ARTIST TEXTILES: PICASSO TO WARHOL - PART 2

Following my post ARTIST TEXTILES: PICASSO TO WARHOL - PART 1, PART 2 transports us into the fashion world with a cornucopia of patterns from (of course) Picasso and Warhol, alongside a host of other important designers from the twentieth century.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Andy Warhol, the epitome of Pop Art. Some of his textile designs are only now coming to light. The collection shown as part of this exhibition include food-related ‘Pop’ textiles for his friend Stephen Bruce, proprietor of legendary New York restaurant, Serendipity 3.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Starting with these ‘ice cream’ patterns from Andy Warhol, the colours here are whimsical yet vibrant. That punch of purple is delicious and the lime green against the orange makes the whole combo ‘pop’.

The sketches seem so simple, naive, yet the placement of each design and the consideration of negative space is what connotes a true master at work.

In some of the patterns, the motifs are temptingly only part in colour, and this sketchy style is what makes them so wonderful and accomplished. (Know the rules, break the rules.)

The silky lustre of the fabric makes them even more sumptuous.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Zandra Rhodes

Zandra Rhodes

John Rombola, screen-printed cotton in ‘Circus’, 1956

John Rombola, screen-printed cotton in ‘Circus’, 1956

The lure of the circus will never fade, and again this wonderful sketchy style just adds to the whimsy of the design and I can imagine, the mood of the wearer if this were a dress or a other item of clothing.

So much of what we wear is a uniform or an essential or just a ‘cover-up’ to keep us from the cold, so ‘fashion’ in the true sense of the word should be clothing that perhaps is not essential wear but that makes us feel good about ourselves, fun, motivated, and crucially, helps us express our unique style to the people around us.

Often I feel like wearing a dungaree dress with my favourite t-shirt and trainers and not doing my hair. Other days I love taking time to put on make-up and something a bit more special. Fashion comes and goes as our own moods do the same.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

I love seeing words and phrases scrawled over images, forming part of the design, especially the French words!

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
‘Shift’ dress made from Picasso’s textile ‘Frontispiece’, screen-printed cotton c1964-5

‘Shift’ dress made from Picasso’s textile ‘Frontispiece’, screen-printed cotton c1964-5

The numbers are also a pretty cool addition, looking genuinely like workings-out or old coffee sacks, the simple shift shape complementing and counteracting the busy surface decoration. I could see myself wearing this because it also has a rebellious edge to it, like something a member of the resistance might wear because a red beret is just too obvious.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Picasso was the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the twentieth century. Associated mostly with pioneering art movements such as Cubism, he also invented collage and made major contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. His behaviour has come to embody that of the bohemian modern artist in the popular imagination.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

I always want to attribute Matisse with the ‘invention’ of collage, if indeed that’s what you could call it, so finding out it was actually Picasso, is a bit mind-blowing. He truly was a master of his craft, moving and morphing (and inventing) so many different art phases, like a butterfly.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

In the 1960’s, Pablo Picasso collaborated with two American textile manufacturers (Bloomcraft and White Stag), seeing his designs adapted and produced on fabrics as diverse as corduroy ponchos to PVC-coated rainwear. Both companies invested heavily in modern marketing techniques and the collaborations were a huge commercial success. The designs sold from between $9 and $30 apiece, with fabric at only $5 a yard.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

I appreciate the simple repeats as much as the more intricate designs, sometimes more so, especially when it comes to these fun button and butterfly repeats in typical ‘vintage’ palettes.

Buttons conjure a certain nostalgia for me - Nana’s button box, my mother re-sewing buttons onto my winter coat for school, or even modern-day crafting with vintage and second-hand buttons. They are so unique in their colours and shapes, their texture and their transparency.

I love finding buttons in charity shops though I have far too many of my own now at home. Who wouldn’t want to use a button-print textile in their home or fashion designs?

