#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.

Drawing of the week: Helenium

helenium flower illustration Ella JohnstonInspired by last Friday’s Gardener’s World and indeed my own home-grown efforts this week’s drawing of the week is a helenium.

Heleniums – 7 lovely things for the weekend at http://www.ellasplace.co.ukThis simple watercolour and ink illustration is taken from some of the few remaining flowers of my garden. Heleniums do really well in our garden and stay so long, so I’m always snipping them and displaying them around the house to make them last longer. I wonder how long they will last. Heleniums from our garden. http://www.ellasplace.me ©Ella Johnston.

Drawing of the week: Hydrangea flower

Hydrangea Illustration Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

My drawing of the week is of a bright pink hydrangea. This watercolour and ink illustration is taken from our garden as they are in full bloom at the moment for the summer.

A hydrangea is my favourite flower and this one in our garden made the journey from our little balcony in London all the way to Wiv, so I’m particularly fond of our growing, flourishing little plant.

Home hack: Four Beautiful Flower Displays

Peony flower display Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukOne of the easiest and cheapest way to give your rooms a splash of quick colour is by adding some flowers to a table or mantelpiece. It’s amazing the instant impact that even the most simple of displays can produce.
Peony flower display Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukOver the past month I’ve made a record of my displays every week and now I’m sharing them with you. I’ve tried to keep my budget limited with a £40 maximum and £5 min.
Peony flower display Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

My luxury purple and pink display costs around £40. The mixed peonies in light pink and deep plum were from Value Flora where you can get six stems delivered from £19.99. The vibrant, frilly carnations from my local florist were a snip at 70p each and the roses were £3 for three. I got the wilder bits of foliage from the garden.

Peony flower display Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukBecause these blooms aren’t especially structural I wanted the arrangement to be informal. So I opted for a fairly loose dome. I did this by following the same method I use when making a hand-tied posy.
Peony flower display Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk You do this by creating a layering the stems in a spiral formation, starting with one flower in the centre and simply circling blooms around this central one and continuing until you make a dome. Then I give it a bit of a shake before I put into the blooms the vase – I do this to loosen the posy up a bit so it doesn’t look so rigid. I used one of my favourite pieces of pottery to place these blooms in – I just wish I’d made a note of who made it as we’ve had this vase for 10 years and it brings us both joy everyday. The side table was a charity shop bargain; £5 from Cancer Research.
Peony flower display Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

The display below was inspired by the paintings of Jan van Huysum and the recent Dutch Flowers exhibition in the National Gallery. I fancied creating something similarly atmospheric at home. Vintage floral display ellasplace.co.uk

Although this looks quite grand, this rather formal set up is so easy to recreate. I sprayed an old charity shop pub branded vase with bronze paint. Once dry I taped a small block of florists foam soaked in water onto the container. I then arranged the stems into the foam, making sure I walked around the vase and looked onto so that not a bit of the green soaky stuff was exposed. I kept the colours to a minimum for this one, using mainly white, cream and green tones with little splashes of red and pink. I placed the shells by the bottom of the vase to be arch.
Vintage floral display ellasplace.co.uk

I won’t lie, this one below is actually from my mum as the ‘rents came to see us this weekend. The yellow flowers from her and my dad’s garden smell divine; you get a whiff of a little puff of sherbet as you walk by. They look delightful with such vivid hues and open up into the most perfect shapes.

Yellow_1

My mum puts me to shame when it comes to her eye. Three simple, but bright ,stems, one of a contrasting colour, placed at different heights into a vintage old glass bottle that they bought as a job lot at an auction (Mr and Mrs J go to a lot of auctions).
Yellow_2 Crucially my mum removed the foliage that was below the water line; not only does this look better but it eliminates the bacteria that would thrive on those leaves. It also keeps the water in the vase cleaner and adds to the shelf life of the blooms.
Yellow_3

My final display was for a dinner party and consequently I didn’t want to spend loads of money on flowers as I’d already blown the budget on wine (#sorrynotsorry).
Flower display ideas ellasplace.co.ukThe table flowers to be low (people need to look at each-other over the table). I also wanted them to be fun as we were having a good time.

I’ve gathered quite a lot of swan vases from various charity shops over the years. None of them in their original state are particularly artful or beautiful so they’ve all been given the spray paint treatment on more than one occasion. I wanted them to twinkle amongst the candle-light on the table so I’ve painted them in a shiney metallic.
Flower display ideas ellasplace.co.uk Alstroemeria is ideal for when you want to create a floral statement but you haven’t got loads of money. A stem of alstroemeria has lots of blooms on it so you get a lot for your money and the flowers look very effective when grouped together in one colour. I teamed the red ones with little spray roses and some foliage from the garden, these were placed in water and arranged in the vase. I placed a block of florist foam in the white one, having two large lily heads as my main attraction while filling in the gaps with alstroemeria.
Flower display ideas ellasplace.co.uk

Drawing of the week: Peony

Watercolour peony Ella Johnston
In honour of British Flower Week I thought it was only fitting that I drew a few peonies.
Black and white peony sketch Ella Johnston
Frilly, girly and full of glorious flounce, even a single bloom can make a tremendous impact – no wonder they are often a top choice for summer events and weddings.
Peony line drawing Ella Johnston

The flower is also very popular on the internet too, with Elle Decoration reporting that peonies are overtaking the avocado for the most tagged item on Instagram.
Peony line drawing Ella Johnston
The peony is among the longest-used flowers in Eastern culture. Along with the plum blossom, it is a traditional floral symbol of China and is depicted often in traditional Chinese art. They are also used in tattoos, inspired by artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi‘s illustrations of Suikoden, a classical Chinese novel. Here the peony is associated with a devil-may-care attitude and disregard for consequence.

