Posted on Leave a comment

Feathers for my drawing workshops

A3 Feather print, Ella Johnston
A3 Feather print

As I was prepping for one of my drawing workshops I wondered why I am so fascinated by feathers.

A5 Yellow Feather print, Ella Johnston
A5 Yellow Feather print, Ella Johnston

I suppose, for me, feathers represent duality. To me that are symbols of fragility and strength; the frailty of existence and yet the wonder of creation.

Feathers, work in progress
Feathers, work in progress

Hold a feather in your hand and it feels so light, almost weightless and soft. It’s so delicate that my instinct is to treat a feather with reverence and gentleness. However just look at even the tiniest of feathers’ structure and you see so much good structural design there. And strength, so much strength.

Watercolour feathers, work in progress
Watercolour feathers, work in progress

The process of observation and examination is fundamental to my art and illustration practice. The purpose of a feather – warmth, flight, waterproofing, camouflage, display etc – is so evident once you examine one close up. For me this one object symbolises so many of the things we need in life to survive both physically and emotionally; resilience,  protection, comfort.

Blue watercolour feathers, work in progress
Blue watercolour feathers, work in progress

As a species I feel we treat animal life so cheaply. We treat birds terribly. I also want the feathers to be a symbol of this. While they represent so much life, in reality they also are symbols of death.

I like to represent them in my work as celebrations of life, proud and at times even totemic. But as objects they are solitary, plucked, indeed, plucked or removed from a body. A stark reminder of the elemental, fragile line we walk between life and death.

Blue wild feather print Ella Johnston
Blue wild feather print

I must admit I’m conflicted when I have to source my feathers to draw. I’ve gathered a lot of them from the muddy floor of near-by woodland. I have been known to buy them from vintage markets (like when I use to buy leather jackets, I had to know the cow would have been long dead before I could benefit from it – a strange logic I know). But mostly I get given them by friends who find them on their travels.

Most of my feather pieces are created with watercolour and pigment ink pen.  I teach this technique at my workshop and I went through it in a step by step for uni-ball. You can read it here

Ink feather drawing Ella Johnston
Ink feather drawing

I’m also playing around with pen and loose Indian ink as you can see.

Ink feathers
Ink feathers

Take a closer look at my feather prints on my Folksy shop.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Orphaned Spaces box set

The Orphaned Spaces box set. Featuring postcards, hand-stitched books, seeds, reliquary, archival prints.
The Orphaned Spaces box set. Featuring postcards, hand-stitched books, seeds, reliquary, archival prints.

Last week I told you about my new illustrated book (with MW Bewick), The Orphaned Spaces published by our indie publishing company Dunlin Press, well here is the box set.

The Orphaned Spaces box set. Featuring postcards, hand-stitched books, seeds, reliquary, archival prints.
The Orphaned Spaces box set. Featuring postcards, hand-stitched books, seeds, reliquary, archival prints.
The Orphaned Spaces box set. Featuring postcards, hand-stitched books, seeds, reliquary, archival prints.
The Orphaned Spaces box set. Featuring postcards, hand-stitched books, seeds, reliquary, archival prints.

The Orphaned Spaces  box set is such an undertaking of work that I had to give it a separate post.

When working on Dunlin Press projects,  we’ve often described each book as ‘time capsules’. We aim for every publication to embody the mood and spirit of a place or region at a particular period of human history – like pressing a pause button or taking a picture. The Orphaned Spaces box set is a physical manifestation of this concept.

Hand-stitched still lives booklet
Hand-stitched still lives booklet
Limited edition postcards, reliquary, seeds and archival prints. The Orphaned Spaces Box Set
Limited edition postcards, reliquary, seeds and archival prints. The Orphaned Spaces Box Set

This highly limited edition, made-to-order box set, deconstructs the book The Orphaned Spaces, breaking it down into hand-stitched booklets, postcards, archival prints and a reliquary.

The box set contains the following elements:

1: Hand-stitched ‘Journal’
Coverstock: G.F SMith, Colorplan, fuchsia pink, 270gsm. Inset pages: G.F SMith, Colorplan, dark grey, 135gsm. Inner pages: ZANDERS ZETA, Unwatermarked Textured Paper, linen 100gsm,
2: Hand-stitched black and white studies booklet
Paper stock: Hahnemühle, Photo Rag, matte smooth, 188gsm
3: Hand-stitched wild flower still lives booklet
Paper stock: Hahnemühle, Photo Rag, matte smooth, 188gsm
4: 10 pressed plants fine art giclée prints
Printed on archival Hahnemühle, Photo Rag, bamboo, 290gsm
5: Six landscape postcards
6: A glass bottle ‘reliquary’
7: Wildflower seeds include a mixture of annual and perennial wildflower species and grasses.
8: Bookmark using G.F SMith, Colorplan, dark grey, 135gsm

