Christmas @ Liberty of London 2018

Back in October I had a whirlwind weekend in London, and my first port of call was the Christmas Shop in situ on the 4th floor of Liberty.

The Christmas Shop is a destination in itself, but I also got quite distracted by the interiors floor and all the wild and wonderful creatures on display. I realised right then, I would happily live in the shop.

The soap is beautifully wrapped in patterned paper, the Moroccan rugs transport you as if on a magic carpet ride to a dusty, secret bizarre, and the fabrics - well I could browse those all day, stroking them as if they were special pets. (Yes that’s a tad concerning.)

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

It was all laid out for me like a dream, and due to it being only an hour before closing (one precious hour), it was remarkably quiet to the point I felt like I almost had this wonderland to myself.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

I loved the winter toadstools, both the wooden version and the metallic-glazed bauble version. They don’t do anything but they do look pretty. I think that’s partly the point of decorations…

There were lots of ‘London’ themed baubles, as you might expect. Corgis, black cabs, the Queen’s Guard, scenes featuring Liberty itself.

I like them but they’re a bit touristy for my taste. I prefer the ice skates and the robins and the more trad Christmas symbols.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

This cross-stitch stocking deserves a mention because it’s so intricate and gorgeous. I know I would never have the patience (or skills) to complete a project such as this, but I stood to admire it and considered buying the pack for my aunt who adores cross-stitching.

These are the gifts that become a tradition, or rather the Christmas decorations that become heirlooms, unveiled year after year. If someone made me this stocking, it’d definitely be a keeper!

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

And now for the NUTCRACKERS!

It definitely felt it was a ‘Nutcracker Christmas’ this year, with more cards and wrapping paper devoted to this dapper dude than ever before. I really, really wanted one of the musical box versions, but he was rather heavy and we only had carry-on luggage. Next year perhaps.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

The stockings were lovely though of course I had designs unravelling in my head for my own stockings. Unfortunately I ran out of time this year which was especially disappointing as I’d wanted to make a special stocking for baby Jack. Another to-do for next year’s festive list.

Then came the more exotic baubles. The fruits and festive jumpers (never seen any like that before), the vodka and rum bottles and the inevitable Day of the Dead skulls. I like them well enough at Halloween but I’m not sold on these for Christmas. Am I getting old and boring? Probably!

One thing I do know - Gisela Graham really has Christmas sewn up doesn’t she? I mean, is there anywhere or anything that she has not conquered for Christmas?

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

I think my overall favourite was this gorgeous peacock, perfectly poised and perched amidst the boxed delights. I love the deep turquoise with the gold and green. There is even a fairy + a brace of pheasants to coordinate too!

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

Overall it was the best Friday night I’ve had in ages, wandering the rows of glittery offerings, the baubles in baskets and bowls, the twinkling lights and the life-sized deer/stag. A very special place indeed.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

Character Creation @ Oliver Bonas

This week I had an arty evening at Oliver Bonas, Glasgow, creating animal characters with their London-based designers and a small class of like-minded creatives.

The theme was all about the brand’s autumn/winter ‘story’ of KINSHIP, WOODLAND ADVENTURES and FANTASTICAL FRIENDS.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

Browsing around the store beforehand was a delight, as the colours, patterns and designs they feature on their fashion and homewares are always innovative, clever and VIBRANT.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow
Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

The packaging on products like soap and beauty products and even their tissue paper is just so FUN. Bold/neon abstract prints that are really quite simple but so eye-catching. Even the inserts on their frames are amazing enough to just keep instead!

Here’s some insight into their A/W animal theme and why TIGERS feature so prominently.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

The patterns make you want to buy the product, and this is why I wanted to get into pattern design because it is so versatile, persuasive, exciting and EVERYWHERE. Oh, and I now want to live in a branch of Oliver Bonas!

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

Gold handled tea pots and tea sets. Jazzy chartreuse and sage abstract florals. Fabulous!