I kind of understand this, the peonies I’ve got in the vase at the moment are so vibrant, full and abundant with glorious colour it’s hard to imagine that in a couple of days time they’ll be shrivelled up and like crumpled paper. But that’s their beauty. These pink watercolour illustrations and black and white line drawings are a stab at making the blooms immortal.

Peony pattern Ella Johnston

Moodboard Monday: Green and white

Ellas Place Moodboard Monday

As an artist, illustrator and journalist, observation, research and image gathering are key to the success of my work. So from now on I’m letting you in on my working practice every week with my Monday Moodboards.

I’m always taking pictures of things that catch my eye and (much to Dr B’s chagrin) spend at least a couple of hours a day on Pinterest (probably not very healthy I know) collecting all kinds of images that reflect trends and serve as inspiration for my home and my drawings. Making them into a moodboard distills my thoughts and allows me to think about the vibe I want to create with my own endeavours.

I’ve recently become fascinated by green and white. It is so representative of this time of year. During the past three weeks I’ve been greeted with this glorious colour combination on my daily morning woodland and riverside walks. Lush grass, delicate hawthorn flower and cow parsley abound the environment creating delightful glades and giving everything a soft, elegant appearance. Beautiful.

This simple palette has so much potential in terms of design and it’s versatile too; a simple flower arrangement, artful grouping of fern and minty coloured objet, delicate planting or full-on statement floor and wall tiles, there are so many ways to incorporate this look into your home.  Used wisely it can look stylish in a laid back, understated way. And even if you’re not actually using natural elements or motifs it suggests a natural, organic feel. The clean, fresh scheme and simplicity reflected in my mood board has also given me food for thought when it comes to my illustrations – sometimes maybe less is more?

Plant of the fortnight: Hibiscus

Hibiscus Flower watercolour Ella Johnston An opulent bloom, the Hibiscus is a very hardy, versatile plant and thrives in tropical conditions. It is a member of the Malvaceae family and the name is Latin for marshmallow.

The flower is very showy and gregarious and as such it attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

This is actually the last plant of the fortnight post. After a year working on the blog I’ve given it a review and have decided on a few changes. Instead of bird/plant of the fortnight, I’ll be doing one ‘Drawing of the week’ post every Tuesday. So you’ll still get your illustration fix.

In keeping with my tropical mood next week I will be showcasing several drawings of the Green-headed Tanager – a beautiful bird native to Brazil.

Plant of the fortnight 16/05/16 Sweetpea

Sweetpea black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight ellasplace.co.uk
Sweetpeas are the quintessential summer flower for the UK. Their variety of colours and their delicate paper-like petals are a seasonal favourite in people’s gardens.
Sweetpea black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight ellasplace.co.uk
It’s not quite sweetpea season yet but once they come I hope to fill little jars and bottles. They look so lovely all grouped together – particularly so when I’m having any outdoor garden gathering.

Not only are they a pleasure to display, they are also a joy to draw. These black and white sketches didn’t take long to do but it’s fun to capture the folds and structure of the individual blooms if you like line drawing (which I do). I can’t wait to go wild with my colour paints when I work up the watercolour versions.
Sweetpea black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight ellasplace.co.uk

Finished Plant of the Fortnight, Watercolour Magnolia

Watercolour and ink magnolia (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Here is my finished magnolia illustration – my plant of the fortnight.

A magnolia tree heralds in warmer, sunnier days. The elegant blooms and glossy, simply shaped leaves are often featured in floral pattern designs.  It’s not difficult to see why, as the above shows.

This watercolour and ink drawing was a pleasure to create, the regular shape and ornate petals are beautifully decorative yet the entire structure of the plant gives every flower balance and harmony.

Look out for my sweetpea sketches in a fortnights’ time.

Plant of the Fortnight 2/05/16: Magnolia

Magnolia black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight ellasplace.co.uk I bloody loves a magnolia I do. The exquisitely delicate blooms, the shiney dark green leaves, they are simply beautiful. Pink or white I look forward to their arrival, their presence sings spring and they are just so darn pretty.
Magnolia black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight ellasplace.co.uk

A couple of weeks ago I was walking through our local streets that were littered with magnolia petals. I was sad that they won’t come around until next year so I wanted to draw them to keep them alive as it were.

Magnolia black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight ellasplace.co.uk
These black and white sketches took minutes to create – the shape of these flowers and leaves are so simple and iconic and can be captured in a mere matter of lines. So quick and easy.

I’m really looking forward to creating some delicate watercolour pieces celebrating this plant. Check in this Friday to see the results.