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Adventures in washi rice paper

Hope, ink on rice paper Ella Johnston

Wish, ink on rice paper Ella Johnston

Over the past two years I’ve expanded my artistic practice into ink drawing. I’ll be sharing lots of posts on this over time but I wanted to talk about a wonderful discovery made during this new and continuing phase of my work. So here’s an intro to my adventures in washi rice paper.

Goat willow ink on washi rice paper Ella Johnston
Beautiful, beautiful paper

I have a real love for all kinds of paper, both as an artist and in my ‘other past life’ working as a magazine editor. I can talk for hours about the virtues of weights, textures and paper pressing techniques. Don’t get me on shades of ivory, cream and white!

Normally I have always opted for heavyweight art paper, and for certain works I always will. However, one day, meandering around an art shop in search of some inspiration I saw a pad of 80gsm rice paper and thought ‘hmm, where’s the harm?”. I think I subconsciously needed a new challenge, something to expand my practice and challenge me a little bit.

Now, if you’re not familiar with ‘gsm’ (grams per square metre) a simple guide is something like 80gsm is really thin, fragile and delicate when something like a 300gsm is thick, robust and heavy.

Hope, ink on rice paper Ella Johnston

Washi paper and the art of sumi-e

Having already experimented with lots of mark making tools in ink I had already been working with Japanese calligraphy brushes. Another accident really as my sister got me some when she was away in Japan. They are an absolute joy to work with and I am going to write another post concentrating on those, so look out for that.

I wanted to have a go at using the brushes (and some of the traditional ink pens) with this very delicate paper. I decided to record this first foray into working with this super fine surface and you can have a look at the results here.

At the time, in my ignorance, I was calling this paper ‘sumi’, I was completely wrong. The art of sumi-e is the practice not the paper. My bad, I’m always learning.

As you can see in the video the paper is so very delicate and super absorbent. Which means it is completely unforgiving – the mark you make is the mark you make. I love the spontaneity of this, and having bought some more washi rice paper at a range of higher gsm weights, the paper still holds on the ink immediately so you have to work quickly and with conviction.

Zen buds harmony, compassion Ella Johnston

A moment in time

I love the fact that you have to work quickly on this surface – to be the paper feels like it really captures a moment in time. It sounds silly but I work with this paper with a view that it’s the artistic equivalent of amber. Any little ink drop, drip and accidental ink mark or line is absorbed and preserved. You can also be creative with it and draw with water, before seeing the alchemy that takes place as you touch the water marks with ink.

Ink flowers Ella Johnston

While you have to work quicky, I have had to think slowly when working on this surface. It’s an incredibly therapeutic process as I have to really consider my marks and be deliberate in your artistic choices. I think this results in very mindful work. Though I started with black ink, I’ve expanded to explore various forms in colour with this paper, again with quite pleasing results.

Golden Allium ink on washi rice paper

I am delighted by the spontaneous nature of the pieces I’m also pleased by their quietness. In my opinion they are very gentle, considered pieces and I like this. I feel that the work reflects the contemplation and mindfulness I utilised when making them.

I’ve made both abstract ink works and botanical ink drawings with this practice and I’ve used some of the work I’ve made in this manner for some of my cards and prints.

I’m keen to explore further the creative possibilities of working with what is a relatively new material for me.

I’ll sign off with my latest rice paper video (I’m going to do some more soon) but you can see how I’m progressing…

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The secrets of mindfulness from Ivy Press

Mindfulness booksA few weeks ago I was sent a beautiful collection of books from the Secrets of Mindfulness series. Published by Ivy Press (a subsidiary Quarto), the books are all written by experts in their field and are designed to enhance well-being and reduce stress.

I don’t go on about it that much, but mindfulness is a subject very close to my heart. After years and years of placing myself in stressful situations and pushing myself at work, I learnt to take a step back, relax, appreciate the moment I’m in and take better care of my mind and body; and boy am I a more pleasant person to be around because of it. My life has improved so much since I’ve decided to take some time out.

