October drawing of the month: Flying Dunlin

Flying dunlin watercolour and fine line drawing (c) Ella Johnston
My October drawing of the month is of a flying dunlin.

As the co-founder of Dunlin Press this bird is particularly important to me and Dr B. We are very fond of these birds, very soon they’ll be scuttling around in the mud on Wivenhoe quay.

Work in progress: Flying dunlin watercolour and fine line drawing (c) Ella Johnston

I’ve been drawing dunlins for a little while now, and even have a print of another dunlin drawing available on Folksy, but I’ve never attempted to draw a flying dunlin before. They are quite magical when they fly. I normally spot these wading birds in groups scurrying around on the mud as the tide is coming in during twilight so it’s quite hard to see them at first. You can just about detect them by a little flash of white on their bellies. It’s only when they fly do you see them fully as the white plumage underneath their wings catches and twinkles in the moonlight, it’s lovely.

dunlin print by Ella Johnston

I created this illustration with washes of watercolour and picked out the details with a uni-pin fine line pen, you can see me adding some detail in the video below…

#FridayFun: Posca Make Today Christmas Pack!

Posca Make Today Christmas pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography

I have to share this bit of #Fridayfun with you as I’m really so excited. I’m delighted to show off The Posca Make Today Christmas Pack, a product I developed with the marvellous marketing and design team at the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

Posca Make Today Christmas pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography

This pack is filled with goodies that will be great for Christmas crafting. Open the box and you’ll find eight specially selected  POSCA pens in different sizes and classic festive colours. The craft kit also includes 10 card blanks plus five sheets of easy draw templates featuring 50+ of my seasonal illustrations to trace and transfer. You’ll also find  24-page booklet that I wrote. It talks you through 16 unique greeting designs to make today, plus five bonus festive makes to create with your pens.

Here’s little peek at some of the designs featured…

Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography
Posca Make it Today Christmas Pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography
Posca Make Today Christmas Pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography

You can make your own Christmas cards using the pack but you don’t have to stop there. I’ve also developed 13 extra projects that you can create with the pens – you can see eight of these on the Make Today Website along with loads of extra drawing tips and tricks.

We’ve also made some really simple how-to videos to follow, have a look at this one below…

I’m incredibly proud of our achievement – the pack is a complete solution in a box for the Christmas crafter. I’m so pleased to see my illustrations used commercially and in a format that people can access and use.

You can buy the pack at the Easichalk website...

Posca Make Today Christmas pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography

Ella at work: Exhibiting

Forgive the use of an old picture (above) but I wanted to convey a bit of Ella at work action. This is one of me in our old London flat preparing for an exhibition. It’s the same story for every exhibition I’ve done – lots of cutting, trimming, framing and packaging!

I was reminded of this when I prepared my work for the autumn/winter Naze Tower show.

If you haven’t been to the Naze Tower and you are remotely local (it’s one and a half hours from London, half an hour from me in Wivenhoe) then I recommend a visit. Residing on an attractive stretch of coastline at Walton-on-the-Naze, the Naze Tower is an historic 86ft landmark and unique visitor attraction. Over eight floors it houses an art gallery with three exhibitions a year, a museum on the Tower and Naze, tea rooms and a roof viewing platform with spectacular panoramic views.

It’s a charming place and from now until the end of October you can see a selection of my original watercolour and fine line bird drawings on show and get your hands on some of my limited edition prints…



Quick craft! Lemon tote #fridayfun

Quick Craft: Lemon ToteAs you read this I will be at the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show in Exeter showing people how to use Posca pens, having my very own Friday fun.

I created this lemon tote as a display item for the show and it’s proved so popular I’ve been asked to make them for friends. I love running Posca pen workshops and have great fun sharing my crafty knowledge. So it’s only fair I share this easy make with you.

I made a simple lemon shape in three sizes in black pen on paper. I then slipped it inside the bag and traced the shapes using a yellow Posca. Then I placed a square of stiff card inside the tote and coloured in the shapes with the Posca. I then used a khaki green Posca to draw stems and leaves. Once the paint pens dried I could then add veins to the leaves with a light green Posca and little orange and white dots to the lemon.

I drew the lemon shape, but if you are not confident in your drawing skills you can easily download a shape from the internet to trace and copy. It really is such an effective design that’s easy to recreate from home.

If you’re in Exeter come and join me at the Uniball stand – we’re on until Sunday!

Cover illustration: Black Headed Gull

Black headed gull illustration (c) Ella Johnston

I recently illustrated the cover for an upcoming book Freedom Poems, published by Poetry Wivenhoe.

The drawing had to illustrate a sense of freedom while also illustrating the location of Poetry Wivenhoe. The black headed gull is very common in Wivenhoe so I chose a flying black headed gull as the motif.

Freedom Poems Cover Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

The illustration was created in watercolour and then overlaid with uni-pin pen.

The book will be released on September 28th.

September drawing of the month: Strutting godwit

Godwit watercolour and fine line illustration (c) Ella Johnston
So pleased to be kicking off my regular illustration posts with my strutting godwit as September’s drawing of the month.

I think godwits are my favourite bird (at least today they are – it’s a bit like picking a favourite song or album for me, it depends on the day, the mood, how I’m feeling etc). You can expect to see godwit bird illustrations coming up quite a few times on my drawing of the month posts.

