Antelope in a leotard!

Vintage shop update Ella Johnston Yeah, here’s an antelope in a leotard. What of it?

I picked up this wooden antelope ages ago for 50p and, while I love it, this guy was looking a bit tatty and old. Then I saw a great craft project idea from Handsome Vintage who upcycles retro wooden creatures and pimps them up to make them ‘hipster’. Handsome Vintage has a wonderful collection of hand-painted pieces with intricate patterns and bright colours – it’s such a bright and original revamp idea so I thought I’d give it a go with my little guy.
Vintage shop update Ella Johnston I sanded old Andy the Antelope down (there’s another Ella’s Menagerie back story post due soon – Andy has an amazing tale to tell) and gave him a paint with bright yellow acrylic paint. Then I used a white posca pen to give the leotard a 1980s-inspired pattern. I gave him a spray of varnish too so his ‘tard stays in place.
Vintage shop update Ella Johnston Unlike Handsome Vintage, I have no intention of selling Andy. He has now become a firm favourite in our house, beloved particularly by Dr B of all people.Vintage shop update Ella Johnston I’m now obviously on the hunt for other charity shop animals (wooden or ceramic) that I can give similar treatments to. And, once she’s back from maternity leave, may purchase some brothers and sisters from HV.

Drawing of the week: Cormorant bird

Cormorant Bird illustration (c) Ella Johnston

My drawing this week is that of a cormorant. When I do my little morning walk along the Wivenhoe quayside I often see these pre-historic looking birds with their wings out stretched soaking up the sun or in a little group looking like they are waiting for a bus. When the tide is up they often bob about in the water on the hunt for fish.  I love them so I wanted to capture these creatures in watercolour and ink.

If you want to catch a glimpse of these sleek guys, you can find them around the UK coastline on rocky shores, coastal lagoons and estuaries. You may also catch them at reservoirs, lakes and gravel pits.

Monday Moodboard: Blue

Monday Moodboard Blue

After a frustrating weekend  (still trying to master videoing myself and tidying my ever messy photo studio) I needed something to give me joy so this week’s Monday Moodboard is all about BLUE! Yes, while my politics are anything but, blue makes me happy.

Of course, the colour is calming which is why I have it in our bedroom but that’s not the whole story. And far from finding it cold, which I’m told some do, I believe that if you find the right shade, blue can be intoxicatingly rich, and even cosy.

The image on top is from the artist Yves Klein’s Blue Epoch period. This exquisite ultramarine shade is known as International Klein Blue (IKB); a deep hue first mixed by the French artist. This blue is said to have its roots in art history using lapis lazuli as an influence. The finest and most expensive of pigments,  lapis has been used since antiquity due to its intense colour; it was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun and by Renaissance and Baroque artists for the clothing of the central figures of their paintings, especially the Virgin Mary.

Drawing of the week: Flamingo Head

Flamingo (c) Ella Johnston

This week’s drawing of the week is of a bright pink flamingo head.

I must admit it has taken me a little while to warm to the flamingo bird, although really fun to paint and draw (you can really go to town with pink watercolour here), it was a bird that never really got under my skin like a puffin, lapwing or curlew. I suppose I was put off because they have been so popular as a motif in homewares and stationery design.

Perhaps I also thought they were show-offs of the avian world – to me they were just a bit too lairy with their pink plumage. Maybe I was jealous – no one could accuse me of being leggy and it’s rare that I splash out with colour in a sartorial sense (I leave that for my illustration).

Of course I was wrong. I mean these birds are magnificent creatures and when you find our about these birds they really are fascinating. Here are some fun flamingo facts…

Special bills
Flamingos beaks  are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat. The bills are uniquely used upside-down. Don’t know what I mean? Take a look here…

In the pink
Their distinctive pigment comes from carotenoids they eat in animal and plant plankton which are broken down into pigments by liver enzymes.

Flam Fam
Flamingos are very social birds. Their colonies can be thousands strong. This protects them from predators and enables them to nest more efficiently.

What a pair
The birds perform synchronised ritual displays in colonies. The members of a group stand together and display to each other by stretching their necks upwards, making calls while head-flagging, then flapping their wings. Flamingos form strong partnerships although in larger colonies flamingos sometimes change mates (well we’re all allowed to change our minds). Both the male and the female play a part in building and defending the nest. Occasional same-sex pairs have been reported, which makes me happy.