The Orphaned Spaces box set includes three individually hand-stitched books and archival prints plus seeds and reliquary
The Orphaned Spaces box set includes three individually hand-stitched books and archival prints plus seeds and reliquary
The Orphaned Spaces box set includes three individually hand-stitched books and archival prints plus seeds and reliquary
The Orphaned Spaces box set includes three individually hand-stitched books and archival prints plus seeds and reliquary

I’ve really made use of the 2010 Central St Martin book-binding summer course I attended during the past eight years. The box set features three hand-stitched booklets all bound by me. I really enjoy book-making so, what would feel like hard work for some feels like a kind of zen meditative process for me.

Making the hand-stitched books for The Orphaned Spaces.
Making the hand-stitched books for The Orphaned Spaces.
Making the hand-stitched books for The Orphaned Spaces.
Making the hand-stitched books for The Orphaned Spaces.

You can buy the box set or the book at the Dunlin Press shop.

Posted on Leave a comment

Pick of the Pins: Lucy Tiffney Mural

Pick of the pins Ella Johnston
I’ve been itching to share this pick of my pins this week. Lucy Tiffney’s murals are a constant inspiration but this particular illustration created for Care UK, Oxford really impressed.

I think this example exemplifies Lucy’s illustrative style; simple, structural and striking. It communicates the essence flowing energy and lightness of the plant’s leaves contrasted with the weight of the pot. Her colour choice is always spot-on and her simple composition is one to be admired and taken note of. She has inspired me to explore some large scale work of my own.

See more of Lucy Tiffney’s work on the following channels…

Instagram: @lucytiffney

Website: lucytiffney.com

Posted on Leave a comment

#MondayMotivation Darling Dahlias


It’s mid-September, our house has been battered by East Anglian, River Colne winds and we’re preparing for autumn. Still our dahlia’s thrive – how’s that for a bit of Monday motivation?Dahlia Ella JohnstonDr B has planted loads of different varieties of this fabulous flower in various shades of pink, red and orange so even as we move out of summer, the garden is a real riot of colour.

As well as their impressive, vibrant hues and voluptuous shape, these blooms are so wonderful as you can keep cutting them to display and it just makes the plant even more abundant. Every week we get a fresh homegrown floral display that brightens up our rooms – I hope it’s brightened your Monday.

Posted on Leave a comment

I’m back

Cone flowers, Cambridge Botanic Gardens
Cone flowers, Cambridge Botanic Gardens

Yes, Ella’s Place is back after a break that was, I admit, slightly longer than I intended.

I needed to take a break because I wanted to refocus Ella’s Place and really think about what I wanted to do with the blog, so I’ve been doing lots of research, investigation and general musing. I also had loads of illustration gigs on and there were some months where all I did was produce drawing after drawing – I’m not moaning, but it was intense.

I’m going back to basics with Ella’s Place, talking about how a creative couple live, work, eat and have fun in our wonderful Wivenhoe home. I’ll be sharing with you my inspirations and obsessions, my drawings and my edited picks of on-trend themes plus insights into what I’m working on. I’ll talk you through the way I make my drawings and from time to time I’ll also be profiling some of my favourite designers and artists. Some bits of the blog will be quite studied and serious, others will light and breezy.

It’s good to be back, I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

It’s time… Get set for Christmas!

From George Home
Decorations From George Home

It’s mid November so I feel it’s a respectable time to start getting set for Christmas. I thought I’d just do a really image-led post featuring some key festive looks that I like for home, gifting and decoration.

Retro shimmer

Decorations from Dunelm
Decorations from Dunelm

This look brings out the little girl in me. I would imagine the six year old me would have loved a shimmery, glittery tree in pinks, golds, turquoises, silvers and purples. When I was that age, the shinier the better and, while I try to be a grown up, this look still shouts “Christmas” to me.

From Next
From Next

Kiddie Christmas

From Sainsbury's
From Sainsbury’s

Now it if was up to Dr B, this is what Christmas would look like at our place.

When it comes to wrapping, I  go classy with kraft paper and twine or black/white iridescent wrap with contrasting ribbon and tags, Dr B goes all out with robins, trees, snowmen, santas and Christmas puds. His go-to colours are red, green and white because it is “proper”. He likes the fun of this look, the playfulness and, like my retro shimmer look, it reminds him of childhood. I like it too but I’m not sure if it would suit my gaff.

Totes trad

From Marks & Spencer
From Marks & Spencer

Love this. The sumptuous textures teamed with the plaid, plus the traditional motifs and colour ways combined with twinkly lights and little finishes such as berry and fir wreaths and centre pieces create a warm, cosy feel that immediately references this time of year.