Work in Progress: Godwit watercolour and fine line illustration (c) Ella Johnston
Work in Progress: Godwit watercolour in the process of adding my fine line

This godwit is sporting his spring/summer mating plumage. I remember seeing an omniscience of godwits (Isn’t that a lovely collective noun? I could have also used “a prayer of godwits” or “a pantheon of godwits”) with their gorgeous russet breasts and soft golden feathers on Iken cliffs and I was practically moved to tears by the birds’ stunning colours and graceful countenance. By the way, if you haven’t been to Iken cliffs it is well worth a visit, it’s one of my favourite places on earth. So atmospheric and serene in any weather.

I created this drawing using Winsor and Newton watercolours on hot-pressed watercolour paper. I then added detail using the Uniball uni-pin pen. These pens have different nib sizes which offer fantastic versatility when working on something like feathers. You can see me start to overlay this pen detail in the video below.

Monthly Moodboard: September, Simplicity

Monthly moodboard, September Simplicity

Although my art is quite intricate I actually strive for simplicity. The bravery and beauty of making a few gestural lines to shapes to convey a subject for me is an incredible achievement. It’s building up to becoming an obsession of mine, as this September moodboard illustrates.

While my desire for simplicity is a long held one, it was compounded this summer by Dr James Fox’s documentary series The Art of Japanese Life where Fox featured Sesshu’s ‘splashed-ink’ landscape (see below), dating back, unbelievably, to 1495.  Let me say that again, 1495!

I think this is a glorious painting. I see so much energy in it and I find it exquisite in composition and atmosphere. I’m also drawn to the simple black and white colour scheme (I would be though wouldn’t I?).

Sesshu's 'splashed-ink' landscape
Sesshu’s ‘splashed-ink’ landscape

It’s also coincided with me getting some brush pens (which I used to create my new header btw), so I’ve been playing around with them try to make simple, gestural images. I find minimalism and knowing when to stop more difficult than adding clever little details and additional descriptive strokes – it’s a real challenge for me. I’m using the work of Toko Shinoda as further inspiration as well as ancient Japanese brush painting of bamboo, birds and butterflies.

What do you think of this style of painting? Do you like those simple strokes? The black and white? Or do you need a little more colour and detail? I’d love to know.

National Stationery Week: Oh how I love postcards #natstatweek

National Stationery Week PostcardsMore National Stationery Week (#natstatweek) joy from me today. I thought I’d share my love of postcards.

This passion for postcards has been going on for some time. I bought my first set (Vincent Van Gough’s Sunflowers, Picasso’s Fruit Dish, Bottle and Violin,   Henry Rousseau’s Surprised and Monet’s Water-lily pond if you’re interested) when I went to the National Gallery with my dad when I was about nine.

I’ve been collecting postcards in earnest ever since I was a teenager when I used to gather loads from the Tate (it was just the one in London then) and the National galleries when doing my art project research. I obsessively collected and displayed black and white portrait postcards of pop stars, movie icons and various writers, artist and bohemians through history in my bedroom at home. Then I used postcards, gig flyers and magazine pages to decorate every student flat I lived in (and some that I didn’t). Even when Dr B and I had our first tiny studio flat, we went up-market and put them in those ubiquitous Ikea wooden frames.

National Stationery Week PostcardsBecause I’m such a massive fan of these wonderful mini art objects I now make a lot myself.  The one above and the four pictured below are ones I’ve created to promote our small publishing company Dunlin Press.  A free handwritten postcard gets sent out with every book order.  This was inspired by the amount of lovely handwritten postcards we’ve found over the years hidden in the pages of hundreds (and I really do mean hundreds) of second-hand books we’ve bought. Some are really charming and tell stories in themselves.
National Stationery Week PostcardsI’m also very, very fond of sending out postcard with my print and stationery orders to say thank you and I’m a bit partial to sending little motivational messages such as the ones from the Calm Gallery below to friends.
National Stationery Week PostcardsI now sell illustrated postcards. In the spirit of those portraits that adorned my adolescent bedroom I’ve done them in the style of hand-drawn bird portraits. You can buy a set of nine here. I’m astonished that the obsessions of my younger years come to inspire me even now, there are times I feel closer to my early teenage self than to the woman in my twenties or thirties.
Bird portrait postcards (C) Ella Johsnton

Drawing of the week: Red Admiral Butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

This week’s drawing of the week is of a Red Admiral butterfly.

With the snazzy latin name of Venessa Atalanta (I think I may employ this as a pseudonym at some point), this beautiful creature is coming to a garden or woodland near you! (That’s if you live in the British Isles of course).

This beauty will be part of my every growing illustrated butterfly guide, I’ve got quite a collection of watercolour and ink butterflies now, I’m just trying to decide on which illustrations make the final cut. I’ll show you the finished piece soon.

Monday Moodboard: Birds

Monday Moodboard Birds

Well it was only a matter of time before I treated you a Monday Moodboard of birds.

As you know an awful lot of my drawing practice centres around birds. So much of my time is spent trawling and taking images of birds to study and illustrate. This is absolutely no hardship for me. I could honestly spend all my time looking at my feathered friends.

Recently I have been  focussing on heads and shoulders to create bird portraits for my show at the Over The Sofa Gallery at Wivenhoe Bookshop. It’s a small space and I wanted to do it as a site specific piece, the show is called Family Portraits so it has a kind of homely feel. It consists of nine A6 watercolour and ink drawings and four A6 pieces.

The show is on until April 30.

Birds at Wivenhoe Books

Wanna know what each bird is? Well here they are…
Top row from left: Puffin, Long Eared Owl, Starling
Middle row from left: Lapwing, Peacock, Pigeon
Bottom row from left: Cormorant, Robin, Crested Grebe
On shelf: Black Redstart, Budgie, Goldfinch, Dartford Warbler.