My first post of 2018, sorry it’s taken me so long. Although I’ve been quiet on the blog front I’ve been busy everywhere else; undertaking illustration commissions, preparing for up-coming exhibitions, making craft how-to videos, growing my print and stationery business, continuing my work with Uni-ball and Dannells and working on an exciting new publication for Dunlin Press. I’ve been working like a beast.
The break has actually been a good thing as it’s given me some space to think about Ella’s Place. From the very start I wanted this to provide a genuine insights into a creative life; my work in progress, they way I work, what inspires me, what I do, my processes, plus my passions and penchants. A step away from the blog has made me think about the best ways I can get back to that original concept.
So many blogs are product focused and I do want to show you stuff that I like and things that make me go ‘ooh’. But I don’t want to simply do product placements – I want to inspire you, make you smile, let you know what I am up to and hopefully give you some practical tips, advice and insights into illustration, craft, up-cycling, veggie food, mindfulness and living an all-round fun, balanced, creative, happy life. I’m working on it.
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.
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.
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…
I’ve been itching to share this pick of my pins this week. Lucy Tiffney’s murals are a constant inspiration but this particular illustration created for Care UK, Oxford really impressed.
I think this example exemplifies Lucy’s illustrative style; simple, structural and striking. It communicates the essence flowing energy and lightness of the plant’s leaves contrasted with the weight of the pot. Her colour choice is always spot-on and her simple composition is one to be admired and taken note of. She has inspired me to explore some large scale work of my own.
See more of Lucy Tiffney’s work on the following channels…
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.
The illustration was created in watercolour and then overlaid with uni-pin pen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This stone curlew looks so grumpy I had to make him my drawing of the week.
I became fascinated with Stone Curlews after watching Springwatch a few years back where one was brooding her chicks – I was rooting for the whole family.
They are quite rare in the UK, visiting occasionally in areas such as Norfolk and Wiltshire. They are not related to our long-billed friends the curlew, but they do have a similar call hence the name. See that big yellow eye? That’s because this fella is mainly active at night and that peeper helps him see in the dark.
As usual I created this illustration using watercolour and ink with a combination of broad and fine tips to capture the variation in texture. I wanted to keep the bird drawing quite scruffy, depicting him as if he’d just been discovered foraging among the rocks and stones.