to them, no way of understanding them into reason, they were accidents, not in the script. Life can be like that, period.
Why is not always helpful. How is. How can I get out of this distress? Perceiving things as they were, not what my brain continually told me meant I had to revisit the trauma, re-experience it and correct the faulty thoughts and destructive emotions which accompanied the memories of it. Eventually allowing these memories to rest in my long term memory instead of continually stalking and attacking my equilibrium I started to feel better. Although it was exhausting and left me this way afterwards and to an extent now. Still, these months later. It can get better, not perfect. It never was perfect. Ever.
The mind and brain do not like being ill, they rally against it. This is often counter productive. First we have to accept we are in distress, suffering from a mental illness, that we need help from professionals, support form family, faith that we can recover. Check out EMDR professionals in your area. Start the journey to wellness knowing it can be done and will be done. Have faith, you will get better in time. Have courage especially, be brave.
I still have about 40-50% the energy I used to have but I have more peace of mind and gratitude for what I have, not what I wanted to have. I am still in recovery still getting better. It will take more time, months and months if not years. But I have turned a vital therapeutic corner. So can you. Life has create new possibilities, new avenues to explore, pathways that were never obvious before, and which have ultimately led me back to me, to knowing me, to doing more of what I would want for me, that which expresses me most.
To my fellow PTSD sufferers, you have my love, best wishes, and support here on this blog should you need it. Spread the word – we can recover from PTSD, one day at a time! Just live this day, that is enough for now and for always…
I include a painting “Up Cwmdonkin” which was a painting representing a movement in my therapy, a getting better, a unforeseen island of relief in a, until then, daily tempest. I love this as it reminds me of the warm seaside breeze that can caress the autumnal leaves of the trees at the top of Cwmdonkin Park, a park hugged by the house that Dylan Thomas, the famous Welsh composer of words, lived in while growing up. The light wind almost signifies a ‘breathing out’, an emerging respite after months of therapy.
This painting is of the back of the beautiful gardens lying behind the Caldey Island Monastery on the holy Island of Caldey Island, off Tenby in West Wales, UK. Caldey Island is a veritable ‘Eden’ when the sun illuminates this tree bunched island, the only Welsh island to have trees planted, and so many of them and in such rich variety, each speckling and sculpting shadows in their own way.
The atmosphere on this Holy Island is so relaxing, while peculiarly uplifting at the same time. There are seals frolicking around in the salt-watered topaz and jade, rich turquoises and biro blues which lap on to the gorgeous rough and ragged coastlined ridges which strain and arch to keep this island out of the Bristol Channel.
Peacocks honk and ponies bellow, all meshed in a pot pouri of sound with a medley of birdsong and the plaintive sound of the Cistercian monks singing Divine Office drifting from the Chapel to intermingle as it does with this natural orchestra of the island. The all rejoice in this Creation, give thanks for this plenty. Psalm singing with and without words. It is a very special place to be particularly when God showers the island in sunshine and His glad tidings.,
This painting is of the Abbot’s gate which leads via various steps, up a steep incline to the side of Caldey Monastery on Caldey Island, off Tenby, West Wales. The steps lead to the Abbot’s Chapel which is a wonderful wooden-paneled chapel, used seldomly and usually on special religious occasions or when the electricity fails in the main Chapel! This painting evokes long summer days spent languidly walking around the wonderful Holy Island of Caldey – the long shadows cast by the trees seek to evoke this stretched languidness and summered relaxation.
Visitors to Caldey will be used to walking past this gate, forlornly perhaps as they hurry to catch the last boat back to Tenby. The long shadows also hope to express the time dwindling as the sun begins it’s descent to the West and over the sea’s horizon, pulling the last light of the day with it. I use purply blues to evoke this sense of leaving somewhere special, affirming, spiritual even, as purple expresses both the hues of the sun-setting and the spirituality of this monastery and holy island; both leaving a lingering impression.
Wonderful Caldey is also set apart by its trees which is very unusual if not unprecedented among the Welsh islands. Thus this painting has two great Caldey signatures, the gate and incline to spiritual nourishment and the joy of time spent on this unique treed island.
I will be exhibiting for 2-3 weeks in Noah’s Yard, Uplands, Swansea starting on the 23rd July 2013 – this is the opening night and you are all invited to the opening do! Noah has kindly given me his main brick wall to play with so I will be exhibiting at least 12 pieces of artwork for a few weeks. It would be lovely to see you there particularly on the opening night on the 23rd July
We are about to decamp to Donegal for the summer/early autumn. I have mixed feeling about returning to oil paints. It’s been a quite a steep learning curve getting comfortable with acrylic paint but I feel like I finally got there. I am not sure what it will be like to paint in oils again, oh the the joy of easy blending! I will continue my practice of laying down an underpainting in grey-scale paint, regardless. Here are some of my recent acrylic paintings, mostly of Inishowen Penisula (Donegal)
You probably think that artists are good at creating paintings/images in all mediums; oil, watercolours acrylic paints. Many probably are, but I am not. I need to work at it. It’s a bit like being an athlete. You might be great at football but it doesn’t automatically mean you are a great sprinter, tennis player […]
What’s in a name? It’s complicated The name of the city I am living in right now is contentious. It’s official name is Londonderry but no one here seems to call it that, not even the council. Most people in the city itself, Protestants as well as Catholics, call it Derry. This suggests it is more […]
The ‘Illuminate’ festival is running over two weekends in Derry, 17th – 20th and 24th – 27th February, from 6pm – 9pm. We visited it on Thursday night. It was very cold (double socks and thermals weather) but mostly dry. This was important was all the sites we visited were out of doors. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a brilliant introduction to Derry.
New Work & Recent Sales
Kinnagoe Bay (Inishowen, Dongal)
Still, On Gola (Donegal)
On the Way to Kinnagoe Bay (Drumaweer, Greencastle)
Down to Doagh Strand (Donegal)-Emma Cownie
Lambing Season at Fanad Head
Fanad Lighthouse (Donegal)
Down to the Rusty Nail
Carrickabraghy Castle, Inishowen
Upper Dreen_Emma Cownie
Portmór Beach, Malin Head, Donegal
Down to the Rusty Nail, Inishowen
The Walls of Derry
Painting of Derry City
Derry Walls by Emma Cownie
Shipquay Gate by Emma Cownie
Over to Owey Island (Keadue) Donegal
Lighting the way to Arranmore
Old Stone Cottage in front of Errigal (Donegal
Boat at the Pier, Gola
House on Inishbofin, with distant Seven Sisters (in studio)