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Settling in

Emma Cownie - Settling In
In my empty studio
In my empty studio

Someone told me that once we got to Ireland, “it will be like being on holiday everyday!” Hmmm,  I have had some pretty eventful holidays in the past. Funny how the disasters are more memorable that the sunny easy holidays. Let me see. Here are three that come to mind; we once got flooded in a campsite in Yorkshire, had a sleepless night holding on to the tent during a gale at a campsite in the South of France, and finally we drove a tempermental campervan around Ireland a decade ago. It only started some of the time. A helpful Polish guy got it started very early in the morning so we could catch the ferry in Wexford.

Knockfola, Donegal
Knockfola, Donegal

So far, this “holiday-everyday-life” is proving to be pretty good (that’s a English understatement, by the way). There were quite a few “bumps” to start with, however. A lot of things seem to go wrong at the same time.  At first we could not get into the studio, as the door lock was jammed, then one of our dogs, little Mitzy had a stroke (the vets was over an hour’s drive away), Bingo the cat got lost and finally the toilet flooded and we couldn’t use it for several days. 

The studio makers sent someone all the way from County Tyrone to replace the lock so we could get in! The vets kept Mitzy in over the weekend and thank to a pile of drugs and lots of basket-rest, she has recovered well. Her balance isn’t great and her head is at a permanent tilt but she chase after the ball again and is still telling us what to do. 

Mitzy (with Séamas and Biddy)
Mitzy (with Séamas and Biddy)

Ann Marie at Burtonport Animal Rescue put out a notice on their facebook page, asking people to look out for Bingo, and it was shared many times. She gave us useful advice and support too. 

They do great work and need donations to keep up that great work. You can donate via this link.

Thankfully, Bingo came home late at night, after the traffic had died down.  The flooding toilet issue is more complicated, has been solved for the time being but will need some more work in future.  Don’t ask me to explain it. 

This is my one and only summer drees

 We had a heatwave with unprecedent temperatures of 30 degrees celsius soon after we arrived. This was very unexpected and I had thrown out a lot of my clothes during the move and I only had one summer dress. Fortunately, I did have bathers so we could go for a swim in the sweathering heat. That was fantastic. The water was crystal clear and surprisingly warm (or not as cold as I thought it would be). 

Swimming at Cruit Island, Donegal
Swimming at Cruit Island, Donegal

As for painting. That was  bit more difficult. I was not able to paint for two months as I was either helping un/packing up the house,  paints were packed away  or I was just too exhausted to do anything. I knew it was going take a while to find my painting groove again as I needed to recover my energy levels and adjust to a new location.  I am very fussy about arranging my paints and the position of my easel and it took a while sort things out to my satisfaction. It took longer than I thought but I am getting there now.

Painting of Marameelan, Donegal
The Old House at Marameelan

What do I love about Donegal? The way it looks and sounds. Everytime we take a trip into the nearest town of Dungloe, to post a painting or to do our food shopping, I marvel at the views. At night, when I awake, I listen to the slience. I find it so relaxing. I had had enough of the noise of city life. Donegal is so beautiful too. There is so much abundant nature on our door step, quite literally under our feet. The length of the west coast of Ireland is called the Wild Atlantic Way,  and it really is wild in every sense.

A carpet of Flowers

A carpet of Flowers at Gweedore

Red deer, seen on ground 5 minutes walk from the cottage
Red deer, seen on land only 5 minutes walk from the cottage (photo by Séamas Johnston)

The weather is very mercurial. I thought I was used to rainy weather, living in Swansea in Wales, but this is something else. I may awake to thunder and downpours, but by lunchtime the sun is shining and the sky is full of fluffy clouds. Sometimes it may rain, the sun will come out and then it rains again, all in the space of ten minutes. Today, we are in the midst of a gale, that no one has seen fit to name, with 50 mile-per-hour winds. Standing outside in the buffeting winds is surprisingly envigorating.  I think its the negative ions.

Donegal Clouds
Donegal Clouds

It may be grey all all day or the sun might come out in a bit. Passing a window, I might be struck by the beauty of the clouds.  Sometimes I point them out to Seamas, or take a photo. Often just drink them in. I hope I never stop marvelling at them.

Come and Visit

In my Viewing Gallery
In my Viewing Gallery

We are now in a position to receive visitors to our private gallery, at the rear of Meadow Cottage, on a appointment only basis. We ask that social distancing is observed and that masks are worn inside the gallery.

Please call either our mobile no.s +44 782757 4904 or

+353 87963 5699 or landline +353 74 959 1593 to book a viewing.

