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October drawing of the month: Flying Dunlin

Flying dunlin watercolour and fine line drawing (c) Ella Johnston
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.

Work in progress: Flying dunlin watercolour and fine line drawing (c) Ella Johnston

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.

dunlin print by Ella Johnston

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…

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Drawing of the week: Peacock

Peacock illustration (c) Ella Johnston

Here’s my drawing of the week – a rather glorious peacock.

I have been outrageously busy of late. There has been some fantastic collaborations with Uni-ball pens already this year, an amazing commission for Guardian Labs/Brittany Ferries, a new book from Dunlin Press and an up-coming exhibition. Which leads me on to this week’s drawing.

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.

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Drawing of the week: Robin

Robin Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

My drawing of the week is a Robin – because these birds are not just for Christmas.

I often drawn to create illustrations of birds where they look a bit cocky or coquettish – I think this pose captures both.

The robin was voted Britain’s favourite bird last year so I hope this watercolour and ink drawing does him justice.

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Drawing of the week: Cormorant bird

Cormorant Bird illustration (c) Ella Johnston

My drawing this week is that of a cormorant. When I do my little morning walk along the Wivenhoe quayside I often see these pre-historic looking birds with their wings out stretched soaking up the sun or in a little group looking like they are waiting for a bus. When the tide is up they often bob about in the water on the hunt for fish.  I love them so I wanted to capture these creatures in watercolour and ink.

If you want to catch a glimpse of these sleek guys, you can find them around the UK coastline on rocky shores, coastal lagoons and estuaries. You may also catch them at reservoirs, lakes and gravel pits.

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Drawing of the week: cockatoo

Cockatoo illustration (c) Ella Johnston

I really enjoyed doing this drawing of the week, my sanguine looking cockatoo. I’ve drawn it as part of series of bird portrait works to be exhibited later this year.

Now I know this black cockatoo is rather purple in his hue but I wanted to reflect the luxurious, deep and rich nature of his plumage. Very few dark shades are just black, they almost always have a base of purple, green or blue at their core.

As usual I created the illustration in watercolour and fine pin ink pen but this time I used a posca white pen to create the little dots on my boy’s feathers.

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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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Drawing of the week: Blue Jay Bird

Blue Jay Watercolour Drawing Ella JohnstonMy drawing of the week, a blue jay bird, is inspired by nature and by a song. We have regular jays in our local woods and I’m always trying to spot them on my walks.
Blue Jay Black and White Blue Jay Drawing Ella Johnston

Anyway one revealed himself to me last week, where, weirdly I had the Beatles song Blue Jay Way in my head for the rest of the day. So I fancied doing a watercolour and ink illustration of the regular jay’s North American cousin.

Blue Jay Black and White Blue Jay Drawing Ella Johnston

In old African American folklore of the southern United States, the blue jay was held to be a servant of the Devil. I think my one is harbinger of joy.

The blue jay’s colouration is not derived from pigments but is the result of light interference due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a blue feather is crushed, the colour disappears, this is known as structural colouration.

Blue Jay Black and White Blue Jay Drawing Ella Johnston

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Drawing of the week: The Green-headed Tanager

Green Tanager Ella Johnston

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

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

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Finished bird of the fortnight: colour flycatcher

Flycatcher (c) Ella Johnston

Although the spotted flycatcher is quite a dull bird I couldn’t resist giving it a somewhat sun-kissed appearance for my final, finished watercolour and ink illustration. I think I was imagining this little grey silver bird perched on a headstone as sun was setting, looking around for a little tasty morsel flitting around in the fading light.

With this in mind I’m in the mood for some colour so I think I’m going to draw a more exotic bird next fortnight… Watch this space.


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Think Pink! Think Flamingo

Flamingo Print by Ella Johnston

I have a couple of friends who are obsessed with flamingos, so I’m a little surprised myself that I’ve only just started to produce a flamingo print and stationery collection.

Flamingo Print by Ella Johnston

Here are some of the prints already available on my online shops on Folksy, Etsy and Not On the High Street. There will also be a writing set with cards coming along later in the year.

Flamingo Pair Print. Ella Johnston

You can order personalised versions of the flamingo pair at my Not On the High Street shop.
Flamingo Love Print Ella Johnston

The drawings themselves were created by layering lots of shades of pink, peach and orange watercolour and then working the detail with my ink felt-tip pens.

Flamingo Print by Ella Johnston

Flamingo Print Ella Johnston