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Level Best Art Gallery Show

This month I had an art show with Wendy Fransella at Level Best Art Gallery in Colchester.

Colour Form Expression art gallery show Ella Johnston Wendy Fransella

I was really pleased with the show. Level Best Art Gallery is an exquisite space and it was wonderful to see my work and Wendy’s wonderful paintings in such a beautiful setting.


I enjoy working with other artists and have adored Wendy’s work for a while now.

Wendy is a pleasure to work with and I felt there was a meeting of minds as well as a synergy with our art.

Our pieces really spoke to each other at the show. Our love for abstraction and mark-making was evident. While our work is different, I felt there was a harmony in the show and a conversation was being had with the pieces.

Ella Johnston paintings and drawings at the Level best art gallery show
My paintings and drawings at the show


Paintings by Wendy Fransella
Paintings by Wendy Fransella at Level Best Art Gallery.


The work I chose to  display in this show is a deep exploration of mark-making, spontaneity and memory. The pieces are also a record of my interior thoughts and reflections on my own history and the lives of people that have influenced me. With this in mind I thought I’d give you my motivations and thoughts behind the individual pieces in the show.

Musical landscapes and hard remembered conversations

Musical landscapes Ella Johnston
Musical landscapes

My small MUSICAL LANDSCAPES are miniature abstract music scores that reference asemic text and pay homage to the artist Victor Pasmore. 

Half remembered conversations, paint on canvas
Half remembered conversations, paint on canvas

My HALF REMEMBERED CONVERSATIONS paintings further explore asemic mark-making and recall the vague dreams and plans I’ve made on hopeful sunny days.  These pieces also reference  the calligraphic line seen in graffiti and are a reference to my urban upbringing. 

Live generously

Live generously painting Ella Johnston
Live generously

My  large-scale piece,  LIVE GENEROUSLY,  is part of a series of homage paintings that seek to pay tribute to female trailblazers. These women have defied the expectations of their families, society, prevailing narratives and/or authorities to challenge conventional thinking.  The series is a contemplation on the lives of these women.

Live generously painting by Ella Johnston
Live generously painting

The layering of colours and mediums explores the many complexities and contradictions of their lives and the people they knew, as well as the scenes and political landscape that were part of. The pieces also visually reference military fatigues and camouflage, in light of the battles these individuals have fought. 

The bats in the garden over lockdown, Centred in time and We are here now

Ella Johnston Level Best Art Gallery
Ella Johnston Level Best Art Gallery

I explore memory and love in THE BATS IN THE GARDEN OVER LOCKDOWN.  Created in 2023, these pieces evoke a memory of looking out of the window during the pandemic with my partner.  The brush strokes hope to evoke the sense of magic and wonder we had while watching the bats swoop for moths in the dusk. 

The CENTRED IN TIME  and WE ARE HERE NOW now ink on paper pieces are abstract tributes to nature and the mood evoked by a walk along a river, estuary or beach. Whatever the time of year, on any particular day, the meeting of sky, land and water can have a uniquely beautiful quality to it. 

We are here now, ink on paper Ella Johnston
We are here now, ink on paper

These artworks perform as palimpsests, with layer after layer of ink colour being applied to the paper, saturating the surface and merging into another. With hues of navy, pink and black it aims to conjure a sense of the magical quality of the landscape as the day turns into evening.

Rave sounds of the reed warblers and  I can hear the music travel

Ella Johnston Level Best Art Gallery jan 2024
I can hear the music travel and We are here now at Level Best Art Gallery 

My RAVE SOUNDS OF THE REED WARBLERS artwork  is a remembered landscape. I created it using feathers found in Wivenhoe woods and teasels gathered from the Ferry Marsh along with tin-can pens and Japanese calligraphy brushes. I wanted to capture the feeling of looking over the Ferry Marsh and being in the space. It is created purely as a memory rather than a depiction.  The hasty strokes and dynamic layering reflects the changes in movement and sound in the environment. 

Rave sounds of the reed warblers, Ella Johnston
Rave sounds of the reed warblers, Ella Johnston

I CAN HEAR THE MUSIC TRAVEL is another remembered landscape inspired by memories of the Ferry Marsh. I wanted to reflect the drama of environment on a stormy day. The darkness of the skies, the choppiness of the water, the violence of the wind-blown reeds are all evoked here.

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Being an artist, some thoughts

art tools. Photography Nathan Jones

 Artists eh? Funny little creatures. Well some are. Some really aren’t. Anyway I was thinking about being an artist and I thought I would share some musings.

Ella Johnston, art and illustration. Photography Nathan Jones

I have no idea why I’m an artist. I don’t know whether it’s a compulsion, a habit or a passion. All I know is that I am more who I am when I’m painting or drawing, when I’m making marks or thinking about marks. 

art tools. Photography Nathan Jones

When I approach each new work, in some ways I don’t have any set thing in mind. I just kind of know I want to get to work on it. I might know I want to work with inks, or paint, or pens. Then, when I’m sat with the paper, canvas, the inks, brushes or pens, I take a bit of time. It’s almost like a sort of meditation. I take a breath, I think about the marks I want to make, and then I start. 

Ella Johnston, artist. Photography Nathan Jones

For me, I want a sense of finding some sort of peace in this chaos, or beauty out of chaos. It has to feel harmonious but have a real sense of visceral life. A lot of that is established in the first layer of black. If that’s wrong, it won’t work. 

Water Meditations Sea Glass II, Ink on Awagami-Factory Bamboo washi paper, Ella Johnston
Water Meditations Sea Glass II, Ink on Awagami-Factory Bamboo washi paper, Ella Johnston


I’m also very conscious of colour and colour density, and of what remains still against the eruption of other shapes and lines. The pieces are all very spontaneous, and yet in some ways not, too. Ink needs to dry before you add colour. One colour needs to dry before you add another. 

Of course, all the colours have connotations. A deep, vibrant red. A grey. A green. A strong, clear blue. There’s a multitude of stories associated them. You can say so much in what tone of grey you use and how it’s placed against something as visceral and solid as a black or a red.

Memory of days past, Indie, ink on Surrey Cartridge Paper, Ella Johnston
Memory of days past, Indie, ink on Surrey Cartridge Paper, Ella Johnston

If you put a red and a yellow together, you may suddenly feel more hopeful or invigorated. Putting orangey pinks, blues and yellows together can feel joyous. Some colours give a sense of opulence. But then I might add colours that relate to mid-century design and the London housing estates I’ve lived in or buildings I’ve worked in. Colour and form can be incredibly autobiographical. There’s a whole psychology of colour.

 Brutalist Asemic III, ink on Fabriano UNICA Printmaking Paper, Ella Johnston
Brutalist Asemic III, ink on Fabriano UNICA Printmaking Paper, Ella Johnston


I have no idea what people see when they see my work, or what they think about it. I’m not in control of it and I’ve no desire to be in control of it. That’s not up to me. It’s none of my business. I wouldn’t be so grand as to think I make any particular kind of impression.

Ella Johnston art studio photography Nathan Jones

That’s why I can’t really offer any practical advice for fellow artists. And there is no real reason for me to make the work I do. There is no practical reason for anybody to make art. But when I see other people’s work that excites me, it gets my brain going. I get all itchy. And so regardless of whether people like my work or what their reaction is, it’s that as an artist, and as a community of artists around the world – musicians or visual artists or dancers or writers – we are a network of people that provide a kind of alternative universe, or a reflection, or an opposition. Our function is to unsettle, to reward, to excite, to question, to spark. And if I’m part of that, then that’s cool with me.