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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.

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New Floral Romance Furniture from MiaFleur

miafleur-floral-romance-four-drawer-cabinet-360-floral-romance-stool-102-faux-areca-palm-tree-128 I’m currently coveting MiaFleur’s new Floral Romance furniture collection.
In jewel colours with lavish floral designs, this collection showcases the beautiful 2016 moody botanical trend. While very feminine and classic, the furniture also has contemporary shapes and details, which gives this painterly style a cool update.
miafleur-floral-romance-stool-102-1 Launched in October, the range comprises of four select pieces featuring these dreamy floral designs, designed to be used individually to add charm and character to any room, or in combination with other pieces. I think the drawers would look great for bedroom storage and would make a wonderful key statement piece in a plain space.

Check out the full collection here.

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Monday Moodboard: Zoo Animals

Monday Moodboard Zoo Animals

Not sure how I feel about zoos but I certainly like the animals inside them. So my Monday moodboard is dedicated to them this week.

I’m broadening my drawing repetoire and have started drawing a range of creatures one would find in a British zoo. I’ve already created lots of flamingo illustrations and have just finished a zebra watercolour and ink piece. I’ll showcase more of these zoo-themed drawings in the near future (I’m exploring elephants and giraffes this week).  Watch this space.


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Drawing of the week: red squirrel

squirrel illustration by Ella Johnston

I’m in an autumnal mood now so I wanted to give you a drawing this week that reflected that, a lovely red squirrel, resplendent in his seasonal coat.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a grey squirrel (I don’t subscribe to the ‘rats with good PR’ school) but nothing beats a stunning red creature. They really capture autumn for me so I wanted a woodland classic for my illustration.

As usual I whipped up this fella using watercolour and ink, I wanted this to be quick and gestural like I was just catching him while he was away gathering his nuts.

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Monday Moodboard: Japanese prints


More pattern research this week, this time I’m trawling through traditional Japanese prints. It makes such a lovely Monday moodboard.

My original passion for these designs started many years ago when a good friend of ours sent me some patterned washi paper from her home town in Japan. Ever since I’ve been stashing away more washi papers, collecting affordable prints and illos as well as gathering lots of visual examples on pinterest.

Whether it’s floral, avian or geometric in their themes, the delicate designs, intricate composition and sensitive use of pretty, coordinated colour is sure to inspire me. I wonder how its influence will show in my new work?

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6 ways to find creative inspiration

Six ways to find creative inspiration

Creative juices running dry? In need of a perk up. Here’s six ways I find creative inspiration…

As much as it makes me happy to do a creative job and live an artful life, sometimes it can be frustrating when the proverbial muse leaves me and I feel devoid of ideas.

I used to worry about this, in fact sometimes it would make me incredibly anxious and even a bit angry but I now see these creative dry spells as a gift. I use it as an excuse to wind down, declutter and remind myself of why I love doing what I do.

Shibori coasters (c) Ella Johnston 1: A good start
I work from home and so most mornings I get up, do a bit of exercise, hop in the shower, throw some clothes on then get to my desk or studio space. Coffee and breakfast is usually consumed at the workspace and there’s little time for reflection and contemplation; just work and getting it right.

If I’m having a creative lull I make the most of breakfast with pot of tea, lovely toast and fresh orange juice and, in this digital age, a newspaper and a notebook. This is all accompanied by a sound track of Radio 4. This allows me space to think before I start the day, to plan and prioritise tasks and maybe even to let some very initial ideas percolate.

Vintage Potetry Vignette Create the space
Every time I complete a big art project I give my studio a major clear up and it’s amazing how this process in itself can leave me feeling fresh and creatively raring to go once I’ve finished.

I’m now doing this at home too and it’s quite interesting how rearranging your surfaces and chucking out the clutter (and setting stuff aside for upcycling) can give you some head space as you create a clean, fuss free spaces to work in and be inspired by. The act of clearing and cleaning can be quite meditative for me, I allow thoughts to come in and out and I always end-up finding something like an old poster, notebook or cutting that sparks off an idea.

pinterest3:  A peruse of Pinterest
I sometimes think Pinterest could be cited as a third party in many a divorce case and I do worry that Dr B sees it as a bit of a love rival. Pinterest has worked so well for me as an artist, illustrator and in my past life as a magazine editor.

It’s my ultimate scrapbook that I can add to and reflect upon as long as I’ve got my phone or computer. I used to keep folders of tear sheets and an enormous list of internet bookmarks of images, articles, recipes, anything really that got me thinking, made me smile or think “wow” and generally got me to up my game in some way. Now all my whimsies, inspirations and things I covet are all in one place. Take a look into my world here.


4:  A good read
Although I love a bit of Pinterest, I am a massive advocate of a digital detox, in fact I highly recommend it. Words and stories are important to me and ever since I could learn to read, books can take me to another place mentally and help me create all sorts of imagery in my imagination. Freeing my imagination is essential for my working practice and my life. Reading also allows me to meet a whole heap of interesting people.

I’ve often extolled the virtues of a physical book on this blog. For me the physical engagement with a book is a thing of wonder; you can’t swipe, you have to put yourself in position as it were so you’re properly connecting with the thing.  Also, a design junkie like me can get quite geeky on page layout grids, cover imagery and typefaces.

