Portrait of a Suffragette: Carrie Chapman Catt

This month's art assignment for Lilla's Make Art That Sells Bootcamp involved drawing a portrait of a Suffragette. I got Carrie Chapman Catt, who incidentally, I hadn't actually heard of! (I don't feel too bad as she was American and I am not.)

Carrie Chapman Catt, Portrait of a Suffragette, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

Luckily I've been taking the 'Art Recipes' class 'Drawing Faces' which helped me out with this challenge; in the past I've always shied away from portraiture and drawing faces because...eyes are hard and so are mouths and don't get me started on lips.

Here there was no-where to hide.

Portrait of a Lady, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

First off I started drawing lots of lady's faces before zoning in on Carrie. I love working in pencil (my default starting pencil being a 2H), and building up the depth of detail in shadow and shading. 

Once I had reached a certain point with Carrie, there was no way I wanted to risk spoiling my drawing with colour, so instead I decided to add it into the border detail.

I chose lilac, green and off-white to represent the colours of women's suffrage and incorporated some art nouveau details too for femininity and framing.

As part of my research (and recommended as part of the class), I watched the film 'Suffragette' which stars one of my favourite actresses: Carey Mulligan. As the film ended I heard the words I would use in the background of my portrait:

"Never surrender; never give up the fight"

I think for me these words sum up the fight for equality and for women to have the vote, but also the current everyday struggles women face in all areas of life and across all facets of society.

They say 'keep going' when times are hard.
They galvanize the spirit in fine fighting talk.
Carrie Chapman Catt, Portrait of a Suffragette
Lady Portrait, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I've not used a lot of my own lettering before, preferring the uniformity of choosing a font or typeface instead, but for this piece I felt hand-lettering would add to the 'rebel vibe' of the Suffragette movement.

I wanted to layer it behind the main portrait of Carrie and was so pleased with myself when I managed to create a clipping mask path in Adobe Illustrator - and it worked!

It always feels good to overcome both technical and art challenges in a project, and this piece definitely did both.

As I looked through all the other submissions from the rest of the group I knew there were so many that were much more accomplished than mine, but I'm not going to say the word 'better' because the more I work on assignments such as this, I realise I have my own style and take on things and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

REBECCA_JOHNSTONE_MARCH.jpg

I know I've created a strong portrait of a formidable female activist, leaving the chiaroscuro of my pencil lines exaggerating the almost masculine features of this celebrated Suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt.

I'm proud of my work and grateful to the Suffragettes for their tenacity, strength and determination #VotesforWomen!

See the full class gallery of Suffragettes.

Sign up for the Processions march happening across the UK on 10th June 2018.

Tea & Tasseography

I wrote last time about my experiencing of 'making art' and making time to create as a new mum.

Well this last month the focus has been on TEA. Oh yes, my favourite drink and subject matter. But not just any old tea - tasseography - better known as 'reading tea leaves'. How exciting!

This is my completed artwork submitted for Lilla Rogers February 2018 Bootcamp - the assignment was for a journal cover:

REBECCA JOHNSTONE 'Tea' Journal Cover Concept.jpg

For someone interested in horoscopes and the zodiac and crystals and magic, it feels a bit strange perhaps that I've never explored tasseography before?

I love the idea of having my tea leaves read; a fortune-telling of the essential elixir of my life. I have at least four teapots and even visited Teapot Island last year. 
Sewing Machine Teapot, Teapot Island.jpg

For those reasons I thought it would be an easy topic to generate art for this brief, but in fact it was the opposite. I was brimming over with so many ideas and potential directions I could go in, I couldn't focus on any one of them and felt stunted in my creation because I wanted everything to be so perfect for this so-special topic. 

The whole point of the 'mini' MATS Bootcamp assignment is to free you up for the creative process, not create barriers or limits on that process. I knew I had to break out.

So I made a pot of tea (Rabbit Hole Chai) and then...

Using Pinterest for inspiration, and my existing TEA board, I searched for 'tea leaves' and 'tea reading' and found an amazing tasseography chart which I immediately began to create in my own style. That's when things started to flow for me.

Here is an edited version layered with watercolour:

Tea Chart, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I love matcha (it's well documented!) and although there is no 'leafy residue' associated with mixing up matcha, I knew I wanted to use its gorgeous vibrant green in my art to create a kind of 'matcha magic'.

Using a large brush I created a vivid watercolour mix of greens, blue, pink and purple, as well as a matcha-esque circle to layer behind my tasseography chart (above). The chart became my background and I could have made it the whole thing, but I wanted to cram more into my 'tea journal story'.

