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…

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!

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.

National Stationery Week: Ella Johnston Edit #natstatweek

Eucalyptus Wedding Invitation (c) Ella Johnston
Eucalyptus Thank you card from Ella Johnston’s wedding collection

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.

Flamingos Wedding Invitation (c) Ella Johnston
Flamingo Save the Date Cards from Ella Johnston’s wedding collection
Journal and postcard stationery set Ella Johnston
Bird portrait journal and postcard stationery set from Ella Johnston
Unicorn Greeting Ella Johnston
Unicorn Greeting Card

Ella Johnston on Not On The High Street.

 

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: National Stationery Week #natstatweek

Monday Moodboard Stationery

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.

 

Drawing of the week: Happy yellow budgie

Yellow Budgie Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

This time my drawing of the week is of a very happy yellow budgie.

I do tend to anthropomorphise the subjects of my drawings particularly my bird portraits  as I do find a very deep connection with the animals in my illustrations. I suppose I can’t help but be sentimental about this guy in particular as my sister had budgies as pets.

But it’s true of all of my creature illos; when you spend the time with them that I do studying and scrutinising every feature, you can’t help but feel closer to your subjects. I admit that after many sessions with my watercolour and ink to create each drawing I probably imbue my animals with qualities they don’t really have.

For example I think this yellow fella is smiling at us – he just looks so cheekily delighted with himself.

Quick Mother’s Day upcycled crafts…

Heart shaped Jewellery holders 3 days (c) Ella Johnston This sounds terrible but I am rubbish at Mother’s Day. I love my mum but the day always lands between my birthday and my dad’s so it always gets a bit lost – not good considering. If you’re like me and always leave it to the last minute to sort something out then here are two quick and easy handmade craft solutions that you can whip up to suit your mum’s style in time for the day.

For my upcycled jewellery dishes, I found a set of plain ceramic hearts and got to work on them three ways. You could do these on any ceramic surface, in fact these designs would all look lovely on a plain white saucer or little bowl.
Heart shaped Jewellery holders 3 days (c) Ella Johnston The first one is a simple black on white floral drawing using a thin black posca pen. This will really suit my mum. Like me, she is a very keen drawer, she also loves simple, elegant lines and an expressive touch, so this is perfect for her.
Heart shaped Jewellery holders 3 days (c) Ella Johnston I then used some paints to create a more contemporary version for the modern mater. I’m a bit in love with this combination of soft peach with dark grey. I masked off the areas I wanted to paint with very think strips of masking tape then filled in the edges once the large areas were dry. I then added white outlines for further contrast. Heart shaped Jewellery holders 3 days (c) Ella JohnstonI tried marbling with nail varnish on the last two. I like this combination of mauve and pink. It almost makes the white ceramic look a bit creamy, which I love. Mind you this was a messy process. You tip the varnish in a tub of water and muddle it with a skewer, you then dip your ceramics in. It smells and gets everywhere so I suggest a big tub and clear area to work in and some rubber gloves!
Heart shaped Jewellery holders 3 days (c) Ella Johnston My second make is really easy, mess free and is the ultimate easy upcycle.
Leaf plant pot and coaster (c) Ella Johnston As you may have noticed the shops and style guides are full of botanical motifs. So I grabed a plain white pot, little black perspex off-cut (they are bloody handy little things and make great coasters) and a green posca pen and got drawing.Leaf plant pot and coaster (c) Ella Johnston This tropical leaf design is so easy to do; you just draw a thin curved line then create thicker curved shapes along it. Simple but effective. Again this design can work on any shaped mug, coaster or plate and makes a nice little on-trend gift for a green-fingered mum. Leaf plant pot and coaster (c) Ella Johnston

Drawing of the week: Peacock

Peacock illustration (c) Ella Johnston

Here’s my drawing of the week – a rather glorious peacock.

I have been outrageously busy of late. There has been some fantastic collaborations with Uni-ball pens already this year, an amazing commission for Guardian Labs/Brittany Ferries, a new book from Dunlin Press and an up-coming exhibition. Which leads me on to this week’s drawing.

This is essentially a sneak peek into some of the bird portraits I’ll be exhibiting in my local book indie bookshop, Wivenhoe Books. It’s an intimate little space and is perfect for giving some of my smaller illustrations a gentle showcase. The size of this piece is A5 so it will work well in a more compact hanging area.

Peacocks are becoming my new favourite thing to draw. I’ve been doing lots of sketches of peacock feathers but I thought for the show I’d give a ‘head and shoulders’ watercolour and ink portrait a go. I’m rather pleased with the result and am particularly taken with the plumage.

To state the blindingly obvious, the peacock is the male bird; the female is known as a peahen and she doesn’t have the snazzy tail. The reason I say this is that I once (this is a while back mind) searched for hours for female peacock and obviously came up with zilch.

Monday Moodboard: Insects

Monday Moodboard: Insects

This Monday’s Moodboard introduces you to my new obsession… Insects!

Just as with the shells last week, this moodboard shows you that my drawing interests are moving towards more organic, smaller forms, exploring their structure and beauty.

As you can see I’m not the first artist to be inspired by these creatures. These vintage anatomical illustrations will inspire my own work and I hope to capture the iconic shapes of these little critters as well as their intricate detail.