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Collage-style and dolly-mixture prints never go out of fashion for me, from Matisse to modern interpretations. The more colours the merrier, though of course, monochrome never goes amiss.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Graham Sutherland, ‘Rose’, screen-printed cotton, Preston c1949

Graham Sutherland, ‘Rose’, screen-printed cotton, Preston c1949

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Graham Sutherland, ‘Snowdrop’, screen-printed cotton, Preston c1949

Graham Sutherland, ‘Snowdrop’, screen-printed cotton, Preston c1949

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Hammer Prints Ltd

Hammer Prints Ltd

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The detailed line-work is fantastical here and takes me on a dizzying trip to another place and time.

I love the use of the architectural details of the train station, trains coming in and out, the archways, and the cornicing and curliques somewhere between art deco and art nouveau - and how that translates into the tailoring on the dress.

These drawings are so rich and I think of the artist scribbling away at a blank canvas, how their life might have been and their inspirations. Freer in some senses but perhaps not in others?

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Eduardo Paolozzi & Nigel Henderson, ‘Portobello’, London, c1958

Eduardo Paolozzi & Nigel Henderson, ‘Portobello’, London, c1958

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
The rich etching of fruit and leaves. I’m guessing this could be William Morris?

The rich etching of fruit and leaves. I’m guessing this could be William Morris?

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The doorways here have so much energy and must surely have been inspired by the Mediterranean, as the colours evoke such warmth and delight. The brushstrokes are masterful - seemingly rough and almost abstract, yet the details are depicted in a finer hand, the light playing against the shadows.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The colours and pattern here are so modern yet vintage - the sign of a true classic, timeless design.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Working through these images again reveals another layer of richness and awe, as well as renewed inspiration for my own work from these masters of the last century. I’m so glad their work is preserved here and in the textiles they created.

How wonderful would it be to discover one of these original pieces of textile or a dress, featuring the handiwork of Picasso or Warhol, in a vintage treasure trove somewhere? I can dream…

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

NB. I’ve credited the artists where possible, but as I saw this exhibition a year ago, some of the details that I would have had fresh in my mind, have gone. Apologies! I remember I’d wanted to purchase the book that was produced in conjunction with this exhibition, however it was sold out at the time and I think is perhaps no longer in print . If you recognise any of the works, please let me know and I will add the credits.

Thank you!

WRAPTIOUS COMPETITION x HIGHLAND COLLECTION

A new design-direction for me sees more of my HIGHLAND COLLECTION spring to vibrant life, featuring my photography of the CAIRNGORM MOUNTAIN in the Scottish Highlands.

Rebecca Johnstone Cairngorms - Pink
Rebecca Johnstone Cairngorms - Blue
Rebecca Johnstone Cairngorms - Purple + Lime

I love the bright saturation of colour that makes the nooks and crags of the Cairngorm mountain really sing. The Highland Cows (hi Henry! hi Henrietta!) have also taken on more adventurous personalities.

Rebecca Johnstone Highland Cow
Rebecca Johnstone Highland Cow - Blue

Using photographs from a trip up the CAIRNGORM on the Furnicular Mountain Railway (sadly, not currently in operation) last autumn, I was able to create these designs this week in time to enter them into the Wraptious Competition.

I’ve mentioned this competition before and it is a great kick-starter for the imagination - a deadline, a creative challenge. And anything goes.

Once uploaded, you get to see your designs mocked-up as square prints, canvas prints and on cushions, with customers able to purchase them for a limited time only (until 24th June 2019). It’s all very exciting.

I think my Highland Cows are rocking the cushion mock-ups!

What do you think? Would you welcome these designs into your home?

They would sit nicely in a contemporary living room or open plan kitchen/dining space i think. I quite fancy the blue cow for a bedroom too?

Find out more + purchase options on Wraptious. (The cushions are made with velvety vegan-suede…)

Please also ‘like’ and ‘share’ on their Facebook page if you genuinely like these designs - these actions = points in the competition!

Thank you for your support :)

Above was the view down the mountain about halfway through our descent. We also spotted some reindeer off in the distance, but not close enough to get a good photograph unfortunately. Another time?

Below, the minty green sky that melts into the landscape has to be my favourite. It speaks of a faraway place with no interruptions, clean, fresh air and a grounding, yet buoyant perspective. What do you see?