I didn't use all the elements in the end, which proved one of the hardest parts of this assignment: what to use, what to leave out, what would be just one 'motif' or 'icon' too far...?

I wanted to use these teapots, but they just didn't fit with the matcha theme. 

Japanese teapots watercolour, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I was going to use my own handwriting but it wasn't right either so instead I watercoloured the letters for the words I needed. Even deciding on those felt like an agonising decision this time.

I wasn't sure about leaving the background white, but also couldn't find the right colour to use instead. In the end I went for the 'purity' angle and left it white. It felt like there was enough going on.

For some reason I associated tasseography with the night-time - fortune-telling and magic have that dusky vibe about them and so that's where this moon and stars scene stems from:

Night tim tea, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

In the end I used a mix of lots of different hand-drawn and watercolour elements, including all the special tea-reading symbols. I loved creating those.

I digitised everything and used Photoshop to manipulate and mock-up my journal cover, with a darker, patterned version peeping out from underneath as a coordinate idea.

I'm happy with the palette and I think I'd buy this. In fact I definitely would. Would you?

Check out the MATS February Bootcamp Gallery to see all the great art in the group and the amazing variation in working to this brief.

On Making Art: Rachel Maddow Book Cover

As a *new mum* I've not had much time of late to nourish my creativity, but over the last few weeks I've been working sporadically on fun, creative assignments for Lilla Roger's 'Make Art That Sells' January Bootcamp.

 January Bootcamp assignment, Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells

January Bootcamp assignment, Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells

It's been exciting to work to a specific brief, and discover a loose, quirky style that I've never used before. 
It's been rewarding to take 5 -15 minutes for me amidst the whirlwind that is life with a newborn
It's been interesting to see just how much I can achieve in tiny amounts of time
It's been eye-opening to realise my own creative problem-solving abilities 
It's been fun to just 'dive in' because I don't have time to overthink my plan of attack

The first element of the assignment saw me drawing what was in my bag.

This took me 10 mins - max - as I scribbled out sweetie wrappers, pen, pencil, paperclips, fabric purse, hairbrush, lip gloss and coins using a 0.1 mm uniball pen in a brand new sketchbook.

What's in my bag quick illustration, Rebecca Johnstone

With no prescriptive time commitment for the assignments, I knew I didn't need to try and set aside a big chunk like an hour; so I just... started. It was done and I was happy just to feel I'd accomplished something creative.

Having less time removed the barriers of panic, comparison, doubt and procrastination.

I just began creating; reasoning with myself that if I hated what came out on the page, I just wouldn't share it with anyone.

The second stage was to illustrate a cover for a children's book featuring the imagined contents of a famous person's bag. I got Rachel Maddow who'd I'd never even heard of! (sorry Rachel, but I'm not an American...)

I had no idea how to tackle this or whether to create a cover for an existing book or create my own? But again, I just started.

I researched Rachel and found she is an American TV host into politics and casual dressing. Immediately I had the idea of her face inside an old-fashioned TV set, and the rest flowed from there.

Hand-drawn details, Rebecca Johnstone

I drew a dictaphone (for recording interviews), notepad, post-its, microphone, magnifying glass (hopefully not too 'whodunnit' but more hinting at interrogation/investigation?), 'sneakers' and used a limited colour palette which seemed to fit with the impression I got of Rachel as a person: absolutely no-nonsense, no-frills, just what-you-see-is-what-you-get

The simple outline portrait of her face also seemed to suit the overall look and feel I was developing for my book cover:

Rachel Maddow portrait by Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

It took a while playing around with all the elements I'd created to decide on the final layout, and then I spent as much time again tweaking things and adding finishing touches such as the sound waves on the microphone.

I'm really pleased with the final design, and super-proud to have my work on display in the MATS Bootcamp online gallery for the month, alongside all the other amazing illustrators and creatives in the group.

I can't wait for the February assignment now!

Listed in the Top 100 Print & Pattern Blogs!

I was honoured and delighted to be notified yesterday that *this blog* has been listed in Feedspot's Top 100 Print & Pattern Blogs... on the planet!

"This is the most comprehensive list of best Print and Pattern blogs on the internet" Anuj Agarwal, Founder of Feedspot.

Alongside pattern and print gurus and familiar go-to sites such as Pattern Observer, Spoonflower, Make it in Design, UPPERCASE and Patternbank it feels like a very special privilege and one I'll continue to work hard to maintain. 

I even got a badge:

Top 100 Print and Pattern Blog Award Badge

Everyone loves a badge don't they? (Especially a shiny gold one!)

