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.
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.
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?).
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.
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.
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…
True 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.
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. 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. Giveaway closes on Monday 1st May, winner will be picked at random.
Packed with intricate patterns and decorative motifs, this paperback is a feast for the eyes. It features a lovely collection of photographs of India to give the designs some context. The book includes information on the history and culture of Indian patterns, so it’s a great resource. Indian patterns have fascinated me since my youth and these beautiful composition are already providing me with plenty of inspiration for my own illustration practice. I tell you what though, I do know someone who will love this book more than me – my mum! She loves a bit of colour therapy but more than that she has been having a mini love affair with Indian textiles and ceramics all her life. The combination of colouring in, historical context and gorgeous photography will really appeal to her and perhaps get me into the good books!
The book is published by Thames and Hudson and you can get it here.
More 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.
Because 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. I’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 Gallerybelow to friends. I 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.
I can’t let National Stationery Week (#natstatweek) pass without a bit of blatant self promotion (sorry). So here’s the Ella Johnston stationery edit – all available on my Not On the High Street shop.
All the wedding stationery, correspondence and greeting card collections feature my hand-drawn illustrated motifs. All illustrations (mostly birds and botanicals with the odd unicorn thrown in) are created in watercolour and fine line pen then they’re scanned, laid out with a finest fonts available to humanity and printed on beautiful FSC paper in the UK.
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.
Seeing as it’s National Stationery Week (#natstatweek) I thought it was only right for my Monday moodboard to be dedicated to the joy of stationery.
Stationery is a core thing in our house – with the amount we have you’d think jotters, pens, correspondence and pencils practically held the place up.
I obviously get through a LOT of pencils and pens (namely those uni pin pens pictured) with my drawing and illustration business and of course my work with Uni-ball. Finding the perfect pen is a very wonderful, joyous thing and I have different ones for specific uses and moods. I cannot write (let alone draw) with a bad pen – it genuinely hurts me. My pencils too conform to the same high standards. I only use two brands and always have to be pin-point sharp (done with a scalpel). Dr B despairs of the amount of pencil shavings he’s had to clear up over the years.
Dr B and myself can’t quite commit ourselves to organising our lives digitally so we tend to rely on our collection of notebooks, diaries and wall planners. As well as being a rather successful journalist the wonderful Dr B also writes creatively (check out his poetry book, designed by moi, here), as long as I’ve known him he has always had a creative journal on the go that is separate to his day job. We’ve got quite a collection of these books now and they serve as a very special time capsule; so much nicer than a load of files on a computer.
I’m also a bit of a paper obsessive. This comes from years as a crafter and artist plus more than a decade looking at various paper stocks as a magazine editor and when I tentatively launched my own stationery business in 2011. So this week on the blog is dedicated to all things #natstatweek and paper-based – watch this space.