Rebecca Johnstone Highland Cow - Blue - Canvas Print

Weekend in Bristol - Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion

Visiting a new place always gives me a surge of inspiration, new ideas and perspectives. I’d never been to Bristol before last weekend, but it had something I really wanted: FABRIC AFRICA, an exhibition featuring African textiles and fashion.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

I’ll be writing a full post on FABRIC AFRICA, but for now I wanted to share my thoughts on Bristol itself - a buzzing university city with a big creative scene - and BANKSY.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

We didn’t follow the Banksy walking trail, concluding instead that the mystery of his work is the main attraction in a way, perhaps more so than the art?

The example here above a fine art shop added to the tongue-in-cheek playfulness of the Banksy approach, though it also made me question whether this one was real! I’m sure it is…

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

The sun was shining and our hotel was Harbourside; right in the hub of things. People were wandering along, buskers ushering in the Friday afternoon vibe, ready for the weekend.

We noticed a LOT of people sitting not only in the many bars and cafes, but also by the water with carry-outs of cans and bottles of wine. I wasn’t sure if this meant the laws on drinking in the street were more relaxed here, or if there was more of a laissez-faire approach to enforcing them as everyone was so happy and chilled, and the weather was for once playing ball.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Bristol seems to have started a tradition of ‘love’ padlocks which I’ve seen to varying degrees in many European cities.

Kind of cute but also a hazard, when you consider what happened to the Pont des Arts in Paris (the origin of this romantic gesture?). Luckily, I think Pero’s Bridge is safe for now.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Talking of bridges, we walked up by the university and along to the Clifton area of town - the posh/west end with lots of eateries, delis, boutiques and interiors shops.

I spotted a girl wearing a vintage dress I bought in a vintage shop in London years ago (blue with white spots). I’ve toyed with getting rid of that dress the odd time in a Marie-Kondo-fest of wardrobe cleansing, but each time it has been saved because I love it.

The Clifton Suspension bridge is right there, so of course we wandered across and back.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

It reminded me of the Brooklyn bridge, but much smaller in scale. It had the same kind of angles. And a decent view. The water looked decidedly murky though. There was a sign up with the number of the Samaritans.

The first time I saw my doppelganger dress-wearer outside a pub I didn’t stop to say anything. The second time I saw her on the suspension bridge and I totally said! Made my day :)

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

I always love seeing what people write on their street signage and in windows, especially in a new-to-me-city. The lettering and style of it, the colours. The vibe. Those first impressions are so random, dependent on where you choose to wander.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

You might say you’ll walk back that way, the same way, once you have your bearings, but in my experience that never happens.

You see new things and get distracted and there’s something better around the corner or a map that diverts your attention to another street, another landmark or building of note. On the journey home when it’s too late, you might remember. Or not!

So I always snap what I see now and don’t wait to go back.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
20190510_120936.jpgTypography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

WE THE CURIOUS piqued my interest for sure (it’s the Science Centre), and I found the shop there, M-Shed and Arnolfini (Bristol’s Centre for Contemporary Art) to be places I’d happily spend an afternoon in themselves. So many exciting books for all ages, but I particularly honed in on the children’s books. From an illustration point of view, there were so many fantastic examples to draw inspiration from (sorry!).

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

There seemed to be a heavy Soviet influence in the architecture by the harbour. We almost had breakfast one of the days in The Soviet Cafe. I found this quite interesting and unexpected.

The windows on this building suggest the Cryillic alphabet to me.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

And I could imagine a whole pattern collection based on the protruding diamond-shapes here.

I like the juxtaposition of the grey concrete repetition next to the lush, organic greenery. Very pleasing to the eye.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Venturing further afield was the creative hub PAINTWORKS where I saw Mandy Barker’s ALTERED OCEANS photography exhibition.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Shining a light on the problem of PLASTIC POLLUTION in our oceans and our environments, this was a captivating, beautiful, haunting and heartbreaking experience. I’ll do a separate post on this to do it justice.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Her sketchbooks and journals of notes and accompanying video of how she grouped and arranged the objects she found was fascinating. The synchronicities of how it all came together felt important; the universe urging us to take note. I was slightly heartened to discover that of the 9 tips on how to cut down on single-use plastic, I was doing most of them. What we need however, is for everyone to get onboard.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

At Bristol Museum & Art Gallery we wandered into the Chinese glass section (en route to the Masters of Japanese prints) and spotted cabinets of colour and curiosities. I love all the shapes and styles, which would make a beautiful, modern pattern for the home. Leave that with me!

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
20190512_113314.jpg

I couldn’t not mention vintage and reworked fashion emporium SOBEYS which felt like my spiritual home. I visited THREE TIMES, and came home with a stash of unique wares. This shop made me feel like a UNICORN. Everything was amazing. When can I go back? When will they be online?!

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

BIKE LANES were a prominent feature of the surrounding area which was great to see. I’m not a cyclist myself, but I appreciated these bike motifs in the pavements and the emphasis on cycling as a way to get around. Thumbs up to Bristol on this one!

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Finally, I’ll leave you with these two sleepy heads. After strolling along the harbour for what seemed like hours, along one side and across the bridge then way up the other side, we crept passed, trying to let sleeping ducks lie.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

I hope to return to Bristol again one day. It wouldn’t have been on my radar if not for the Fabric Africa exhibition, but I’m so glad I made the effort to go. BRISTOL, you were fabulous!

Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol - Part 1

I visited this exhibition ARTIST TEXTILES: PICASSO to WARHOL at the wonderfully picturesque and historic New Lanark Visitor Centre OVER A YEAR AGO.

Planning to share the delights at the time, it seems that life happened and I didn’t manage it. Having recently stumbled upon the trove of images I took as I wandered round the carefully curated space, I realised the time to share them is NOW.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Tracing the history of 20th century ART in TEXTILES, the exhibition features a host of feted designers across key art movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism and Pop Art.

With any exhibition like this featuring designs from the past, there is no real ‘expiry’ date to the inspiration and wonder. It first ran at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London circa 2014, but has been on tour ever since, only finishing next week (6th May) at the Modern Art Museum in Shanghai.

“I’ve spent my life ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich.”

William Morris, Textiles Designer, 1876

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The florals here are timeless and have a collaged vibe. The colour palette is refined, beautiful and graceful, bringing to mind afternoon tea in a stately home.

Quickly we move on to geometrics and Russian aeroplanes, the latter roller-printed on cotton circa 1920’s. I love their simple, fun form and can imagine dressing my little boy in an outfit featuring such a delightful print.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Gerald Wilde, screen-printed silk fashion textile, 1944

Gerald Wilde, screen-printed silk fashion textile, 1944

“After the second world war, artists methods and the subjects they portrayed began to embrace the dynamism of contemporary life. They focused not on representational images, but on pattern, colour and abstraction. This new style translated perfectly into textile design.”

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The art itself is telling a story, whether in block-print repeat or through the stark yet abundant landscapes that make a dramatic statement through their imaginative use of colour. I love the whispering women below, ‘Gossips’ by Textile Designer Virginia Lee Burton with their huge bustled skirts. Are they friend or foe? I would LOVE a skirt or dress in that print! (It was also available as a gorgeous deep green.)

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Moving on to the bright-brights, I lingered around these Surrealist silk headscarves by Salvador Dali, none of which would look out of place AT ALL in a boutique anywhere in the world RIGHT THIS SECOND.

I admire his bold use of colour and almost naive rendering of the abstract shapes. I don’t think he would mind me saying that. He always appeared so friendly with his tapered moustache and mischievous eyes…

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Am I right in thinking these are telephones hanging on a wall in an underwater cave, or a train tunnel, or simply floating in a swimming pool?

It’s like taking a trip each time you look at these as the multiple layers of meaning in the art reveal themselves as though in a mass Rorschach experiment. I remember circling back a few times to stare into them as though I was furiously churning the end of a kaleidoscope.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

“Surrealism aimed to revolutionise human experience, rejecting a rational vision of life in favour of one that asserted the value of the unconscious and dreams, championing the irrational, the poetic and the revolutionary.”

