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Pick of the Pins: Lucy Tiffney Mural

Pick of the pins Ella Johnston
I’ve been itching to share this pick of my pins this week. Lucy Tiffney’s murals are a constant inspiration but this particular illustration created for Care UK, Oxford really impressed.

I think this example exemplifies Lucy’s illustrative style; simple, structural and striking. It communicates the essence flowing energy and lightness of the plant’s leaves contrasted with the weight of the pot. Her colour choice is always spot-on and her simple composition is one to be admired and taken note of. She has inspired me to explore some large scale work of my own.

See more of Lucy Tiffney’s work on the following channels…

Instagram: @lucytiffney


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Monday Moodboard: Folk patterns

Monday Moodboard Folk pattern

Joyous, colourful and breathtakingly beautiful, my folk art moodboard is perfect for brightening up this grey Monday afternoon. .

Marks, patterns and painting made by ordinary people is a constant inspiration for me. The simple shapes, harmonious composition, strong colour combinations and celebration of birds, flowers and animal life in folk art are timelessly popular in interior design and illustration.  I’ve used them as a spring board for some of the work I created for my Christmas Posca pen workshops and Christmas wrap designs – look out for those next week.

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Monday Moodboard: Liberty Print

Monday Moodboard Liberty Print

I’m working on loads patterns at the moment and Liberty print is the ultimate source of inspiration.

The eclectic collection from Liberty of London is so well loved and it’s not difficult to see why. Each design is a joyous celebration of colour, form and the beauty of illustration – it’s absolutely what I’m working towards with my work.

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Drawing of the week: Feathers

Green feathers Ella Johnston
I’m showing you something different for my drawing of the week – not a finished illustration but some ideas I’m playing with at the moment.

I’m in experimental mode this week, playing with different pens and drawing techniques. I often experiment with illustration but rarely share my playful doodles. However as I’m pushing out of my comfort zone I’m happy to show off my working process, and these feathers, with you.

The ‘playing process’ is so much fun. I get super absorbed with making marks and seeing how shapes and colours interact with each other. It’s a great way of thinking out patterns and new projects.  I’m currently obsessed with feathers – they are a recurring theme for me and an effective way to free up my line and play with colour and shape.


Red feathers Ella Johnston

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Cheap and Easy Decoration Tips: Colourful Amy Butler display

Neon frames: Ami Butler display

One of my favourite cheap and easy decoration tips is to create a colourful wall display. Here I’ve hung some Amy Butler prints in neon frames.

Bright and eclectic, Amy Butler’s designs are so joyous. Butler gets inspiration from a range of sources, using patterns and colour combinations inspired by her travels around the world.

Amy Butler decoupage
Image: Cliqq Photography

I’ve got loads of her fabrics and I was very excited when she released a book of her designs on paper, Amy Butler Decoupage. I’ve used the papers on many of my projects (including this one above for Homemaker Magazine). The book only costs around £11 and you get 80 colourful sheets making it fantastic value. I had a few sheets left and I’ve always felt a bit guilty about ripping them up for decoupage and wanted to show them off properly as a wall display.

Neon frames: Ami Butler display Luckily I have a collection of old frames gathered over the years and picked up at car boots (I think it’s another obsession of mine) and luckier still I’ve got a whole box full of spray paint in various colours (including some fab neons) to co-ordinate with the prints.  They really brighten up a dark corner and would look really fun as a grid with matching frames to fill a wall.


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Drawing of the week: Peony

Watercolour peony Ella Johnston
In honour of British Flower Week I thought it was only fitting that I drew a few peonies.
Black and white peony sketch Ella Johnston
Frilly, girly and full of glorious flounce, even a single bloom can make a tremendous impact – no wonder they are often a top choice for summer events and weddings.
Peony line drawing Ella Johnston

The flower is also very popular on the internet too, with Elle Decoration reporting that peonies are overtaking the avocado for the most tagged item on Instagram.
Peony line drawing Ella Johnston
The peony is among the longest-used flowers in Eastern culture. Along with the plum blossom, it is a traditional floral symbol of China and is depicted often in traditional Chinese art. They are also used in tattoos, inspired by artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi‘s illustrations of Suikoden, a classical Chinese novel. Here the peony is associated with a devil-may-care attitude and disregard for consequence.