Humphrey Bogart (1899 - 1957) and Ingrid Bergman (1915 - 1982) star in the Warner Brothers film 'Casablanca', 1942. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman star in the Warner Brothers film ‘Casablanca’, 1942. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

5:  Enjoy cinematic classics
More digital detoxing. I am a massive fan of classic cinema from 1930 to around 1970. People were so well dressed and hot over that period. Scenes were longer, dialogue took its time and it’s all framed so beautifully. Oh and the music is always pretty evocative. Escapism at its best sure, but there’s also some great examples of artistry in these movies and you can  get immersed in the director’s vision and cinematography. A real treat.

quay6  An invigorating walk
I know that I live in a beautiful place with a gorgeous quay and picturesque houses. And, I must admit the wading birds and Wivenhoe’s big beautiful sky can stagger me out of my fug most days. However I think most environments in the UK are pretty inspirational. Ever since I was a teenager I would clear my head and find inspiration by getting out on a walk. I lived on a housing estate in Hackney surrounded by print factories and the environment was very urban and industrial, I loved it. Opening my eyes, walking around and experiencing any environment I’m in really gets my creative juices flowing, it’s one of my favourite things to do.

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Drawing of the week: A Pigeon

Good friends of mine will be very surprised by my drawing of the week as I have a pigeon phobia.

I grew up in London so while spiders and mice hold no fear for me it’s pigeons that make me feel ill, yet I love birds.

Anyway I decided to face my fear with watercolour, ink and my powers of illustration. I do like this fell’s beautiful plumage and it does have a rather elegant shape and line. Who knows after drawing this maybe I’ll be able to sit outside in London while they mill about my feet.

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Monday Moodboard: Paint strokes

Ella Johnston Monday Moodboard Paint Strokes Visceral and expressive, paint strokes look so cool. Expect to see a lot of these on homewares and fashion next year as they are set to be a key design trend for 2017, hence this week’s Monday Moodboard. You can go for simple lines or big painterly blocks, either way you’ve got a stark, contemporary look made a little warmer with the suggestion of the human hand.

Est: Collected reports from East Anglia, Dunlin Press. Illustration and design by Ella Johnston.
Est: Collected reports from East Anglia, Dunlin Press. Illustration and design by me!

These simple marks are very effective and are a real short-cut to a stylish, minimal look. They also say so much, I used them as an illustration device in the Dunlin Press book Est, Collected Reports of Easy Anglia  to suggest landscape and horizons.

Est: Collected reports from East Anglia, Dunlin Press. Illustration and design by Ella Johnston.
Est: Collected reports from East Anglia, Dunlin Press. Illustration and design by me.


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Friday fun: Bedside shelfies

Bedroom looks Ella Johnston I’m enjoyed posting my dining room shelfies a few weeks ago, so much I thought I’d show you my bedside shelfies this Friday. Bedroom looks Ella Johnston This blue number is my spare room, I like to create a cool soothing tone with these calming colour combinations.
Bedroom looks Ella Johnston bedside cabinet was from Ikea and, as it was looking a bit shabby, I covered the top and the middle shelf with a panel of marble-effect sticky back plastic.
Bedroom looks Ella Johnston, what’s on it? The bottom shelf houses my collection of Print and Pattern books and is weighted down with a marble lidded vase. Bedroom looks Ella Johnston On the top I have a tea-light lantern made with from a Dannells kit and some self-dyed Shibori fabric. I also have another of my oversized lamps created with another Dannells kit and my Blue Leaves fabric. The print is from the marvellous Sally Elford, one of my favourite artists. The books are The Migrant Waders, published by Dunlin Press and Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin. On top of the books lies a little jewellery bowl I made myself from air-dry clay.
Bedroom looks Ella Johnston room has a simple arrangement, mainly because I take advantage of the big deep drawers I have in the bedside cabinet that hid a multitude of slovenly sins (all my make-up, painkillers and random jewellery live here).
Bedroom looks Ella Johnston snazzy orange light is from Habitat and was just £20. The books were from our local second hand book shop, I’m a bit of an insomniac and like a little bedside read.
Bedroom looks Ella Johnston larger vase was a wedding present from Heals. I can’t remember where the other vase was from. The paper rose was made for our one-year wedding anniversary so it’s 13 years old now and faring pretty well.
Bedroom looks Ella Johnston

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Beginner’s Guide: Pressing Flowers

Flower pressing Ella Johnston At the moment I’m continually snipping flower heads in my garden to promote new growth so I’m exploring pressing flowers to make full use of them. Here’s my very rough guide for beginner’s.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston I like to think my home has always embraced the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ the idea of enjoying life’s simple pleasures – that’s what I try to show on this blog. I believe something like flower pressing reflects this concept as all I’m really trying to do is preserve some of the enjoyment Dr B and I get from spending time tending to our garden.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston I haven’t bought any fancy equipment for my pressing (maybe I’ll live to regret this), instead I’m being strictly old school on this and applying a method me and my mum used to use when I was a kid.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston’m using one of my handmade coptic bound books to contain these blooms. I like these books as you can open the pages fully without having to worry about the gutter or  breaking the spine.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston I say I haven’t got a fancy contraption for pressing the flowers. I’ve simply got my big heavy art books and a very heavy marble block pressing on top of them. I’ll show you how it turns out in a month or two.
Pressing flowers Ella Johnston pressing Ella Johnston