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Sticking with the brights this angelic/cherub, parcels of florals, a woman with carrots and onions in her hair and a quartet of female-clown faces.

Maybe I’m being too literal and I sound perhaps like these pieces weren’t/aren’t to my taste, but quite the contrary. I love the energy in the lines and the distinctive style that flows through the artist’s hand (Marcel Vertes).

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Faces are a perennial attraction in design - mostly female faces. The image below is not a good photograph, but I love this Picasso print with the dove at the centre in primary colours with the text around the outside. It’s like the four faces of the world, designed clearly for the ‘Festival Mundial’ in Berlin, 1951.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

The array of prints was dizzying with far too many to describe or include here, but taken together these had my synapses firing and inspire(d) me to work harder on my own art and surface pattern design.

There is nothing better to ‘fill your creative bucket’ than an exhibition like this featuring some of the best designers of the last century, plus.

I haven’t even started on the fashion part yet or the Warhol prints.

I’m saving those for Part 2 :)

Angelo Testa, screen-printed cotton wall-hanging, 1947

Angelo Testa, screen-printed cotton wall-hanging, 1947

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

I’m going to finish Part 1 with this - ‘A Fish is a Fish is Fish’ by Ken Scott.

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

As a Piscean, I’m always inspired by and interested in fish prints and the sea. Curiously, there were a few different hen prints too. Quite interesting how they could easily be imagined on upholstery or even fashion, particularly the smaller, non-directional ditzy print?

Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone
Artist Textiles - Picasso to Warhol by Rebecca Johnstone

Part 2 of this exhibition post coming next week.

Cocka-doodle-doo (like no revered artist of the 20th century would ever say…)

NB. I’ve credited the artists where possible, but as I saw this exhibition a year ago, some of the details that I would have had fresh in my mind, have gone. Apologies! I remember I’d wanted to purchase the book that was produced in conjunction with this exhibition, however it was sold out at the time and I think is perhaps no longer in print - unless they have it in Shanghai?

LISTEN to this post in a Male US/Scottish Accent:

The Highland Cow

Introducing my take on the iconic Scottish Highland Cow.

Highland Cow Close Up, Rebecca Johnstone

With my Glasgow and Paisley collections well-stocked with designs, I thought it was time I turned my attention to my roots in the Scottish Highlands.

I think a lot of tourists visiting Scotland imagine seeing a Highland Cow as soon as they arrive on Scottish soil, maybe even grazing in a field outside the airport, but the Highland cow is in fact a little more elusive.

I realised just how elusive when I went to photograph some of these gorgeous beasts in their natural habitat.

Highland Cows on a Hill, Rebecca Johnstone

Lots of artists and designers feature Highland cows in their work, and instead of just jumping on the bandwagon, I wanted to experiment with the story I was trying to tell through my designs.

As I called to them from the fields, I fondly named the handsome pair I found grazing Hamish and Henrietta.

Highland Cow face, Rebecca Johnstone

I imagined a love story under the Highland stars; a courtship at the back of the cow shed. But maybe they’re both girls, or maybe they’re both boys, or maybe they’re even siblings - I’m not bias! Free (Highland Cow) love!

Highland Cow Coffee Shop, Rebecca Johnstone
Highland Cows, Rebecca Johnstone

I wanted to create a simple line illustration I could use in different ways, and then add texture. Creating the texture was fun! This is Hamish.

Hamish the Highland Cow illustration, Rebecca Johnstone
Highland Cow - textured, Rebecca Johnstone

I love both versions of Hamish, and the slightly disinterested expression. I mean, if anything sums up the attitude of a Highland Cow it’s disinterest surely?

This next version of the print with a background of my Mackintosh-inspired TARTAN ROSE pattern feels like it fits my more ‘maximalist’ style. Or maybe the simple white version on the patterned background would be better?

What do you think? Is it too much to have THREE Scottish trends in one image?!

Highland Cow illustration with patterned background, Rebecca Johnstone

Now I need to work a bit more on Henrietta to get that Highland romance off the ground…moooo!

