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…



Ella’s Edit: 5 Amazing metallic home buys

1: Tom Dixon brass bowls

This summer I went to a Tom Dixon Autumn/Winter 2017 preview. It’s Tom Dixon so as you can expect it was gorgeous but it was also interesting as there was a very minimal use of metallics. When I asked about this I was told “Everyone has picked up on what Tom has started; people have copper toilet brushes now. And while we love the classics, we also have to innovate with metallics and we need to give them a different edge”.

So we have to do something a bit more interesting with metallic tones and I’ve picked five amazing metallics pieces that do just that.

I love the Tom Dixon brass bowls featured above – in fact I have a set myself. The burnished, matte surface immediate gives pieces patina and I think this muted metallic look is a good starting point for selecting contemporary metallic accessories for this season.

2: Filled votive, Sainsbury’s

At £145 for the set, the Tom Dixon bowls may be a bit of a stretch for humble home accessories (I got mine as a birthday gift from DR B to be fair). If you do like a bit of burnished gold on a budget, this filled votive from Sainsbury’s is a steal at £6.

3: Ceiling Pendant Light in Black, Atkin and Thyme

Metallic accents also really work. This ceiling pendant light in black from Atkin and Thyme gives this industrial shade a luxurious edge. Just like the Dixon bowls it’s burnished copper interior avoids the bling some metallics give off rather is adds warmth and texture. At £99, it would make a stunning statement in a minimal space.

4: Metallic lustre vase, The Contemporary Home

If you do need a bit of bling, the aged effect on this this metallic lustre vase from The Contemporary Home tones down the shiny and ramps up the texture. At £6 I can see three of these in a line on my based up dining room table, teamed with some twinkly tealights to create a bit of autumn/winter atmosphere at a dinner party.

5: Cult Living Mountain Print Framed Poster, Cult Furniture

I think an element of shine can still work with metallics – I love this Cult Living Mountain Print Framed Poster from Cult Furniture. These strong copper outlines juxtaposed with the marble textures, matte blacks and soft muted pinks bring out the bling without making it too brash.

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!

#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.

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.

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.

 

 

Monday Moodboard #mondaymotivation – House plants

Monday Moodboard Houseplants ellasplace.co.uk

What better way to brighten up this dull Monday than with a plethora of house plants for this week’s moodboard?

Last week I noticed that the first 17 pictures (I know I counted them) from the people I follow on instagram were of house plants. These images particularly showed off the gorgeous greenery against cream, light grey or blush pink walls. Why not? Lush green leaves are a thing of beauty both indoors and out so I’m all for the botanical house plant trend and for bringing nature’s beauty into every aspect of our lives – even our bathrooms.

I’m even cultivating some monstera plants of my own with varying degrees of success; here’s my efforts so far…

Monstera plant (c) ellajohnston

Monstera plant ellasplace.co.ukTrue to form I’m turning this current obsession into illustration too with Monstera watercolours on a blush pink background  selling as prints on Not On The High Street, Etsy and Folksy.
Leaf print Ella Johnston Not On The High StreetMonstera Leaf Print Folksy Ella Johnston

Monsterea leaf print Ella Johnston