Meanwhile, this week I'm mainly waiting for my baby to arrive, but apart from that I've been marbling paper, art-journaling and signing up to a host of amazing Lilla Rogers courses for next year, including a brand new course on drawing faces. 

I can't wait.

And I don't think I'll be short of inspiration to keep this blog filled with great content.

Thanks for reading!

PS. There's still time to vote for my GEOMETRIC ANIMAL MOTIF cushion designs in the current Wraptious Cushion Competition...they're also available to buy for a limited time.

Wraptious Cushion Design Competition #3

I couldn't resist entering the Wraptious Cushion Competition again, this time with FIVE unique designs that also form a lovely 'GEOMETRIC' collection.

I've featured some animal 'friends' you might recognise from my design work in other guises - the Lion, the Leopard, the Polar Bear, the Penguin, and newbie, the Butterfly - all in my signature black and white sketchy-style, on geometric backgrounds.

The arctic, the jungle, the flower garden...

Meet my animal totems and their signature strengths:

The POLAR BEAR: fierce and strong yet playful too, he represents endurance, gratitude and perseverance. This guy is very friendly too - just look at that face!

The BUTTERFLY: symbolic of change, joy, hope and colour, the butterfly offers up the miracle of transformation, endurance and hope.

The PENGUIN: symbolises community and togetherness, social connection, depth of feeling, elegance and grace. I love this dapper chap!

The LEOPARD: representing power, strength and rebirth, this leopard is giving a big ROAR for confidence and courage in the face of adversity.

The LION: embodies strength, assertiveness, protection of hearth and home, co-operation and independence. 

Which animal is your favourite?

If you'd like to vote for me, then please 'LIKE' or 'SHARE' (or both!) on the Wraptious Facebook page post. (Third time lucky?)

These designs are also available to *BUY* for a limited period, which also counts as a super-big vote.

Available in THREE sizes, they're digitally printed on vegan suede with a choice of backing colours and a concealed zip. FREE UK shipping, with or without the cushion insert.

Thank you!

Scotland Re:Designed, Glasgow 2017

"You can take the designer out of Scotland, but can you take Scotland out of the designer?"

 Morag MacPherson Textiles

Morag MacPherson Textiles

Last week I attended a networking breakfast and panel discussion at SWG3 in Glasgow, part of Scotland Re:Designed 2017, where Hilary Alexander posed this leading question to designers Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare and Fashion Scout Martyn Roberts.

 Hilary Alexander OBE, Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare, Martyn Roberts

Hilary Alexander OBE, Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare, Martyn Roberts

Are Scottish designers just desperate to negate the stereotype of 'tartan tat'?

The consensus was that Scottish and UK-based designers are embracing their heritage in different ways, celebrating other textiles like Harris Tweed and Scottish Cashmere because using tartan can feel like 'too much of a cliche'; despite being a go-to for stalwarts such as Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

Meanwhile, Hilary loved SIOBHAN MACKENZIE'S new take on the kilt, using both tartan + silk paired with surface embellishments such as diamante and crystal; a radical reinvention of the form forging new ways (and new target markets) for the modern customer.

Siobhan MacKenzie kilt, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

The message for Scottish designers was to 'embrace the heritage' of tartan, reinvent it, make it cool again.

As discussion turned to the changes in the industry, such as the mechanism for brands and studios to present their collections no longer reliant on a catwalk show at Fashion Week, the panel agreed Scotland has the edge over a city like London as a working base for new designers. Offering not only cheaper accommodation and studio rents in the city, Scotland also boasts bountiful rural spaces for creative reflection and inspiration leading to less chance of burn-out.

I particularly loved that Holly mentioned Grantown-on-Spey (in the Scottish Highlands) as her 'secret retreat', as it's also a place I know and love having spent my formative teenage years there (though at the time I'd happily have swapped it for London!).

"London is more inspiring and creative than Paris", Holly Fulton

But...

As Alexander McQueen apparently once said: "there's more to Scotland than haggis and whisky".

And thanks to platforms like Scotland Re:Designed, Scotland feels like the place to be.

Scotland Re:Designed Hypermarket 2017, SWG3

Juxtaposed with the industrial concrete warehouse vibe of the SWG3 Galvanizers exhibition space, I was able to spy the brands exhibiting as part of the event, ahead of the hypermarket that took place over the weekend.

