New illustration project: The Waste Ground

Black and white wild flower sketches (c) Ella Johnston
Here’s a preview of some sketches I’ve been working on for an up-coming Dunlin Press project to be published next month.

Black and white wild flower sketches (c) Ella Johnston

The Waste Ground Project is the culmination of a multimedia collaboration. The project is centred on a rumination on life through the prism of liminal spaces – derelict land, brownfield sites – caught between moments of dilapidation and regeneration. The project takes the form a paperback book, a highly limited edition box set, featuring hand-stitched booklets, archival prints and a reliquary, as well as art prints and more.

Black and white wild flower sketches (c) Ella Johnston
These sketches are for the text element of the piece. They accompany beautiful prose written by MW Bewick.
Black and white wild flower sketches (c) Ella Johnston
These black and white wild flower and plant sketches have been created with a brush paint pen. They accompany more detailed fine-liner drawings elsewhere in the piece. I wanted these illustrations to be loose, gestural and quick so they feel like they’ve been captured on the fly.
Black and white wild flower sketches (c) Ella Johnston
Watch this space for more updates.
Black and white wild flower sketches (c) Ella Johnston
Black and white wild flower sketches (c) Ella Johnston

Drawing of the week: Bear

Bear Illustration by Ella Johnston

This week’s drawing is of a bear. I’m exploring zoo animals at the moment and I’ve developed quite a stash of sketches of zoo creatures so I wanted to share this quickly made illustration with you.

As usual this drawing is created with watercolour and fine-nibbed pen. I wanted this to be gestural and light in contrast with the animal’s large, imposing structure.

Monday Moodboard: Black and white

Black and white moodboard ellasplace.co.ukTimeless, classy and striking, I love black and white designs. In fact I can’t believe I haven’t featured this on my moodboard sooner.

I hardly ever wear anything other than black and white clothes (occasionally navy or grey but it’s mainly black and white). I also am a massive fan of simple black and white sketches, print and design. The purity, harmony and general all-round elegance is, for me, a total short-cut to cool.

At the moment I’m working on the design for a poetry book. The publication is printed in black and white so I wanted to think of effective shapes and marks that would look strong on the pages without distracting from the words (which are the most important thing). I’ve done lots of research and have settled on something that I’m quite excited about. You can’t see it yet but the book is set to be released later this year so, watch this space.

 

Drawing of the week: Leaves

Leaves watercolour illustration Ella Johnston
Leaves are my go-to shape for doodling and have been a constant subject for my drawing over the years. The variety, the curves, the veins, the lush texture all provide a rich resource for artists and illustrators.
Leaves illustration Ella Johnston

I recently visited the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. Among the various planting schemes and a lovely gaggle of ducks (I know that’s the collective noun for geese but you didn’t see these guys), the gardens also boasts an impressive glasshouse where plants from around the world are nurtured and displayed. The rainforest area is fabulous and I was struck by its enormous leaves that cover such large areas.

Leaves watercolour illustration Ella Johnston
The nearest things we get to this is our household plants. So I thought I’d get busy with some  watercolour illustrations and black and white sketches of Monstera, Aralia, Alocacia and Cycad.
Leaves illustration Ella Johnston Leaves illustration Ella JohnstonLeaves watercolour illustration Ella Johnston
Leaves illustration Ella Johnston Leaves illustration Ella Johnston

Drawing of the week: The Green-headed Tanager

Green Tanager Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I’m currently working on a birds from brazil illustration series to coincide with this years Olympics. While researching this topic I kept coming across images of the green-headed tanager.

The Green-headed Tanager (c) Ella Johnston

This small, colourful bird can be found in the Atlantic forest in south-eastern Brazil and far eastern Paraguay.

The Green-headed Tanager sketch (c) Ella Johnston

The creature measures an average of 13.5cm. Its preferred habitat is humid forests but there have been sightings in orchards and parks; apparently its flashy blue-green coloration camouflages well among the foliage.

Green Tanager Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

As this bird is so colourful and full of character it was tremendous fun to draw. It was great to break out the brighter colours in my watercolour box. Plus, I couldn’t resist creating lots of sketches to capture the quirky, playful nature of this vibrant little critter.
The Green-headed Tanager sketch (c) Ella Johnston
The Green-headed Tanager sketch (c) Ella Johnston

Bird of the Fortnight 23 May 2016: Bee-eater

Bee Eater illustration for Five Mile Float
I know I normally lead with black and white sketches for my first post for my bird of the fortnight and there are some below. I just could resist sharing with you a previous Bee-eater illustration I did as part of an art work commission for a US indie band called Five Mile Float.

Bee-Eater sketch (c) Ella Johnston

It was when I took on the commission that I developed an interest in Bee-eaters. The family have such a variety of plumage and I that Zoro type mask across their eyes is the coolest.
Bee-Eater sketch (c) Ella Johnston

The Five Mile Float brief asked me to be subtle in my use of colour so I stuck to very light washes of peach and mint. No such subtlety is required this time so I’m going to go to town on my final watercolour and ink version.
Bee-Eater sketch (c) Ella Johnston

Bird of the Fortnight: Black Headed Gull

Blackheaded Gull Sketch Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

This fortnight’s bird may be rather mundane to some but to me it’s rather special.

Essentially we share our home town with the black headed gull, you only have to walk around the corner from our house and you’ll see these critters flying about or picking at the Wivenhoe mud. They make a great racket too, especially if you’re having chips on the quay!

So if you haven’t seen my bird of the fortnight posts before then what I do is start the week with three black and white pen sketches. I then finish the week with a worked up colour watercolour and ink drawing. Join me on Friday to see the final illustration.

Blackheaded Gull Sketch Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Blackheaded Gull Sketch Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Finished Bird of the Fortnight: Blackcap

Blackcap bird watercolour and ink illustration (c) Ella Johnston

Here’s my finished bird for this fortnight. A worked-up watercolour and ink illustration of the blackcap – a beautiful little grey warbler. Earlier this week when I showed off my black and white sketches, I said I loved the blackcap song. Well according to the RSPB website its “delightful fluting song has earned it the name ‘northern nightingale'”. The one I saw certainly was very tuneful.

Folk names for the blackcap often refer to its plumage; black-headed peggy, King Harry black cap and, my favourite, coal hoodie. Other old names are based on its choice of nesting material (Jack Straw, hay bird, hay chat and hay Jack).

New Plant of the Fortnight: Tulip

Tulip watercolour and ink illustration by Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Happy Good Friday! Hope you’re enjoying the long weekend. Here’s an Easter flower just for you.

So earlier this week I dashed off some quick black and white tulip drawings. I enjoyed doing these sketches as I do love a tulip, I’ve focused on a particularly ornate blush-coloured bloom for the the final version – don’t you just love its sunsetty petals? Watercolour is great for getting this rich effect mixing orange, yellow and pinky hues. I hope your weekend is just as colourful!

Bird of the Fortnight: Gannet

Bird of the fortnight. Quick sketch Gannet (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I love gannets and, seeing as they are coming over to our shores at the mo,they are a most worthy bird of the fortnight.

The gannet has the most ugly name yet it is quite a fabulous creature. I mean it has a sleek body, its bill is so pearly and iridescent and its plumage is so smooth. Such a pleasure to study and draw.

Anyway if you haven’t come across my bird of the fortnight posts before here’s the drill. I post three scruffy black and white sketches at the start of the week then present a worked up finished illustration using watercolour and ink at the end of the week so watch this space.

Bird of the fortnight. Quick sketch Gannet (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Bird of the fortnight. Quick sketch Gannet. (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk