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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: Soft Shades

Monday Moodboard Soft shades

I’m loving this week’s moodboard of sweet, soft shades but you’re probably wondering how I got to it.

I’m on product development mode at the moment and consequently my desk is full of colour swatches, trend reports and tear sheets. Loads of the latter are from last year, which featured these particular shades a lot. I still adore the combinations of greens, blues, creams and pinks – I’m interested to see what new soft shade combinations will be in vogue for spring and summer this year.

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Sharing the love with Not On The High Street #LoveIsReal

Love is Real, NOTHS (c) Ella Johnston

Today I’ve had fun doing my version of the Not On The High Street “Love is” tag. The company has sent it to its partners so they can spread the love in the run up to Valentine’s Day.

I think love is an important message to communicate at any time, no more so than in these turbulent, uncertain times. For me kindness and compassion goes hand and hand with love. Kindness to your partner, to your friends, to strangers, to yourself and to the planet we all share; the latter is why my sign is nature-themed flamingo illustration. I created the illustration with pencil and my spare pink and white poscas.

Love is Real, NOTHS (c) Ella Johnston

You can see more LoveIsReal tags here

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New Thornback & Peel Collection; Blackbird and Bramble

Thornback & Peel Blackbird and Bramble Last week Thornback & Peel launched its Blackbird and Bramble collection and I have to say it’s rather lovely.
Thornback & Peel Blackbird and Bramble As regular visitors to this blog will know I am a fan of Thornback & Peel – anything that celebrates illustrated motifs in fashion and homewares is always a big winner for me.
Thornback & Peel Blackbird and BrambleThis collection is great for the end of the year. The beautiful dark purples and warm pink tones would look great on a rustic country kitchen table. However, combined with the delicate nature-inspired illustration, this collection would also warm up a modern, sleek space too.
Thornback & Peel Blackbird and Bramble

Thornback & Peel’s trademark is its delicate line and beautiful vintage-style illustration. I do admire the way these motifs can translate onto a wide range of products and shapes.

Thornback & Peel Blackbird and Bramble

You can see more of the collection at the Thornback & Peel website.
Thornback & Peel Blackbird and Bramble
Thornback & Peel Blackbird and Bramble

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Drawing of the week: Hydrangea flower

Hydrangea Illustration Ella Johnston

My drawing of the week is of a bright pink hydrangea. This watercolour and ink illustration is taken from our garden as they are in full bloom at the moment for the summer.

A hydrangea is my favourite flower and this one in our garden made the journey from our little balcony in London all the way to Wiv, so I’m particularly fond of our growing, flourishing little plant.

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Friday fun! Botanical love; more spoils from the garden

Garden flowers

More indulgent love for botanicals from me. My garden just keeps giving. Roses.

What a beautiful, beautiful summer it’s been so I’ve been reaping more spoils from the garden.
Roses. We have beautiful bright pink roses which need constant pruning – they just keep blooming. This is great for us as we have an abundant supply of vibrant blooms to grace our rooms with.
Roses. Luckily we’re also in dahlia season so everyday I’m checking which heads I can chop to bring indoors and display in our home.
Dahlia. I love a big fat dahlia bloom – you can display a single stem and enjoy its wonderful structure and architecture. So I’ve placed one of my orange flowers in this lovely marble effect  vase I found at a charity shop and the other in my favourite green fishbowl vase (sorry about the reflections, I’ve still got so much to learn about photography and picture editing)

dahalia 1

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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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Moodboard Monday: Blush

Moodboard Monday BlushAs an avid pinner I’ve been struck by just how many images I’ve seen this past year featuring photography, illustration and fashion pieces showcasing a range of blush pink shades.

The hues look great on their own and teamed with light colours. It also works incredibly well when contrasted with darker green or grey shades as well as more vibrant rosy pigments.

It’s been hugely inspiring for me in creating new stationery collections and prints. By replacing my usual white backdrop with soft, gentle blushes it has really warmed up some of my pink flamingo pinks and patterns (I’ll be showing you them soon). I’ve also used it as a background for my more dramatic drawings such as my raven couple piece that you can see on my moodboard.

I’m looking forward to playing with these shades a bit more, not only with my artistic work but also exploring options for adding depth to accent walls as well as seeing how I can incorporate a bit of blush with my home accessories.


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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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11 Flamingo Home Buys

Flamingo buys from

Nothing quite says fun, tropical and sunshine than a bright pink flamingo. So much so I’ve created some flamingo prints myself. Here’s one below available at my Folksy shop

Flamingo Print by Ella Johnston

Anyway enough about me. There are a plethora of fab flamingo designs you can buy this summer. From kitsch watering cans, funky cake candles and garden decs to gloriously luxe silky cushions, contemporary objet and lamps plus tropical beach towels and picnic accessories, even the most muted of interior tastes can be won over with a cheeky on-trend flamingo buy!

Check out my 11 favourites below…

Flamingo buys
Watering can from Dotcomgiftshop
Flamingo buys
Silk Flamingo cushion from Love Myrte
Flamingo buys
Garden Flamingo Set from Maiden
Flamingo buys
Flamingo Votives from I Decorate Shop
Flamingo buys
Princess Flaminia Canvas from Lime Lace
Flamingo buys
Scatter Cushion from Sainsbury’s
Flamingo buys
Breaking Dawn Large Shade from Anna Jacobs London
Flamingo buys
Flamingo Candle Set from Oliver Bonas
Flamingo buys
Flamingo Mica Wallpaper from B&Q
Flamingo buys
Flamingo Towel from BHS (you may get a bargain on this now)
Flamingo buys
Flamingo Paper Plates from Ginger Ray