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

I loved the embroidery detail on this sage green scarf (above) which gives it a real hand-finished quality with the level of detail. It also fits nicely into the idea of woodland walks all cosy in autumn layers. I love stitch marks and want to use them a bit more in my own designs. Maybe even in my characters?

The metallic print on this bag (below) also taps into the animal theme, and I can really see myself buying it - if I didn’t already have too many cute bags…

The blankets/throws are really cool too in sorbet shades which seem like they would suit summer best, but work so well in-store; a bright yet cosy contrast to the darker, more opulent shades.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow
Bear face character illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas, Glasgow

So after a browse and a few sips of pink lemonade (Prosecco for some but I was driving), it was time to get started.

We had a few rounds of warm-up exercises lasting from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, where we had to interpret a ‘character’ from a random selection of animals, using a colour and a specified ‘decoration’ for that animal, also picked at random and limited to one. Pressure!

Luckily there were a few Oliver Bonas ceramic animal ‘friends’ dotted around for inspiration, which helped me a lot with faces and basic body shapes.

It was quick-fire fun and we initially used felt tip pens. Some of my combinations were:

  • A purple lion + bear with spots

  • A yellow owl with stars

  • A blue dinosaur with flowers

  • A turquoise bear with dots

My drawings - really more like sketches or outlines - are naive and childlike, but I quite like that aspect.

Tiger & Bear Character illustration, Oliver Bonas

Obviously this Tiger & Bear duo are not very polished after only 2 or 3 minutes, but I like how having a time limit and colour restriction can shake up your interpretations into something that you wouldn’t normally create. An interesting dynamic.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow
Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

I think my FLORA-SAURUS was pretty ingenious:

'Flora-sauras' character illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas, Glasgow

Once we all agreed we were raring to go on our main animal character of the night, the same rules applied and I my pick got me a GREEN OWL with stripes.

For this more in-depth character we moved on to using watercolours which upped the ante a bit.

We were advised we could sketch outlines in pencil first, but with only 15 minutes in total, I just wanted to dive straight in with my watercolour brush!

Festive owl, character illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas, Glasgow

I really like my owl, and would like to work on him a little more. Or maybe it’s a her?

I know owls have been a bit over-represented in the last decade or more, but they are popular for a reason and I have always loved them - one of my childhood cuddly toys being an owl.

Finally, we had 5-10 minutes left to work freestyle on anything we wanted - any animal in any medium. I really enjoyed working on my FLORA-SAURUS dino so I created a more in-depth version who I named ‘RUPERT’.

'Rupert the Dino', character illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas, Glasgow

He came out in fire-breathing orange and as there were metallic oil-pastels being passed around, I added those in too - the bronze feels like a nice touch don’t you think? I’d like to experiment with this medium a little more as the pastels resist the paint giving a lovely texture, though precision isn’t easy after a few minutes of use and the warmth of your hand.

A really great evening all round and I made some new friends too. Watch this space for more character creations!

Dainty Dora @ Scottish Design Exchange Glasgow

Yesterday I launched a collection of my wares in the new Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

Located in the heart of the city centre within busy Buchanan Galleries (facing you when you exit the car park into the mall, and just along from John Lewis), the shop is testament to everything that is great about Scottish design.

I feel honoured to be part of it this not-for-profit social enterprise that supports and nurtures local designers, especially as we inch ever-closer to Christmas and the demands of keeping up pace and presence to catch the attention of shoppers.

Glasgow Argyle Street Pattern Bomb Print by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

My range is displayed on the wall towards the back of the shop (an inch to the left from the mannequin in the middle in the image at the top!), and totally visible from one of the main doors.


Limited Edition Risograph prints (numbered/signed), Glasgow Triptychs of The Lane, The Crest and The Crane, my exclusive 100% silk scarf collection, Paisley in Pattern 2019 calendars, mounted A4 and 8x6 prints featuring my take on the Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms + Pattern-Bombed Photo prints of iconic scenes around the city, and a small selection of postcards.