From Dunelm
From Dunelm

The totes trad look feels both festive and grown up. You kinda feel Christmassy as soon as you see it and just looking at these pictures makes me want to reach for the hot chocolate and my slippers.

From Sainsbury's
From Sainsbury’s

Light luxe

From George Home
From George Home

This metallic style is a kind of grown up version of the retro shimmer look.

From Marks & Spencer
From Marks & Spencer

I like the way you can be playful with this look – you can do glitter, you can adorn gifts and decorations with baubles and frosting – but the overall effect is quite chic. I love the art deco references of this and think it really comes together through the coordinating colour way of pinks, navies, silvers and gold/bronze metallics.

From House of Fraser
From House of Fraser
HyperFocal: 0
From George Home

Frosted 

From House of Fraser
From House of Fraser

You can do two versions of the frosted Christmas – the one above (trad touches, cosy finishes etc) or the one below (minimal styling, subtle references). Whatever your style the look shares the same cool colour suite teamed with pretty metallic accents and snowflake and wreath motifs.

From Sainsbury's
From Sainsbury’s

Scandi Lodge

From Amara
From Amara

I know everyone has been talking about ‘hygge’ of late and I suppose this look reflects this.

From Amara
From Amara

This graphic style is perfect for me but I know that some find this look a little too austere and maybe too stark. However you can soften it up by being more playful with your decorative elements and use of pattern like the examples below…

From Dunelm
From Dunelm
From George Home
From George Home

Latin winter

From Paperchase
From Paperchase

This is my wildcard but I can’t resist showcasing this range from Paperchase. The colours are warm and vibrant while the motifs are so playful and fun. It’s a great alternative for those who aren’t keen on snowflakes.

From Paperchase
From Paperchase
Posted on Leave a comment

Beginner’s Guide: Pressing Flowers

Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk At the moment I’m continually snipping flower heads in my garden to promote new growth so I’m exploring pressing flowers to make full use of them. Here’s my very rough guide for beginner’s.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk I like to think my home has always embraced the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ the idea of enjoying life’s simple pleasures – that’s what I try to show on this blog. I believe something like flower pressing reflects this concept as all I’m really trying to do is preserve some of the enjoyment Dr B and I get from spending time tending to our garden.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk I haven’t bought any fancy equipment for my pressing (maybe I’ll live to regret this), instead I’m being strictly old school on this and applying a method me and my mum used to use when I was a kid.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukI’m using one of my handmade coptic bound books to contain these blooms. I like these books as you can open the pages fully without having to worry about the gutter or  breaking the spine.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukAs I say I haven’t got a fancy contraption for pressing the flowers. I’ve simply got my big heavy art books and a very heavy marble block pressing on top of them. I’ll show you how it turns out in a month or two.
Pressing flowers Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukFlower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Posted on Leave a comment

Drawing of the week: Watercolour feathers

Feather illustration Ella Johnston

I’m doing a mini exhibition this week and, as always, I try to do something fresh and new for it so I created these watercolour feathers that I’m going to produce prints from.

Made with watercolour and ink these illustrations were inspired by vintage drawings and posters I’ve kept colours very, very simple using, golden tones, navies and purples as well as my trademark black.

Feather illustration Ella Johnston

Posted on Leave a comment

Simple pleasures: garden rose

Garden rose Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk Forgive me. I couldn’t resist sharing a picture of this beautiful rose snipped from our garden. It’s just so soft, peachy and pretty.
Garden rose Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk This rose is so delicate and as we experience the last days of the hot weather (well here in Essex at least). I wanted to celebrate the simple pleasures that life can bring us. Sometimes it’s important to notice the small things.

Posted on Leave a comment

Friday fun! Botanical love; more spoils from the garden

Garden flowers ellasplace.co.uk

More indulgent love for botanicals from me. My garden just keeps giving. Roses. ellasplace.co.uk

What a beautiful, beautiful summer it’s been so I’ve been reaping more spoils from the garden.
Roses. ellasplace.co.uk We have beautiful bright pink roses which need constant pruning – they just keep blooming. This is great for us as we have an abundant supply of vibrant blooms to grace our rooms with.
Roses. ellasplace.co.uk Luckily we’re also in dahlia season so everyday I’m checking which heads I can chop to bring indoors and display in our home.
Dahlia. ellasplace.co.uk I love a big fat dahlia bloom – you can display a single stem and enjoy its wonderful structure and architecture. So I’ve placed one of my orange flowers in this lovely marble effect  vase I found at a charity shop and the other in my favourite green fishbowl vase (sorry about the reflections, I’ve still got so much to learn about photography and picture editing)
Dahlia. ellasplace.co.uk

dahalia 1