I kind of understand this, the peonies I’ve got in the vase at the moment are so vibrant, full and abundant with glorious colour it’s hard to imagine that in a couple of days time they’ll be shrivelled up and like crumpled paper. But that’s their beauty. These pink watercolour illustrations and black and white line drawings are a stab at making the blooms immortal.

Peony pattern Ella Johnston

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Finished Bee-eater Bird of the Fortnight

Bee Eater Ella Johnston

I told you I’d go for colour and perhaps on reflection I could have been more subtle in my finished illustration. Ah well next time (I intend to draw these birds a LOT).

Bee-eaters do actually eat bees. They remove the stinging part by repeatedly hitting and rubbing the insect on a hard surface, the subsequent pressure to the insect extracts most of the venom.

These birds are mainly native to Africa and Asia but you can see some in southern Europe, Australia, and New Guinea. And I spotted on Twitter the other day that someone had seen and taken pictures of a pair of European bee-eaters in Norfolk (I would LOVE to see them for myself).

The birds form colonies by nesting in burrows tunnelled into the side of sandy banks, such as those that have collapsed on the edges of rivers. Most of the species in the family are monogamous and both parents care for the young, sometimes with the assistance of other birds in the colony, isn’t that lovely? The more I learn about these birds the more I like them.

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Finished plant of the fortnight: Purple Sweetpea

Plant of the fortnight, watercolour purple sweet pea illustration (c) Ella Johnston

As I mentioned in my last post I was looking forward to being a bit free and easy with my watercolour for this finished sweetpea illustration. And I was;  I applied lots of layers of watery purples, blues and pinks for this colour version so, much so I had to finish it in two sessions as there was no way the black pigment ink would sit on it until the piece was completely dry.

As we’re well into summer I think I’m going to continue with larey looking, brightly coloured blooms for my up-coming plant of the fortnights, so no matter what the actual weather we’ve got something to either amplify the heat or to warm us up.

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Plant of the fortnight 16/05/16 Sweetpea

Sweetpea black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight
Sweetpeas are the quintessential summer flower for the UK. Their variety of colours and their delicate paper-like petals are a seasonal favourite in people’s gardens.
Sweetpea black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight
It’s not quite sweetpea season yet but once they come I hope to fill little jars and bottles. They look so lovely all grouped together – particularly so when I’m having any outdoor garden gathering.

Not only are they a pleasure to display, they are also a joy to draw. These black and white sketches didn’t take long to do but it’s fun to capture the folds and structure of the individual blooms if you like line drawing (which I do). I can’t wait to go wild with my colour paints when I work up the watercolour versions.
Sweetpea black and white sketch. Ella Johnston. Plant of the Fortnight

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Bird of the Fortnight wc 25.04.16: The Sparrow

Sparrow black and white sketch, Ella Johnston

For ages now Dr B has been on at me to draw a sparrow; “People love them, I love them. I think they’ll be really popular.” So to please the man I love, this fortnight I’ve done some black and white sketches of these chestnut coloured creatures.
Black and white sparrow drawing, Ella Johnston.

Although I grew up slap bang in the middle of London, our flat was next to a park that used to be full of sparrows when I was little kid. But, by the time I left home in the mid 1990s there wasn’t a sparrow in sight. This wasn’t because I simply wasn’t noticing them anymore but there has been a decline the UK sparrow population. It has been estimated that they have dropped by 71 per cent between 1977 and 2008 with substantial declines in both rural and urban populations. They now have RSPB red status; red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action.

Black and white sparrow drawing, Ella Johnston.

It seems that where I live now didn’t get this memo. Wivenhoe is full of them and you can’t pass a hedgerow, gate post or indeed our local train station without hearing them tweeting away. It’s quite a comforting sound and creates quite a quaint atmosphere while you’re waiting for your train or taking a stroll around the ‘village’. So it’s only fitting they be the subject of illustration.

Check in later on this week to see more worked-up colour sparrow portraits.