Stepping back to take in my display once I’d finished tweaking and changing things around, I had to pinch myself as it is still feels hard to believe I have a range of art and accessories, all designed and made by me, on display in such a central and significant retail environment.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow
Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

It feels incredible and I’m so grateful to every customer who has bought work from me and shared it with their friends and family, as gifts, or just by displaying it in their homes.

But I couldn’t have done it alone.

My long-suffering husband who having escaped becoming an Instagram Husband has gradually morphed into my Business Partner/IT Manager/Confidante/Handy-Man extraordinaire, and has been instrumental in my success.

When I asked him to reconfigure a vintage record player for me to use in my display he agreed without complaint, and then proceeded to spend 4 hours making it right, even crafting new wooden knobs for the front. That was after half an hour searching the loft for the missing legs…

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

And when I needed help hanging up my shelves, he was there, by my side. Even the typewriter above was bought as a spare for parts to make sure my actual typewriter works <3

I mean he did accidentally bar-code some Lion Christmas cards as Penguins, but it’s an easy mistake to make when you’re thrust into the public eye against your will, isn’t it?

Even my 9-month-old son has played his part, because ever since I found out I was pregnant, he has been a good-luck charm in everything I have done. Cheesy, but true - pregnancy was amazing for my creativity!

So - a big week of preparation and planning for us, and maybe it sounds a bit soppy to mention my husband and my son; to mix my business persona with my wife and mother self, but I believe in working from the heart and I know I couldn’t have done it without them both.

Glasgow Crest 4-colour illustrative print

Glasgow Crest 4-colour illustrative print

Mackintosh Birds 100% Silk Scarf + Print

Mackintosh Birds 100% Silk Scarf + Print

Ashton Lane Thistles Pattern-Bomb Photo Print + Postcard

Ashton Lane Thistles Pattern-Bomb Photo Print + Postcard

Check out my work and that of all the other amazing designer-makers on display at the Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow. (There is also an Edinburgh store, based at Ocean Terminal.)

If there is something in my oeuvre that you would like/have seen that is not in stock, or that you can imagine that isn’t currently available, let me know and I’ll make it happen, if I can.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

Scottish Design Exchange, 2nd Floor (near John Lewis), Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow

Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
Sun 10am-5pm

A visit to Drummond Castle Gardens, Crieff

A few weeks ago I visited the extraordinarily beautiful, lush and sculptural Drummond Castle Gardens in Crieff, Scotland.

"Drummond has all the characteristics of a courtly, 17th century Scottish Renaissance garden. It is a composite garden, restructured in early Victorian times and renewed again in the 20th century when the garden framework and the exceptional interest of the original 19th century design were carefully preserved."

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

Looking through the many photographs of the day, it's as if there was no-one else there but me and that's pretty much how I remember it; a mid-week July day in the middle of a Scottish heatwave - extraordinary in itself!

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

The gardens are so grand and majestic and the weather was so glorious, it could have been any of the great formal gardens in Europe or beyond. In fact, Drummond is on the list with the finest, and I can see why.

Featuring French and Italian influences, Drummond is an eclectic garden with its fountains, terracing, urns and statuary.

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

These trees particularly transported me to Isola Bella in Italy, while the soft warm grass and flowers were in total opposition to the slush and snow on display when I visited the Gardens of Versailles.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

It was so peaceful and serene, and I couldn't help but smile as I wandered, though I was alone.

"A ballad describes the gardens full of “evergreens and flowers…and the waterworks are a’ let on..."

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Approximately 130 steps lead down into the garden, towards a multiplex 17th century sundial at its centre, however this was unfortunately away for refurbishment on my visit.

A fountain is always a focal point though, while the white statues were so stark and regal against the backdrop of green. 

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

There was a 15-minute woodland walk which I decided not to do, purely because I was wearing inappropriate footwear. I was intrigued by the kitchen gardens however and loved the big glasshouses and cold-frames filled with plants, flowers and fruit.

There was a polite sign asking people not to touch or pick the peaches to prevent bruising and wastage.

Fair enough, but it was tempting. I can imagine how Eve felt in the garden of Eden...

