#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.

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.

#FreebieFriday Stationery Giveaway!

Ella Johnston Stationery In celebration of National Stationery Week I thought I’d do a little #FreebieFriday stationery giveaway. Just retweet this or share on Facebook to be entered into a prize draw – remember to tag me in though otherwise I won’t know you’ve done it.
Ella Johnston Stationery So what do you win? You get your hands on this lovely 12-card boxed set worth £36 containing the following…
– Two A6 Forget Me Not Thank You Cards
– Two A6 Loving Budgie Cards
– Two A6 Lovebird Cards
– Two 15cm square Coal Tit Cards
– Two 15cm square Willow Tit  Cards
– Two 15cm square Butterfly Cards
– Eight assorted gift tags and ties
– Matching envelopes
– Mini heart charm.
Ella Johnston Stationery Giveaway closes on Monday 1st May, winner will be picked at random.

The secrets of mindfulness from Ivy Press

Mindfulness booksA few weeks ago I was sent a beautiful collection of books from the Secrets of Mindfulness series. Published by Ivy Press (a subsidiary Quarto), the books are all written by experts in their field and are designed to enhance well-being and reduce stress.

I don’t go on about it that much, but mindfulness is a subject very close to my heart. After years and years of placing myself in stressful situations and pushing myself at work, I learnt to take a step back, relax, appreciate the moment I’m in and take better care of my mind and body; and boy am I a more pleasant person to be around because of it. My life has improved so much since I’ve decided to take some time out.

Mindfulness booksThe books concentrate on Yoga, Reflexology, Pilates and Reiki.

I did a lot of yoga and pilates around the time when was I getting married and I got really into them in for a while (and didn’t look too shabby either) but then I got bogged down into my work and it fell by the wayside. It’s a real regret.

These books reminded me of how fantastic Yoga and Pilates are and how much I enjoyed it when I did it. The tomes talk me through the philosophy, history and basic principles of the practices as well as giving me to starter moves to begin with. Great for this lapsed yogi and good for beginners too!
Mindfulness books

Mindfulness booksI knew a little bit about Reiki and Reflexology through my past life as a journalist where I’ve written some spa features. After professionally having to have many Reiki and Reflexology treatments, I admit that now I generally opt for spa treats that include these elements.

I’m really pleased that these books can allow me to delve into these areas a bit more as they have benefitted me so much when I’ve been in receipt of them. These publications are also brilliant for people who haven’t experienced a Reiki or Reflexology treatments before as they outline what you can expect during the practice, which is really important if you are nervous about that kind of thing (which I know some people are).
Mindfulness books

You can find out more about the books on the Quarto website.

New Products!

Unicorn Card (c) Ella JohnstonI have new products on my Not On The High Street shop; a unicorn card, a hare greeting and a beautiful eucalyptus art print. All are taken from my original watercolour and ink drawings.
Hare Card (c) Ella JohnstonMy hare and unicorn prints have been incredibly popular at various art fairs with many people asking if I was going to produce co-ordinated greetings – well nobody can say I don’t listen! The new Eucalyptus botanical print is a bit of an indulgence to be honest – I simply wanted one for myself. Botanical print (c) Ella Johnston

Oh for the love of hellebores

Hellebore (c) Ella JohnstonThis time of year is just a gift for me as I celebrate my love for hellebores.
Hellebore (c) Ella JohnstonI have a confession to make though. Until we had our garden I had never heard of these blooms. Yes I know – I’m rubbish. I have Dr B to thank for this new love of mine.
Hellebore (c) Ella JohnstonWhen we moved from our London flat to a house with a garden, Dr B unleashed his inner Monty Don (no bad thing) and began his plan for ‘all year planting’. Hellebores, he told me, were a classic winter flower that pop up in Feb and I was assured that every February I would see lovely blossoms that would delight. Dr B didn’t disappoint.
Hellebore (c) Ella Johnston Now every year I look forward to the arrival of these beautiful flowers. I’m told they benefit from a little prune so I’m forever dipping into our garden to snip some flower heads to display indoors.
Hellebore (c) Ella JohnstonThis also gives me a chance to use up my glass globe mini vase (a gift from my sister) and upcycle some charity shop finds. I’ve used my Posca pens to draw on some tealight holders for some floating water displays and spray painted a really rather ugly small vintage vase for a more traditional arrangement.
Hellebore (c) Ella Johnston Hellebore (c) Ella Johnston

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?

 

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

Easy craft: wipe-clean nesting trays

These wipe-clean nesting trays are just the thing for carrying little treats and drinks and they are easy to make too.

All I did was get a plain set of wooden nesting trays and gave them a lick of chalk paint (Deco Art Americana Decor Chalky finish paint to be exact) in two shades of grey.

I then measured the inside of the trays and cut my laurel leaf and autumn leaves design paper to size. I covered the paper with sticky-back plastic to make it wipe-clean.

I brushed PVA glue on the inside and placed the shiny patterned paper in it to adhere to the bottom of the tray. See, an easy paper make.
I’ve been using these trays for all sorts of things and they haven’t been damaged by ring marks and spillages. They’re so handy I may make a whole load of them as gifts.