Mindfulness booksThe books concentrate on Yoga, Reflexology, Pilates and Reiki.

I did a lot of yoga and pilates around the time when was I getting married and I got really into them in for a while (and didn’t look too shabby either) but then I got bogged down into my work and it fell by the wayside. It’s a real regret.

These books reminded me of how fantastic Yoga and Pilates are and how much I enjoyed it when I did it. The tomes talk me through the philosophy, history and basic principles of the practices as well as giving me to starter moves to begin with. Great for this lapsed yogi and good for beginners too!
Mindfulness books

Mindfulness booksI knew a little bit about Reiki and Reflexology through my past life as a journalist where I’ve written some spa features. After professionally having to have many Reiki and Reflexology treatments, I admit that now I generally opt for spa treats that include these elements.

I’m really pleased that these books can allow me to delve into these areas a bit more as they have benefitted me so much when I’ve been in receipt of them. These publications are also brilliant for people who haven’t experienced a Reiki or Reflexology treatments before as they outline what you can expect during the practice, which is really important if you are nervous about that kind of thing (which I know some people are).
Mindfulness books

You can find out more about the books on the Quarto website.

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Download 4 colour therapy designs

Adult Colour Therapy (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Last week I showed you my Mindfulness Gift Box. If you’d like to make a package for yourself and include my colour therapy designs then here they are.

Adult Colour Therapy (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I’ve got four illustrations; a Matisse-inspired floral number, a loose flowing set of springs (a very abstract eucalyptus I thought), some sexy chevrons (love a chev me) and an on-trend mandala design. They colour-in well as you can see by the pictures
Adult Colour Therapy (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Here’s a sample of the designs you can click on the titles in blow at the very bottom of the post to download the pdfs then save on to your computer, print off and either include in your mindfulness pack or simply colour them in yourself. Have fun!

Matisse style flowers
Matisse style flowers
Mandalas
Mandalas
Sprigs
Sprigs
Chevrons
Chevrons

Chevrons | Mandalas | Matisse style flowers | Sprigs

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Make a Mindfulness Gift Box

Little box of mindfulness (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Is there someone in your life that would benefit from practicing a little mindfulness? This box of tricks could be the perfect gift for them.

The concept of ‘mindfulness’ is everywhere now and has been for a while. For anyone who’s feeling a bit cynical about the term, I can understand, but I think it’s worth exploring.
Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Being mindful works for me. After years and years of throwing myself into my work and very little else, stepping back and becoming more aware of being in the present moment and enjoying the here and now has transformed who I am and how I am. It’s also freed me up to be more creative and be better to myself and the people around me.

Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
As someone who loves to work and thrives on being busy I really had to learn to be mindful. I mean really learn. At the start I needed it to be ‘project mindfulness’ (I know). So I made myself a mindfulness kit: candles to light in the evening or while I was having a bath to change the mood and unwind; a (personalised) notebook to write thoughts and observations in (and for doodles and sketches); soothing, properly nice hot beverages that I would enjoy sitting down to drink but wouldn’t be full of caffeine (I love tea pigs chamomile tea); colour therapy pages so I could absorb myself into making something pretty that wasn’t my work.
Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
In those early days I really appreciated this ‘mindfulness kit’ but, regardless of whether you subscribe to the concept or not, it also makes a great gift in itself. I put together a personalised gift box for new mums, friends who are working hard with an all-consuming project or a busy period at work and mates who simply need someone to tell them “I’m rooting for you.” I’ll sometimes swap the tea for hot chocolate for sweet-toothed friends and change the message on the notebook for something a little more rude for certain mates of mine who share my love of curse words (have I not told you that yet?). I’ve also been known to slip in a favourite book to read, which may not totally embody the mindfulness thing but is nice to have nonetheless. The box itself is just a shoe box covered in my scandi leaf paper. I’ve designed the colour therapy/colouring in sheets myself which you can download next week so watch this space. You can find out how to pimp up your candle votives here