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Monday Moodboard: Birds

Monday Moodboard Birds

Well it was only a matter of time before I treated you a Monday Moodboard of birds.

As you know an awful lot of my drawing practice centres around birds. So much of my time is spent trawling and taking images of birds to study and illustrate. This is absolutely no hardship for me. I could honestly spend all my time looking at my feathered friends.

Recently I have been  focussing on heads and shoulders to create bird portraits for my show at the Over The Sofa Gallery at Wivenhoe Bookshop. It’s a small space and I wanted to do it as a site specific piece, the show is called Family Portraits so it has a kind of homely feel. It consists of nine A6 watercolour and ink drawings and four A6 pieces.

The show is on until April 30.

Birds at Wivenhoe Books

Wanna know what each bird is? Well here they are…
Top row from left: Puffin, Long Eared Owl, Starling
Middle row from left: Lapwing, Peacock, Pigeon
Bottom row from left: Cormorant, Robin, Crested Grebe
On shelf: Black Redstart, Budgie, Goldfinch, Dartford Warbler.

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Drawing of the week: Happy yellow budgie

Yellow Budgie Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

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.

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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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New Illustrated Wedding Collections

Flamingos Wedding Invitation (c) Ella JohnstonI’m very excited to announce the launch of my new personalised wedding stationery collections on Not On The High Street. Inspired by botanical and avian vintage illustration, I hope my collections offer something special for every couple wanting to make their celebration sing.

The intricately drawn illustrations in these collections are created with vibrant washes of watercolour and ink. All are printed in the UK on high-quality FSC-certificated textured gesso card. Every piece of stationery can be personalised to the client’s specification.

Pink Flamingo Collection
Bold, bright and beautiful, this pair of cheeky, loved-up pink flamingos are sure to put a smile on people’s faces. The Flamingo range is perfect for fun loving couples and those who are aiming to bring a tropical flavour to their day.

Flamingos Wedding Invitation (c) Ella Johnston

Eucalyptus Collection
Elegant and soft, my graceful watercolour eucalyptus motif gives this range a timeless, tasteful quality. It is the ideal collection for those looking to create a gentle, relaxed feel to their nuptials.

Eucalyptus Wedding Invitation (c) Ella Johnston

Eucalyptus Wedding Invitation (c) Ella Johnston

Fern Collection
Fresh and delicate, the Fern collection hopes to recall the style of vintage botanical illustrations while still giving the stationery a contemporary twist. Great for the pair who want a strong, yet simple theme for their big event.

Fern Wedding Invitation (c) Ella Johnston

Fern Wedding Invitation (c) Ella Johnston

Swan Collection
For those who want something really romantic and trad, here’s my Swan range. Swans mate for life so this is ideal…

Swan Wedding Collection (c) Ella Johnston

Swan Wedding Collection (c) Ella Johnston

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Drawing of the week: American Cocker Spaniel

American Cocker Spaniel Illustration (c) Ella Johnston

In honour of this week’s Crufts 2017, my drawing of the week is of an American Cocker Spaniel.

This quick little doggie sketch was created in watercolour and brown ink. It didn’t take very long to do but I am quite pleased with the illustration. I think this animal has a certain stoic, noble quality.

I will not lie to you, I love a Cocker Spaniel – they could be my favourite breed. I love the character of a spaniel – so friendly, energetic and full of life.

I am a massive fan of all shaggy haired dogs generally. This my friends is because I was/am an indie kid of the early nineties variety and have a great affection for long-haired, scruffy herberts.

Just look my dog’s refined face. It takes me back to 1993 when Richard Ashcroft was not Richard Ashcroft as he is now but was instead known as “Mad Richard” and The Verve was known as just Verve. Ah those heady days of youth… long haired boys in terrible jeans – it was a tremendous amount of fun.

Verve 1993

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Monday Moodboard: Sea shells

Seashells Monday Moodboard

In a follow on from last week this Monday’s Moodboard is of sea shells.

I promise I’m not obsessed with seaside themes at the mo! I am however obsessed with the structure of natural, organic forms.

This theme has been on the back-burner for me for a while now and I think finally this year will be the year when I tackle this nautical theme that has been so loved by photographers and such an enduring subject in vintage illustrations.

Right, let me get those watercolours out.

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Monday Moodboard: Seaside beach vibes

Monday Moodboard Beach vibes

Yeah, it’s Tuesday but I did this Monday Moodboard yesterday, then took an important commission and had a ton of work to do! This beach, seaside vibe theme is kinda apt as I think I need a holiday!

I was actually putting this board together as a good illustration of how you can take a theme and communicate it using your own style. I adore the deco-esque riveria vintage travel posters illustrations at the top left and right of the board but I really appreciate the simplicity of form that the two lower pieces provide using blues, peaches and whites.

To me this board not only conveys that breezy lightness and crispness of a perfect seaside holiday but it also shows the power of using creative drawing techniques to create convincing visual language.

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Drawing of the week: Flamingo Head

Flamingo (c) Ella Johnston

This week’s drawing of the week is of a bright pink flamingo head.

I must admit it has taken me a little while to warm to the flamingo bird, although really fun to paint and draw (you can really go to town with pink watercolour here), it was a bird that never really got under my skin like a puffin, lapwing or curlew. I suppose I was put off because they have been so popular as a motif in homewares and stationery design.

Perhaps I also thought they were show-offs of the avian world – to me they were just a bit too lairy with their pink plumage. Maybe I was jealous – no one could accuse me of being leggy and it’s rare that I splash out with colour in a sartorial sense (I leave that for my illustration).

Of course I was wrong. I mean these birds are magnificent creatures and when you find our about these birds they really are fascinating. Here are some fun flamingo facts…

Special bills
Flamingos beaks  are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat. The bills are uniquely used upside-down. Don’t know what I mean? Take a look here…

In the pink
Their distinctive pigment comes from carotenoids they eat in animal and plant plankton which are broken down into pigments by liver enzymes.

Flam Fam
Flamingos are very social birds. Their colonies can be thousands strong. This protects them from predators and enables them to nest more efficiently.

What a pair
The birds perform synchronised ritual displays in colonies. The members of a group stand together and display to each other by stretching their necks upwards, making calls while head-flagging, then flapping their wings. Flamingos form strong partnerships although in larger colonies flamingos sometimes change mates (well we’re all allowed to change our minds). Both the male and the female play a part in building and defending the nest. Occasional same-sex pairs have been reported, which makes me happy.

Don’t you just love flamingos a bit more now?

 

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Monday Moodboard: Dots and splodges

Monday Moodboard Dots and SplodgesAh dots and splodges, my old friends. It’s only right I dedicate a Monday Moodboard to these guys as they are really essential to my creative process.

Whenever I’m in a bit of a rut illustration wise but need to get my drawing head on I make marks with dots and splodges. It helps me explore what patterns to create and allows me to enjoy the medium of whatever I’m working in, be it watercolour, ink or felt pen.

But they’re not just a cool way to play with mark-making; as you can see by the above they are incredibly effective in creating patterns and compositions. I personally can’t resist the combination of black with white, pink and apricot shades.

By the way I need to do a big shout out to Ashley Goldberg as two of her designs are featured here. I LOVE her work to pieces. Check it out here.

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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.