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A Gap in the Clouds

Great Tor, Gower painting by Emma Cownie

I used to like painting landscapes and cityscapes with clear blue skies. I waited for the bright sunny days of early summer to walk around, taking photos and looking for inspiration. Thus, my series of urban minimal paintings of Swansea, made the town look a bit like a Mediterranean location!

What a joke. It rains a lot in Wales. It has rained incessantly for the past two days. Since my extended visits to Donegal, however, I have become increasing inspired by cloudscapes and the silvery light along the Atlantic coast. With my “new eyes” I have started waiting cloudy days in Wales to go out looking for inspiration. Not overcast days, but days with patches of blue sky and sunshine.

I drove down to Pennard, with the idea that I wanted to paint Pennard Pill, the river that follows into the sea at Three Cliffs Bay. The BBC forecast claimed that it would be sunshine and clouds all morning. When I looked at the Mumbles and Caswell Bay webcam, one showed sun and the other was overcast. I set off, anyway. I would go for a walk, regardless. On my way there the sun came and went. As I drove past Mumbles head, I could see it swathed in a light misty cloud. I wondered whether there would be anything to see when I got to Pennard.

Thankfully, the sun was shinning at Pennard as I made down the path that runs alongside the golf club. The tide was coming in and I could just see Great Tor in the distance, through the peaks of dunes. When got close enough for a clear view the sun promptly went in! I looked up at the sky and looked for blue patches. There were quite a few. So I carried on towards Pennard Castle, which is situated on the top the of the high dunes, further inland. I hoped the sun would reappear by the time I got to Pennard Castle. I tried to work out which way the clouds were traveling. Usually, they move from Oxwich Bay towards Three Cliffs. Today they were going the other way. The sun came out a few times on my walk. Just as I was climbing up the sandy path the castle I came out and lit everything up like a technicolor Hollywood film!

Pennard Castle
Pennard Castle

The sun promptly went in again. I stood in the ruins of the castle and waited. I thought about the fairies who had supposedly destroyed the castle with a sandstorm when the lord of the castle had refused to invite them to his wedding party. Eventually, the sun broke through and lit part of the valley below.

Pennard Pill
Pennard Pill

I watched the light move across the valley and the colours burst into life.

Pennard Pill in sunshine
Pennard Pill in sunshine

I then decided to walk back towards the sea and see if I could photograph the three peaks that give the bay its name. The clouds rolled in.

Clouds over Pennard Golf Course
Clouds over Pennard Golf Course

I would have gone home at this point, as there was a cold wind and it was almost lunchtime but I could see bright light off in the distance. It was on the far side of the Bristol channel. I could see a ship on the horizon lit by this light.

Ship on the Bristol Channel
Ship on the Bristol Channel

How wide was this stretch of water? Miles. How long would it take for that shaft of sunlight to make its way over to the Gower coast? A while. So I waited. I am not very good at standing still so I walked around a bit, watching the dog walkers and small family groups vanish from the landscape.

The clumps of large mushrooms spotted about the grassy parts of the dunes, made me think of the fairies again. 

I climbed dunes, trying to decide good locations for photos for when that shaft of sunshine arrived. It was definitely coming my way. A new set of walkers was arriving on the beach. They were all optimists too!

Cloudy Three Cliffs Bay
Cloudy Three Cliffs Bay

Hunger was starting to make itself known. I slouched down against a dune. Patience. Patience. What was the point of giving up now when I had waited so long? Impatience comes from wanting to be somewhere else. I needed to be here now. I thought of a line I heard Van Morrison sing at his 2015 Live 70th Birthday Concert at Cypress Avenue, Belfast “It has always been now” (52 mins into the clip). He’s a genius. He captures the joy of being truly present in the moment. Just as I was saying that to myself when the sun arrived and the technicolor lights were on!

The three peaks
The three peaks

That doesn’t quite capture it. Here let me show you. My view of the world.

A Gap in the Clouds
A Gap in the Clouds

That’s more like it.

Now I could go home and eat lunch. Paint and listen to Van Morrison.

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Autumn Light on Three Cliffs Bay

Blog about painting Three Cliffs Bay, Gower by Emma Cownie

We didn’t get an “Indian Summer” in September, which when we usually get one in Wales. What we have had, instead, is a series of sunny days in late October/early November. The sparkling autumn light is stunning. From a painter’s point of view is more interesting than summer light. So last week I drove down to Three Cliffs Bay to enjoy the light. I was surprised by the dark blue of the calm sea. It was  quite a different colour from the summer sea.

