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…
The exhibition explored the objects in Matisse’s home and how they manifested themselves in his work. Strangely I’ve never really considered doing still lives myself but the exhibition really got me thinking how the pieces we have in our homes hold such a personal place in our hearts.
I genuinely don’t feel particularly materialistic but I admit that I have very deep attachments to certain vases, books and other objet so maybe recording them in my illustrative work would be an interesting process.
It got me thinking about the concept of taste and what objects and arrangements I’d select to depict and the reasons why I’d do this. Also, in the world of Instagram I see so many people doing little tableaux on the channel as a way of representing their brand maybe the still life is the modern day portrait?
Also I’ve included another great painting I’ve seen recently in the moodboard; Gluck’s Lilac and Gelder rose still life. I saw this at the Tate’s Quiet British Art show and I was blown away by its mastery and tenderness. On watching a documentary about the artist, it’s been said that Gluck’s work focused around whoever Gluck was having a relationship with at the time. This was painted around the period where Gluck was having an affair with Constance Spry so there you. Again, it illustrates what a powerful medium for social and personal commentary the still life can be. Watch this space for some watercolour and fine line still lives from me in the future.
Forgive the use of an old picture (above) but I wanted to convey a bit of Ella at work action. This is one of me in our old London flat preparing for an exhibition. It’s the same story for every exhibition I’ve done – lots of cutting, trimming, framing and packaging!
I was reminded of this when I prepared my work for the autumn/winter Naze Tower show.
If you haven’t been to the Naze Tower and you are remotely local (it’s one and a half hours from London, half an hour from me in Wivenhoe) then I recommend a visit. Residing on an attractive stretch of coastline at Walton-on-the-Naze, the Naze Tower is an historic 86ft landmark and unique visitor attraction. Over eight floors it houses an art gallery with three exhibitions a year, a museum on the Tower and Naze, tea rooms and a roof viewing platform with spectacular panoramic views.
It’s a charming place and from now until the end of October you can see a selection of my original watercolour and fine line bird drawings on show and get your hands on some of my limited edition prints…
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.
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 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.
Well it was only a matter of time before I treated you a Monday Moodboard of birds.
As you know an awful lot of my drawing practice centres around birds. So much of my time is spent trawling and taking images of birds to study and illustrate. This is absolutely no hardship for me. I could honestly spend all my time looking at my feathered friends.
Recently I have been focussing on heads and shoulders to create bird portraits for my show at the Over The Sofa Gallery at Wivenhoe Bookshop. It’s a small space and I wanted to do it as a site specific piece, the show is called Family Portraits so it has a kind of homely feel. It consists of nine A6 watercolour and ink drawings and four A6 pieces.
The show is on until April 30.
Wanna know what each bird is? Well here they are…
Top row from left: Puffin, Long Eared Owl, Starling
Middle row from left: Lapwing, Peacock, Pigeon
Bottom row from left: Cormorant, Robin, Crested Grebe
On shelf: Black Redstart, Budgie, Goldfinch, Dartford Warbler.
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.
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.
In honour of this week’s Crufts 2017, my drawing of the week is of an American Cocker Spaniel.
This quick little doggie sketch was created in watercolour and brown ink. It didn’t take very long to do but I am quite pleased with the illustration. I think this animal has a certain stoic, noble quality.
I will not lie to you, I love a Cocker Spaniel – they could be my favourite breed. I love the character of a spaniel – so friendly, energetic and full of life.
I am a massive fan of all shaggy haired dogs generally. This my friends is because I was/am an indie kid of the early nineties variety and have a great affection for long-haired, scruffy herberts.
Just look my dog’s refined face. It takes me back to 1993 when Richard Ashcroft was not Richard Ashcroft as he is now but was instead known as “Mad Richard” and The Verve was known as just Verve. Ah those heady days of youth… long haired boys in terrible jeans – it was a tremendous amount of fun.