Hamish and Henrietta Highland Cow Love, Rebecca Johnstone

Those gorgeous tousled fringes swishing in the breeze, the cute slobbery snouts and trusting eyes. I wish I could have taken one or both of them home with me, but that’s neither practical, responsible - or legal!

Highland Cows deserve to stay in the habitat they love, and that’s firmly in the Scottish Highlands enjoying the best of the Scottish weather, come rain or shine.

I see a Highland Cow pattern in my future. Watch this space for more Highlands-inspired designs. Also a big shout-out to my Dad, who knew just the spot for me to photograph Hamish & Henrietta :D

Accessibility: a lovely reader got in touch to ask for an audio version of my posts. This is the first time I’ve tried it but you should be able to listen to the audio below. Please note, neither of these are my own voice!

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition

I was lucky to catch the last day of the Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition this week, on display at the University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

Consisting of a small selection of her work grouped according to three distinctive ‘eras’ of her style + printing templates and personal ephemera, it gave me plenty to immerse in as I entered her beautiful, often intricate world of black and white.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

Her designs are ethereal and dreamy, exquisite in their confident lines that express so much, often in extreme simplicity.

Female portraits and sideways glances. Liquid eyes filled with sorrow or something deeper and more mysterious. Swarming tendrils of hair, a fish swimming through like it is instead seaweed on the ocean floor.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

A weird spell cast by a wandering elf

That charms with fingers cold

Haunting and beautiful, I see a mother and a child in both the image above and below. I wonder if that is because I am viewing it through the filter of being a (relatively) new mum myself? Hannah Frank had no children so perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps they are nymphs or sprites or spirits or just beautiful, sad girls?

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

These intricate printing plates were a wonderful surprise I hadn’t expected to find. Their shimmering gold and silver surfaces added an even stronger Egyptian/Eastern flavour for me, and when one of the curators told me it was OK to touch them and even take etchings, I happily grabbed a pencil and paper.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

The bird symbolism was strong, and I got the sense that the birds held an ominous portent.

The stars and florals and swirling shapes put me in mind of Mucha, and the masculine female faces and lettering of Alistair Gray. Art Nouveau influences wrought in fluid darkness.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

Another allusion to Egyptology - the illustrated lines below published in the Glasgow University Magazine, Christmas 1934 - pictured in a cabinet alongside her official wedding invitation and other papers.

‘I am thy soul, Nikoptis.

I have read out the gold upon the wall,

And wearied out my thought upon the signs.

And there is no new thing in all this place. ‘

From the poem The Tomb At Akr Çaar by Ezra Pound.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

I hadn’t realised before seeing this exhibition that Hannah Frank had turned her attention to sculpture in the 1950’s. Well-expressed female forms in plaster and bronze, they often had long, regal necks, again quite Egyptian in style.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

I like the relaxed, casual poses they strike, although I think I prefer her black and white drawings the best, for which she is probably better known.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

From the very beginning of her career, her style was so obviously hers. Undeniably so. Distinctive and pure.

This is a lesson I needed to see because I’ve struggled to hone my own identify as an artist, purely because I enjoy trying lots of different styles of work.

Success comes from recognition and that can only truly occur when as an artist, you focus, focus, focus and hone in on your specific niche. Thank you Hannah Frank for this nugget of gold!

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

I did once ‘meet’ Hannah in person - at her 100th birthday exhibition, just before she died.

What a fantastic, spirited and talented woman she was.

Please note, this exhibition is now finished, though there are some signed prints left in the GU Shop. I couldn’t leave without buying the book!

The Sea, The Sea: New Year Walk on Nairn Beach

To usher in the start of 2019 last week, we went to Nairn beach to see the sea. Ah the sea, the sea!

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

I’d love to live closer to the sea; to have its roar and tumble and gentle numbing reassurance right there on my doorstep. It widens perspectives and disperses problems like nothing else for me.

There is something so bracing and dramatic and levelling about walking towards waves cresting onto shell-scattered sands with the wind in your face and clear blue skies; dogs dashing in and out of the surf.

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

I love this shot I took of myself, a lone photographer as if on stilts on the sand. The light was just perfect.