Don’t you just love flamingos a bit more now?

 

Monday Moodboard: Dots and splodges

Monday Moodboard Dots and SplodgesAh dots and splodges, my old friends. It’s only right I dedicate a Monday Moodboard to these guys as they are really essential to my creative process.

Whenever I’m in a bit of a rut illustration wise but need to get my drawing head on I make marks with dots and splodges. It helps me explore what patterns to create and allows me to enjoy the medium of whatever I’m working in, be it watercolour, ink or felt pen.

But they’re not just a cool way to play with mark-making; as you can see by the above they are incredibly effective in creating patterns and compositions. I personally can’t resist the combination of black with white, pink and apricot shades.

By the way I need to do a big shout out to Ashley Goldberg as two of her designs are featured here. I LOVE her work to pieces. Check it out here.

Drawing of the week: Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus illustration (c) Ella Johnston

My drawing of the week is a young eucalyptus plant.

I was at a friend’s house last weekend and she had gorgeous bunch of eucalyptus in her lounge. They also looked so elegant placed on their own in the vase, unadorned, unfettered by other blooms. Inspired by these I had to source some of my own sprigs to draw.

It has kick-started me trying out some more botanical illustrations. I’ve already done some further eucalyptus sketches and some more watercolour and ink drawings of ferns.

 

Monday Moodboard: Soft Shades

Monday Moodboard Soft shades

I’m loving this week’s moodboard of sweet, soft shades but you’re probably wondering how I got to it.

I’m on product development mode at the moment and consequently my desk is full of colour swatches, trend reports and tear sheets. Loads of the latter are from last year, which featured these particular shades a lot. I still adore the combinations of greens, blues, creams and pinks – I’m interested to see what new soft shade combinations will be in vogue for spring and summer this year.

Easy draw Valentine’s makes


These easy-draw Valentine’s makes are perfect if you like your love tokens handmade. So why not give these illustrations a try in time for the big day on Tuesday?

flamingo plate (c) Ella Johnston
I’ve got lots of posca pens from my workshops last year so  grabbed an old white plate and some slate heart-shaped table mats and decided to give them a  love-themed drawing update. And with my templates and how-tos you can do them to…

Download the Flamingo template below and take a look at what I did with my outline drawing on this video above.

Love slate heart craft Ella Johnston
Or if monotone line drawing is more your bag then follow this cute little demo movie. You don’t need slate, you could work this on any dark surface.

Click right to save this template

Drawing of the week: cockatoo

Cockatoo illustration (c) Ella Johnston

I really enjoyed doing this drawing of the week, my sanguine looking cockatoo. I’ve drawn it as part of series of bird portrait works to be exhibited later this year.

Now I know this black cockatoo is rather purple in his hue but I wanted to reflect the luxurious, deep and rich nature of his plumage. Very few dark shades are just black, they almost always have a base of purple, green or blue at their core.

As usual I created the illustration in watercolour and fine pin ink pen but this time I used a posca white pen to create the little dots on my boy’s feathers.

Home Inspiration: Nina Kullberg

Nina Kullberg

Although my own work is detailed and intricate using fairly muted shades, I’m actually a very big fan of strong graphic pattern and bold colours in my home, especially in my soft furnishings. So when I saw that Nina Kullberg was launching a new set of cushions I had to take a closer look.

I’ve been fond of Nina Kullberg’s work for a while – I’m a little obsessed with her instagram account truth be told. The simplicity of her pattern and her vibrant palette in her cushion collection is just lovely. And, she’s not scared of a muted tone either, just check out her exquisite throws in beige and grey.

Anyway as all good designers know, it’s vital to respond to trends so the designer has embraced the Pantone Colour of the Year 2017 Greenery in her new collection of cushions. I think these are perfect for spring and summer and would look lovely in a crisp white bedroom or sunny conservatory.

Take a look at Kullberg’s website for more.

Nina Kullberg Palm Springs in Alfalfa £67
Nina Kullberg Palm Springs in Alfalfa £67
Nina Kullberg Athens in English Ivy Green £67
Nina Kullberg Athens in English Ivy Green £67
Nina Kullberg London in Hemlock Green
Nina Kullberg London in Hemlock Green
Nina Kullberg London in Alfalfa
Nina Kullberg London in Alfalfa
Nina Kullberg Paris English Ivy Green
Nina Kullberg Paris English Ivy Green