This guy was ready for the cold-snap, dressed in scarves and hat by OLIVE PEARSON DESIGNS:

Olive Pearson Designs, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

Everyone loved the bold, limited palette geometrics from JENNIFER KENT:

Jennifer Kent, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
Jennifer Kent, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

And the quirky, fun slogan knitwear and vibrant textures of CATS BROTHERS:

CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

The innovative and bright 3D-printed jewellery of LYNNE MACLACHLAN took the SR:D Award for Accessories, presented by Hilary Alexander:

Lynne MacLachlan 3D printed jewellery, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

As a notorious magpie and maximalist, I was drawn to ISOLATED HEROES (as always), and wished I'd booked in for their weekend slogan-sweater-sequin workshop... next time.

Isolated Heroes, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
Isolated Heroes, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

RHONA MCCALLUM'S bold, geometric jewellery really caught my attention, particularly the stackable square rings.

I also loved the leather and shearling gilets from NONCHALANT - in Scotland, it's about keeping warm as well as having 'the look'!

Nonchalant, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

Finally, the afternoon session was about sustainability and the circular economy, a big trend I touched on in my previous post.

With the fashion industry second only to oil in terms of world pollution, designers big and small need to consider the impact of their choices right through the supply chain.

James Lang from the Scottish Leather Group talked about the innovative ways they recycle old leather into energy to make more leather, and give the small off-cuts that would once have been landfill-bound, to designers who make items such as wallets, bags and purses to ensure 'zero waste' as far as possible.

Again the issue of 'investment fashion' rather than fast-fashion came up, and the morphing of the seasons to negate the need for the continuous treadmill of collections that not only contribute to a throw-away mentality, but also lead to burn-out and exhaustion for designers trying to 'do it all'.

All of these issues are important to consider behind the glitz and glamour of beautifully crafted fashion, and it was good to see them featuring so prominently on the (SCOTTISH) agenda.

I left the event brimming with ideas and inspiration for just how the change we seek is the change we choose to make, and how collaboration, asking questions and following your own ethical and moral compass are crucial components for success (alongside talent, persistence, patience...)

 Rory Hutton, Fashion Foundry

Rory Hutton, Fashion Foundry

Here's a few final snippets of advice from the morning session with Hilary et al for budding fashion designers:

  • Always wear your own designs (where possible!) = self-promotion
  • Say 'NO' to Sale or Return - don't hold stock or bankroll someone else's business
  • Aim high and value yourself and your skills - from the start
  • Get attention, trial techniques, be clever with the materials available to you
  • ...But don't do too many things - hone in on your niche

Scottish fashion, interiors and design is at the forefront of the industry and a truly exciting place to be. Having a platform such as Scotland Re:Designed to shine the spotlight on the enviable talent and innovation only makes it more exciting.

Scotland Re:Designed is the national organisation for fashion, accessories and interior designers, providing showrooms & exhibitions, annual awards and runway show calendar and stories, events and business support opportunities. 

2018 trends: fashion, interiors, lifestyle

I love finding out about new trends and seeing story boards and colour reports...

It inspires me in all sorts of ways; not just in terms of my own creativity and design process but also the reminder that the world around us is a constant source of wonder, inspiration and beauty to be experienced and interpreted.

Earlier this month I attended a trend and branding session at The Lighthouse, Glasgow, with Fiona Chautard and a room full of local freelance creatives and entrepreneurs.

It felt like a guilty pleasure - a mid-week treat - to immerse in the intoxicating flow of new palettes, yarn stories, ideas and more.

Not surprisingly, the key take-out across all industries was the rise in the interest of craft and luxury craft: handmade and traditional techniques that take time, imbue provenance into the final product and carry the authenticity of intent and process.

Another important trend - if you can still call it that - is the need, desire and expectation (from consumers around the world) for sustainability and sustainable supply chains; something that the fashion industry particularly needs to address in sourcing raw materials and in the wake of so much 'fast & fad fashion'.

Many of the emerging stories for the coming seasons had a certain rawness and textural, tactile element, either in the fabrics or the surface decoration.

'Luxury Craft' AW 2018 trend, Fiona Chautard

There seems to be a revolt against perfectionism and polish, as though we need to get a bit more realistic and embrace small flaws of nature as beautiful; deeply connecting us to our roots in society and in the world.

Lots of the surface textures and effects are inspired by the land and by water, striations and marks influenced by nature.

"Fashion becomes a process rather than any one product", each piece telling its own story whether it's crumpled, unfinished, speckled, folded, slashed, exaggerated or oversized.

Aw 2018 trends, Fiona Chautard

Colour is very much influenced by the seventies in both fashion and interiors, with lots of mustard, ochre, camel, soft pink (yes still!), burgundy and teal. In fact teal was the take-out shade of all the many gorgeous greens. 