Painting of Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, Wales
Three Cliffs Autumn Light

I was hoping that there would be plenty of orange bracken and there was. Not on the slope of the the Three Cliffs, as they are covered in grass, but on the slopes of Cefn Bryn, in distance.

Painting of Pobbles Bay, Gower
Painting of Pobbles Bay, Three cliffs, Gower

These colours sum up the Welsh landscape for me. In fact, I think I like the Welsh landscape in autumn/winter best. The red and the green of the bracken and the grass also put me in mind of the red and the green of the Welsh flag.

welsh_flag_wallpaper_by_magnaen-d36mhaj.jpg
Welsh Flag (an interpretation)
Painting of Great Tor, Three Cliffs Bay Gower
Light on Great Tor (Gower)

 

I find it ironic that there’s less light around but its better quality, from an artists’ point of view. I still have not adjusted to the clocks going back last month, and I am still waking at 5 -5.30am! It does not seem to matter what time I go to bed, I awake in the dark feeling ready to rise. So I get up and here I am tapping away at my computer in the dark waiting for the sun to rise. Soon I will have to get my SAD lamp out to stop the slow slide in winter gloom. Before, you ask, yes, SAD lamps work for me.

Does anyone else suffer from this problem? Does anyone have any tips for sleeping in later?

Update: I sat with my SAD lamp on for 20 minutes around 7 pm last night and it seemed to help me go back to sleep when I awoke at 4.30 am, and I didn’t get that “wake up” surge of hormones til 6.30. A definite improvement.

To buy landscape paintings of Gower click here

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Pobbles and Three Cliffs Bay sold

Pobbles and Three Cliffs
Pobbles and Three Cliff Bay

I am delighted to have sold “Pobbles and Three Cliffs” on the last day of my exhibition at the Brynmill Coffee House, Swansea. It was bought by a collector from West Cross, Swansea. The exhibition space is now occupied by my husband, James Henry Johnson’s work for the month of September so pop along!

 

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Is it Three Cliffs Bay or Three Cliff Bay?

Looking Back from Three Cliffs Bay
Looking Back From Three Cliffs Bay
Looking Back From Three Cliffs, Gower 2017 

 

Oil Painting of Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, Wales. This is an unusual view from Three Cliffs Bay in Gower, Wales, looking back towards Parkmill from the top of granite rock monuments of one of the three cliffs.

I loved the array of colours and found it an arresting view, away from the bustle of the waves and shouting exuberance, to the calm and reflective.

 

 

 

However, when I came to write this post this morning, I was suddenly seized by the terrible thought that I might have been guilty of getting a Gower place name wrong. I thought so anyway.   I have been calling Three Cliff Bay, Gower, Three Cliffs Bay. So what? However, I have noticed last week that a local artist and blogger called it Three Cliff Bay, with no “s”. So I decided that I had been erroneously been adding an extra “s” to the cliff part of the name. Entirely understandable because you would assume that if it’s in the plural, it would have an “s” at the end.  Perhaps I not been paying close enough attention! I felt bad, that I had got it wrong. I’d be a poor landscape artist if I couldn’t get the name of the place I had painted correct!

However, I decided this need further investigation. Trying to check this on the internet, did not clear up the matter. Plenty of others also call it Three Cliffs with an “s”. The Visit Swansea Bay website for one calls this area Three Cliffs Bay as does as Trip Advisor and the local campsite, which calls itself Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park! You think they would know what its called, as they live there?

However, I think it’s a little more complicated than that. Google Maps actually has both names. But when I studied their map a little closer – it seems that they use Three Cliffs Bay for the tidal beach and Three Cliff Bay for the sea part of the bay. The Ordnance Survey just has Three Cliff Bay for the sea part of the bay. So finally, I turn to my trusted authority on all things Gower related – a book. Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s 1976 edition of “Portrait of Gower” which is full of facts, stories and gossip about old Gower and its people (Wynford was a Swansea-born Historian who was taught English at school by Dylan Thomas’s father).

Wynford-vaughan-thomas
Wynford Vaugh-Thomas in his BBC days

His section on what he calls “one of the great Gower views” he calls it Three Cliffs Bay. So there. Phew! That’s good enough for me. I have worried about nothing and wasted half an hour fact checking.

It is called Three Cliffs Bay. Unless you happen to be out at sea and then is Three Cliff Bay! Unless you know better!

© Emma Cownie 2017