My current work is an exploration of mark making. The marks are a kind of text. Some of the pieces are specifically asemic. They are an exploration of the types of marks I make when writing.
This is actually very personal. Because of the way I held my pen when I was a kid, I was bullied by a teacher for my writing. Ever since then I’ve been strongly protective over my writing and my mark making. And it’s something that I’ve needed to explore. It’s something that I’ve had to think about from an early age – the marks I was making and how I was making them.
It’s quite a psychological thing for me. I like my writing. People comment on my handwriting. What is ‘my own hand’? What is it to play and experiment with that? Asemic poetry really interests me because it’s about making marks and enjoying these marks without actually writing a text that people can immediately read. But the visual language of handwriting can be found within my own artistic practice. I also once I had my handwriting studied by a graphologist. She noticed all the flourishes and was alarmingly accurate with her analysis. Regardless of what words you write, the marks you make give the game away. I employ all of my handwriting and gestural mark-making in the pieces.
The pieces are definitely wordless texts and there’s a dialogue between the different marks. But they’re also simply about being in the moment when the artwork is created. I might have my reflections or even a particular agenda, and it’s also in some ways a projection of the future, but really it’s simply about the moment, the now, in which the artwork is made. I don’t want to impose my own narrative. The question is just about what it means to make a mark, and to make those marks on the paper.
With different papers you get different reactions. I love the experiment of paper. The surface is as important as the ink or the paint. A cheap watercolour paper, made without bleach so it’s greyish in tone, produces a certain effect. Some papers absorb liquid too much, some resist it. A washi inkjet paper and a fine washi rice paper give different results. Some absorb the ink very quickly, some completely blot it.
With a very fine paper, you’ve got to be careful if you want a solid line. You’ve got to be light, like you’re barely touching the paper, because if you apply any kind of pressure or wetness, it’s going to suck it up. It’s really delicate. Or you might use a good quality, heavy paper, and they’re so dense, but they hold colour so well that you’re challenged to be decisive in the marks that you make. On some papers the black ink buckles the paper, it sits and stays shiny on it, raised in relief. Some papers can look so frail against this force of the black. You have to work with that. You’ve got to work with the ink and the paper as equally important components.
In June I showcased some new work in this most beautiful of venues as Colchester Makerspace’s ‘Maker of the Month’.
This is a soft launch of a new body of work for me and a new creative direction. The small-scale show displays my ink on sumi and watercolour paper work. My pen and Japanese calligraphy drawings are shown as A5 limited edition giclée prints on archival paper, created specifically for the venue.
I’ve often talked on this blog about desire to celebrate simplicity and my experiments with ink. This work simply marks a point in time for this on-going project. I’m really enjoying the experimentation process while using different kinds of paper with various mark-making tools using ink.
I am currently obsessed with working ink over sumi paper. I love the fact that you have to work fairly quickly with sumi paper as it immediately absorbs the ink. You have to think fast when you make your mark. I’m also intrigued by the difference that work on this rice paper has in comparison to ink drawings made on high quality hot and cold-pressed waterscolour paper. Both in the final finish and the actual working process.
You can take a look at how I created one of these pieces in the video below…
I’m very excited to share some new work with you. My new ink prints point to an interesting new direction for my art practice and business.
I have recently rediscovered my love for working with ink. In the past I’ve achieved brilliant results drawing with ink pens and Japanese calligraphy brushes, I wanted to see if I could do it again. My last post talked about my first forays into reconnecting with pen, ink and brush work. It explored my need for finding my style within such an expressive and beautiful way of mark-making. As always when looking for inspiration with my practice I meditated on my own passions and interests. It was my walks by the Colne Estuary in Wivenhoe that sparked off these series of prints. Naturally, I made bird sketches but it was the salt marsh and reeds that attracted me. After going home and doing lots and lots of reed drawings I decided to make simple, botanical sprigs as my subjects. I then set about gathering all kinds of wild grasses, palms and plants. I made lots of botanical ink studies and selected my favourite ones for print. I’ve made three very simple fine art prints which are now available on Folksy.
I work on hot pressed fine quality watercolour paper. As well as using inks I also work with washes of water too to create depth and variation of tone.
I intend to continue to explore drawing with pen, ink and brushes throughout the year. Again, if I’m pleased with the results you’ll see more prints and fabric designs coming soon.
I’ve recently launched a whole new collection of illustrated bird prints now available on my Etsy and Folksy shops.