Séamas and I look forward to seeing you

Posted on 36 Comments

Made it to Ireland!

In my studio

Here’s a photo-story about our move to Ireland. The photos are all by Séamas Johnston, my husband. He is also the architect of the move, the new studios and our new life. He’s been amazing. It’s great to see all his hard work finally come together.

Packing the Car, Brynmill, Swansea
Packing the Car, Swansea (before much stuff was packed)
Packing at Swansea
Endless Packing! It felt never ending.
Lateral Flow Test
Lateral Flow Test – one line means no covid. We discover that our tonsils are not that dangley bit at the back of your throat.  We also did a PCR test but there are no photos of that.
Irvine Moving Solutions –  they are moving our stuff – we saw their van coming off the Belfast ferry at Birkenhead!
Birkenhead Ferry
Stena Line Ferry Terminal at Birkenhead, Liverpool. It was a long wait to get on.
Early Morning Belfast
The otherside of the Irish Sea. Early Morning Belfast from the ferry
Meadow Cottage
How everything has grown at Meadow Cottage!
Meadow Cottage Studio
The studio window
Studio windows
Séamas reflected in the studio windows
Cat Patrol
Hattie doing “Cat Patrol with her eyes” on a new view
Multi-fuel Stove
We ALL love the new multi-fuel stove!
My new Studio
Finally, I am in my beautiful new studio. It was made by L E Haslett & Co. in Tyrone
Studio view
I love the view from the studio. I cant wait until my stuff arrives from storage and I can get back to painting.

Just to warn you. I have access to wifi this weekend (on a 3 day trial) but we decided to use a different company for our internet but they can’t install it for another 10 days so my responses will be delayed. My business remains closed until the middle of this month (July 2021).

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Shut for a Month

Painting of Port Eynon and Horton from Salt House, Gower
Port Eynon and Horton from Salt House, Gower (A recent commission)


Just a quick notice to say that my shop on this website (,  and shops on and will be closed for a month from today. This is to cope with final packing, tidying up and a million and one things we have to do before leaving Wales as well as the period of self-isolation we have to undergo in Donegal (14 days, possibly less, depending on the results of our PCR tests after day 5).

It’s all exhausting and very nerve racking.

You can still buy my prints on or make an equiry about a commission

Wish us luck!


Posted on 17 Comments

Summer Newsletter 2021

Here’s my summer newsletter. I am shutting up shop for a  month from 20th June to 20th July. All going well, we will be safely installed and open for business (online at least) in Donegal by mid-July. I am already longing to get back to my painting routine.  I can’t quite  believe that after being ground so long by my broken leg and the pandemic that we will actually move house/studio to another country by then. It’s a huge step!  Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly!

Posted on 31 Comments

Getting Ready to Move

Getting Ready to Move

I like this painting. I  find it very calming. I especially like the clouds. I also like the emptiness of the beach. That is something I aspire to in my home.

View from Dunmore Strand (Donegal)
View from Dunmore Strand (Donegal)

This painting is actually wraped in bubblewrap in in the upstairs hallway. It had been hanging in our bedroom with three others for a couple of weeks. They had been refugees. They were evacuated from my attic studio because I had needed to paint the ceiling.  I have since painted the bedroom wall. I still have the floor to finish.

Almost painted!
Almost painted!

All of my other paintings are wrapped in bubblewrap and stored elsewhere.  We are in the midsts of packing up and redecorating the house to put it on the market and move to Ireland. It is a mammoth task. The more we do the more it seems to grow.  We are at the wall-papering-and-painting-floors stage. I say “we” but  I should say “he”. My husband, Séamas, has done 98%  of it.  He has spent months and months working at it. I have been putting stuff in boxes and labelling them. I have only recently started helping with the decorating. It is exhausting. I wake up every morning and think, “I am so tired”. It has taken me weeks but I am 80% there. Unfortuantely, I feel like I have been 80% there for several weeks now. I once read somewhere that you should start packing a month before you intend to move. I have been doing this for at least three!

I initially spent months trying to pretend it was not happening because I found the thought of it too stressful. I am not alone, many people (only 40% amazingly)  say that moving house is more stressful than going through a divorce and most people (60%)  say they are put off moving because of the change involved. That’s me.

I have been getting rid of stuff for well over a year and a half now. I started with selling my surf boards on ebay then my old academic books on Amazon, but the pandemic put a stop to that. I have been getting rid of other stuff lately; clothes, china, novels, picture frames. I have found it utterly exhausting and it provokes all sorts of emotions, not all of them pleasant. There is a wierd sort of grieving in throwing things out.