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

And then again from the dunes, the two of us anonymous in silhouette.

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

The above image transported me to Cape Town, to where my mother and grandmother were born. It’s as though in the distance lies Table Mountain beyond, not the Moray Firth.

Oh how my imagination thrives on the sparest of details!

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

Sea-treasure and heart-shaped stones. I wanted to take home a whole pocket-full, but resisted for the sake of my already burgeoning shelves and memory-boxes.

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

The sailboats in the harbour had lovely names like SEAMOON, ELEANOR, MARIETTE and JETSTREAM. I love reading the names of boats, often hand-painted by the owners. Imagine having a boat named after you. That would be so special.

The sea and boats are a great theme for a pattern collection, and I’ve had an old book of shell drawings for a few years that I’d like to use as inspiration for some new designs. Soon. Definitely soon.

‘The sea is my brother’, as Jack Kerouac said. Or at least, a long-lost cousin.

Until next time lovely waves, though I must admit I wasn’t brave enough to dip my toes in. It was baltic!

Festive Messages

So this year I sent my first batch of Christmas E-CARDS. Christmas e-cards are a ‘thing’.

You might remember I wrote about my research into the current e-card options earlier in the year - whether to go paper or paperless - but I had never actually sent any.

Then a few weeks before Christmas my husband revealed he’d booked us a trip to the Christmas markets in Berlin as a treat. Yay! It was in that moment that I realised I would never be able to get everything done, and that in fact, something had to give. The cards.

A bit flustered and almost out of time to send traditional through-the-post cards to friends and family anyway - especially those living abroad (definitely those living abroad), I decided it was the perfect time to give e-cards a go

Full disclosure - I had some ‘credit’ at Paperless Post due to having featured many of their cards in my earlier post, so with an account all set up and ready to go, it was the easiest option. And it was actually really easy.

You don’t need instructions because once you click on a card, the options just present themselves and you progress through them choosing things like the colour of the envelope and liner, the font and size of your message, and whether you want a background or not. You even get to change the stamp to show postage in your home country - impressive - though I didn’t do it myself (because, time).

I chose this lovely ‘Christmas Square’ scene of skaters in the snow, with a backdrop of foliage and berries. What do you think? I’m always drawn to this kind of vintage-nostalgic image.

Paperless Post Festive e-card

You have the option of sending yourself a ‘test’ version of your design to see how it all looks and to make sure you’re happy with it. I found the process so quick I wanted to make sure I had actually created a personalised card, but I had. Simple.

Then came the hard part: who did I want to send it to and did I have their email addresses?

You can upload email addresses in bulk in various different formats which would be handy for next time or for those more organised than me. I did it line by line and sent 10 cards initially to test out the process.

What I found particularly heartening is a ‘reply’ function that appears automatically, so the recipient can send you a message back. You never normally hear back from sending someone a card (especially to friends and family you hardly see or speak to IRL), so this added an unexpected interactive element to the whole thing which was a pleasant surprise. Who said e-cards are impersonal?

in summary, I would say e-cards are set to become increasingly popular as people lead busier lives and live a more global/nomadic lifestyle. I did feel a nice warm glow from having done something, rather than giving in and doing nothing due to lack of time and missed posting dates; I connected with family members in Dubai and Cape Town, as well as friends down the road. I will definitely do this again. One friend even messaged to say she loved the eco-credentials of my e-card - another fab bonus. Just remember: you’re still only as good as your (email) address book.

So although I saw another friend post on social media that her collection of Christmas cards makes Christmas special - the reliving of special memories while she is writing to a particular person, as well as the joy of receiving cards back, sometimes a trip to Berlin beckons. Maybe I could put this on an e-card?

Festive Market Belrin 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

PS. In the last few years I’ve noticed ‘New Year’ cards becoming a ‘thing’. I’ve only ever sent one to my Mum, because, well because she’s my Mum and I saw the most beautiful card one year that I knew she would love (she did). But it’s not something I want to start with everyone - double the December workload and all that, but I just checked, and there is a whole section for New Year cards. It’s not too late!