A 'Fairytale Garden' for Lilla Rogers' Global Talent Search 2018

All my art and illustration so far this year has been generated as a result of Lilla Roger's MATS courses, culminating in my entry to the Global Talent Search 2018.

Fairytale Garden Journal Cover Concept for the Global Talent Search 2018, by Rebecca Johnstone

There is so much beautiful art around and particularly in the classrooms of these courses that at times I felt like a fraud even submitting my own work, but you have to start somewhere, right?

The theme for the 2018 Global Talent Search first assignment was a garden journal, which had to feature the following elements:

  • A version of the colour 'greige'

  • Japanese Anemones

  • Stag Fern

  • Hand Lettering

I let the brief sit with me for a few days before I started to respond, pondering which version of my red + yellow + blue = brown + white = greige I would use.

Mischievous Mink? Toadstool Poison? Pandora's Story? Frog Spawn? Chocolate Emporium?

I think in the end it was a cross between Pandora's Story and Chocolate Emporium. Like the remnants of chocolate ice cream on the wooden stick. My colour names were already hinting at fantasy and fairytales...

Playing with Colour

I started experimenting with watercolour flowers - the Japanese Anemones and my version of them in vivid purples and red, and the stag fern with its seaweed-esque structure and sinews hinting at both freedom and entanglement.

Japanese Anemones and Stag Fern, Rebecca Johnstone

One evening a day or so later the full idea for my 'concept' flashed into my mind: a fairytale garden. Yes, that's what I would create, that would be my spin on this creative brief.

I could see flowers with faces swaying in the foreground and the portentous 'greige' swirl of magic clouds in the distance and an image of red riding hood, glancing back towards us from the camouflage of her slinky hood.

Red Riding Hood, by Rebecca Johnstone

I was so excited because a big part of a good (art) assignment is coming up with a winning concept in the first place; something I struggle with getting lost instead in the individual elements.

There was inevitably a gap between the vision in my mind and what came out on paper, but that's all part of the creative process.

Once I had my initial pieces drawn and painted in analogue, I started piecing everything together digitally.

First the watercolour textures of the greige background, and the hand lettering I had created in the style of the stag fern itself. I was quite pleased with that; still am. (I especially love the little apple I used for the dot of the i!)

Fairytale Garden Stag Fern lettering, Rebecca Johnstone

The flowers next with their amused, happy, sultry and animated faces, just how I imagine a magical fairytale meadow.

Flowers with Faces, Rebecca Johnstone
Procreate Flower, Rebecca Johnstone

Red Riding Hood was last, but she really is the star of this show, creating a focal point that draws your eye with the dramatic sweep of red against the pale greige background. She's sophisticated rather than Disney-fied and that helps set the tone for the piece too.

Fairytale Garden illustration by Rebecca Johnstone

I wasn't one of the 50 chosen finalists to go on to receive the next assignment in the competition, but I am still so pleased and proud of the final piece I submitted.

Lilla's advice was to "create a journal cover that you would want to buy yourself" and I know I definitely did that.

View the Global Talent Search 2018 semi-finalists here

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!