I really enjoyed drawing this wren – I created it using new uni-pin sepia pigment ink pens on watercolour paper. This delicate avian illustration is then scanned and printed as a fine art print on archival paper ensuring that it will last a lifetime.I originally created the watercolour and ink Peacock artwork for an exhibition. The artwork showcases vivid blue, pea green and violet watercolour washes combined with shimmery golden POSCA pen washes. I then overlaid the painting with pigment ink pen. My golden plover drawing was originally created for the book The Migrant Waders, published by Dunlin Press. It was one of my favourite illustrations and I love looking at it, so I had to turn it into a print. Again this is printed on high quality archival paper so it will last a lifetime.
This is my new botanical print, juniper berries illustrated in watercolour and ink. A perfect gift for gin fiends!I’ve been producing a lot of new work recently and I’m going to get into the habit showing some of it to you on a regular basis. This juniper berries drawing was really fun to do – I love its needles (something I’m not too familiar with in terms of illustration) and its juicy berries.
The new art print is available on my Etsy shop.
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…
So pleased to be kicking off my regular illustration posts with my strutting godwit as September’s drawing of the month.
I think godwits are my favourite bird (at least today they are – it’s a bit like picking a favourite song or album for me, it depends on the day, the mood, how I’m feeling etc). You can expect to see godwit bird illustrations coming up quite a few times on my drawing of the month posts.
This godwit is sporting his spring/summer mating plumage. I remember seeing an omniscience of godwits (Isn’t that a lovely collective noun? I could have also used “a prayer of godwits” or “a pantheon of godwits”) with their gorgeous russet breasts and soft golden feathers on Iken cliffs and I was practically moved to tears by the birds’ stunning colours and graceful countenance. By the way, if you haven’t been to Iken cliffs it is well worth a visit, it’s one of my favourite places on earth. So atmospheric and serene in any weather.
I created this drawing using Winsor and Newton watercolours on hot-pressed watercolour paper. I then added detail using the Uniball uni-pin pen. These pens have different nib sizes which offer fantastic versatility when working on something like feathers. You can see me start to overlay this pen detail in the video below.
This week’s drawing of the week is of a Red Admiral butterfly.
With the snazzy latin name of Venessa Atalanta (I think I may employ this as a pseudonym at some point), this beautiful creature is coming to a garden or woodland near you! (That’s if you live in the British Isles of course).
This beauty will be part of my every growing illustrated butterfly guide, I’ve got quite a collection of watercolour and ink butterflies now, I’m just trying to decide on which illustrations make the final cut. I’ll show you the finished piece soon.
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 sounds terrible but I am rubbish at Mother’s Day. I love my mum but the day always lands between my birthday and my dad’s so it always gets a bit lost – not good considering. If you’re like me and always leave it to the last minute to sort something out then here are two quick and easy handmade craft solutions that you can whip up to suit your mum’s style in time for the day. For my upcycled jewellery dishes, I found a set of plain ceramic hearts and got to work on them three ways. You could do these on any ceramic surface, in fact these designs would all look lovely on a plain white saucer or little bowl. The first one is a simple black on white floral drawing using a thin black posca pen. This will really suit my mum. Like me, she is a very keen drawer, she also loves simple, elegant lines and an expressive touch, so this is perfect for her. I then used some paints to create a more contemporary version for the modern mater. I’m a bit in love with this combination of soft peach with dark grey. I masked off the areas I wanted to paint with very think strips of masking tape then filled in the edges once the large areas were dry. I then added white outlines for further contrast. I tried marbling with nail varnish on the last two. I like this combination of mauve and pink. It almost makes the white ceramic look a bit creamy, which I love. Mind you this was a messy process. You tip the varnish in a tub of water and muddle it with a skewer, you then dip your ceramics in. It smells and gets everywhere so I suggest a big tub and clear area to work in and some rubber gloves! My second make is really easy, mess free and is the ultimate easy upcycle. As you may have noticed the shops and style guides are full of botanical motifs. So I grabed a plain white pot, little black perspex off-cut (they are bloody handy little things and make great coasters) and a green posca pen and got drawing. This tropical leaf design is so easy to do; you just draw a thin curved line then create thicker curved shapes along it. Simple but effective. Again this design can work on any shaped mug, coaster or plate and makes a nice little on-trend gift for a green-fingered mum.
This is the shop for Ella Johnston. Here you can buy original artwork, prints, stationery and homewares from my archive. Dismiss