Teal. TEAL. Teal.

I feel it sits well with the 'Fauna/Cyanotype' report and Print Direction from Patternbank for A/W 18/19 which has inspired me with all those leafy formations morphing into abstracts.

Then there were historical references and a trend referred to as 'MASCULINE REDRAFTED' which I think we see in some iteration every season/year. It's a specific androgyny inspired by rebellion, gender fluidity, tailoring and a simplicity of surface fuss/decoration in favour of a strong, classic cut.

'URBAN FOLK' was an interesting trend, penetrating deeper into anti-tech, craft techniques such as crochet, macrame and a 'charity shop' aesthetic, with a bold palette of 'world pattern' and ethnic influences.

I love a trend like this which allows much in the way of surface decoration, experimentation and multiple, clashing influences.

'Excessive' trend for AW2018, Fiona Chautard

My favourite trend however (as a not-so-closet maximalist) has to be 'EXCESSIVE' which included words and phrases such as: riot, OTT, high-shine, psychedelic medley, wallpaper-scale, glitter, floribunda, clashing patterns, YELLOW,  ornamentation.

As a surface pattern designer, I love to go dramatic with colour and detail so this is one I intend to embrace - to the max. It reminded me of this gorgeous paint-palette which was an inspiring image from my Get Messy Art Journal group:

Get Messy Art Journal paint palette.jpg

Plus my own paint-palette experiments with mark-making (using a stone I picked up on the Cairngorms!)

Acrylic mark-making in teal

Meanwhille, small styling details such as the neck and the sleeves look like important points of focus and difference in fashion stories for the year ahead, with 'comfort as the new luxury' - a concept that will never be out of fashion in the modern era hopefully, plus 'refined glam'.

Basically, there's something for everyone.

As the once very much segmented seasonal year dissolves, and the world becomes smaller, consumers are tending (trending?) towards more investment pieces for anytime-wear which sits well with the idea of 'slow living' and quality over quantity.

Everyone has a voice and most are not afraid to use theirs to protest on issues surrounding the environment, climate change, resources and fair working conditions.

As a designer, I know I'm part of that message in the choices I make for production, packaging and materials. It's a responsibility I don't take lightly and something I want to consider more carefully as my business grows.

For now, I'm going to get my creativity on and see how I can put my own spin on the trends, colours and ideas shared throughout the presentation.

NB. Trend Report images from Fiona's presentation, in association with Textiles Scotland

*New Stockist Announcement* InCube Shop, Paisley

I'm delighted to announce that an exclusive selection of my 'pattern-bomb' prints are now for sale in the InCube Shop on Gilmour Street in Paisley.

Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley
Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley
Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley

The InCube Shop is funded by Renfrewshire Council to support local design businesses, showcasing handmade products in a bright and spacious 'boutique' environment.

Seeing my prints alongside other designer's work in such a great location in Paisley is a dream come true (especially when I saw people stop to check out my prints featured in the window!).

Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley
Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley

Most of the photography featured in these prints are local Paisley scenes such as the Town Hall, Trinity Church, Anchor Mill and the Cart river.

I've also featured The Waverley - those famous red turrets always an iconic sight around Scottish waters - paired with thistles in the sky which almost look like fireworks in the way I've layered them through the clouds.

Lions and my own version of the Paisley-pattern account for the other prints, in multiple colourways so there's something for the minimalist palette as well as the colour-lovers (such as myself!)

Connecting with some of my fellow designers such as Lil of Gatekeeper ArtYvonne of Vonne Alley and Karen of Karen Hanvidge Ceramics has made the experience all the more special as a whole community of designer-makers come together to support and encourage each other and discuss 'all things Paisley'.

It's a particularly exciting time of course as all eyes focus on the title of City of Culture 2021, of which Paisley is named on the shortlist of five (winner announced December 2017).

Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Prints, InCube Shop, Paisley

Over the coming weeks I will be launching a selection of greetings cards in time for Christmas, which will be stocked at the InCube Shop, as well as in my own online store.

I'd also like to shout-out the historic Paisley Abbey who were my very first local stockist - they have a selection of my pattern-bomb prints all featuring the Abbey but from different angles and using different surface pattern designs: lions, umbrellas and teardrops - oh my!

Dainty Dora Pattern Bomb Print, Paisley Abbey

Visit the InCube Shop in person - also a box office for The Spree in October - Monday-Saturday 10-5pm, 9B Gilmour St, Paisley PA1 1DG.

Paisley2021LogoColour