A visit to the Council Dump (sorry, Recycling Centre) is one of my favourite things to do. It takes so much emotional and physical energy to get stuff there, it’s a joy to come home without it. There has been the occasional jumper or pair of shoes that I decided to keep or put on ebay rather than send to a charity shop, but mostly it’s gone. I cant believe how much stuff I still have. It’s like a bottomless pit. Everytime I think I am getting there I open another cupboard or wardrobe and find more! Our house certainly has a lot of storage space.

This process has been like shedding many “skins” that I inhabited in the past.  One skin has been the academic books from when I was a lecturer and researcher in Medieval History. Another were the “tidy” clothes and lots of History books and DVDs, from when I was a school teacher.  I threw out a lot of running gear. I have accepted that after breaking my leg so badly that I will never pound the streets for exercise again. So the boots and shoes with anything but the flatest of heels went for the same reason.  I also finally admitted to myself that I will never go back into the classroom as a teacher. It has been 4 years now. Who am I kidding? I didn’t renew my teacher’s licence this year. What a relief. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was sent a renewal notice. Never mind. It amounts to the same thing.

This has made me see how we gather “stuff” around us. I think I do it to give myself a sense of security and identity.  Maybe this is because I moved house a lot as a child. I lived in 5 houses in three different parts of the country and went to 7 different schools before I was aged 11.  Apparently,  moving house when you are a child isn’t terribly good for you. Setting off for university, my father had to tell me to decant part of my record collection because there just wasn’t enough space in his car for my stuff and us! He had to bring it all back at the end of term too! As an adult I have lived in three different cities; Cardiff, London and Swansea. We have been in Swansea for 21 years. I have gathered a lot of “moss” that time. Séamas has also gathered a fair bit of DIY stuff,  those sealing guns in particular (see illustration).

Sealing/Caulking Gun
Sealing/Caulking Gun

I don’t know where I get my hoarding from. Not my mother that’s for sure. She has been doing her version of Swedish Death Cleaning for years. “Welsh Death Cleaning”, you could call it. It is a sort of a minimalism for older people. She very disciplined about clearing stuff out so that she can either a) move smaller one day or b) so we don’t have to do this when she is no longer with us.  No object or piece of clothing stays in my parents home for very long if a) it is no longer worn on a regular basis b) regularly used or c) very decorative. Otherwise, off it goes to the local charity shop. Many years ago, when my sister moved to London “temporarily” to do an MA at the Royal College of Art, she left her old Morris Minor car at my parent’s house . After a few years, when it was it clear that she wasn’t moving back home, my mother sold the car. She gave the money to my sister.  Jane is still a bit mifted about it. If you left to her it would still be in the drive! I guess all that moving house over the years taught my mother discipline.

When we bought this house over 20 years ago, I declared I was never going to move house again. My mother said that’s what women say after giving birth, but most of them go on to have more children! Yes, life has a way of making you eat your words. Here I am preparing to move house.

My tendancy to gather of stuff accelerated after I had my breakdown. I once tried to do the Marie Kondo thing (in fact I found a few rolled up in my airing cupboard Maire Kondo-style) but I got overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep it up. I lacked the energy to do anything much, let alone decide what to chuck out and then do it. It is a form of hoarding.  Yes, it’s an ugly word.  I am not as bad as those poor souls they make TV programmes on Channel 5 about, yet. I am still somewhere on that unpleasant spectrum. It’s a sort of compulsion. I can’t let go. Breaking my leg, didn’t help either. When everyone else was decluttering in the early days of the first lockdown, I was confined to the bedroom! Then, when I was ready to get rid of stuff, all the non-essential charity shops were shut! For months.

The strange thing is that once I have cleared space, I can see and appreciate what I have choosen to keep better. I now look at stuff and think, do I really need that? I go back to the packed boxes and take things out; thinking: why did I pack that? It’s like the ebb and flow of the sea. I clear out stuff, feel some satisfaction and then I find more stuff and have to go through the process all over again.  The other side of the coin is that twice yesterday, I went to find something, only to realised that I had chucked it out!

I need to be tougher and get rid of more stuff. I follow “Be more with Less” decluttering account on Instagram in the hope that some of the inspirational quotes will sink in. I know I have a long, long way to go.  The only “skin” I want now is that of an artist and blogger. I don’t kid myself that I won’t buy more stuff in the future, but I hope I will be better at shedding it more regularly. I will be following my mother’s example! She’ll laugh at that!

Here’s another of my recent paintings, it was also hanging in the bedroom.

Painting of Three Chimneys Arch, Gower
Three Chimneys Arch, Gower