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

This scene with the wheelbarrow and the hose pipe just struck me as so perfect and beautiful. I love the sense of hidden hands toiling to make this garden beautiful; their tools on display as if the garden itself is an outdoor art gallery, which really, it is.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

It's similar here with this beautific statue with the weeds and earth at her feet. The juxtaposition makes it interesting and the colours make it pop.

The buckets destined for the compost heap inject a sense of life and realness into the scene, like seeing the fruits of the effort that go into the maintenance of such a pristine space.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Then there was this tree with eyes. Real eyes it seems, like an old, magical tree. I wonder what stories it could tell from the days of the Jacobite Rising?

Meanwhile, the regimented curves and lines of low-cut hedges created a mini-maze effect, shaped in part like an Aztec eye. 

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

These foxgloves nestled between shady rocks reminded me of those I saw on Arran a few years ago, their abundance so gleeful and cheery. The colour is so special in contrast to the greens of weeds and ferns and moss. It was the perfect goodbye from Drummond Castle Gardens.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Drummond Castle Gardens are open May to October, with no access to the Castle. Find out more & buy tickets.

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

Cards & Invitations: Paper or Paperless?

I didn't have a baby shower and the invitations for my wedding were hastily bought in a gift shop pack of ten because we basically, kind of, eloped.

There was no arduous decision-making process or hours spent hand-making or decorating envelopes upcycled from elephant poo. Or learning calligraphy.

I feel strange writing that as a self-professed lover of paper and of ephemera; a keen collector of invitations to other people's occasions.

As I approach my tenth wedding anniversary (seriously, how did that happen?!), I'm wondering what we will do to mark it, particularly as we didn't have the full-on after-party associated with the majority of weddings.

Should we have a party? If so, where? At home for just close family or the huge bash we missed out on? What will I wear? And what about our little baby boy who won't quite be one year old by the time the date rolls around?

Remembering back to bleak, bleary-eyed January nights when I sat writing 'thank yous' for the amazing gifts and cards we'd received on said birth, the idea of writing out invitations is enough to put me off. I mean, yes I could design my own and it would be a great marketing opportunity for me, but in many ways, just, zzzzz.

Then I heard about 'paperless' invitations. Those of the digital variety. Gorgeously designed just like their paper counterparts, but with no writing and even better, no postage costs!

'Snapshot' Party invitation on Paperless Post - details visible on the reverse.  Clever.

'Snapshot' Party invitation on Paperless Post - details visible on the reverse. Clever.

So many places offer a host of digital invitation options now for every occasion, and I'm imagining the RSVP's flicking back into (dedicated?) invitation mailboxes much faster than the traditional versions. You could even request a read receipt, though I'm not sure about the etiquette on that?

There is one downside, and that's the older relatives that are not on email or social media.

My mother springs to mind; quietly eschewing the digital world as 'nonsense', while simultaneously asking me to 'ask Google' for help when the physical world cannot.

Or what if it got over-shared on social to friends you didn't want to invite? Mmm, tricky.

But I think a big tick for paperless cards and invitations is the environmental impact - although I would cherish a particularly lovely invitation and keep it in a memory box or maybe stick it in my scrapbook, most people aren't bothered and really wouldn't. I'm the only person I know who keeps a scrapbook; save for my online tribe of lovely art journalers that is.

We need to stop just thinking about the environment and the resources we use, but actually start taking action.

Now, my taste in invitations is quite... distinct, but I like this children's birthday invitation by Petit Collage on Paperless Post:

'Superhero Trio' Children's Party Invitation, Petit Collage

'Superhero Trio' Children's Party Invitation, Petit Collage

And if you were worried about why there are envelopes designed and displayed alongside the cards - I was too - until I realised that once you hit 'send' or 'share' on your chosen design, it creates a cute little animation for the recipient of the card inside the envelope, then zooming out towards you. Nice touch.

For my own 30th birthday, I sent an email with an image I'd created, so really that was a precursor to a 'proper' e-invitation. It definitely wasn't animated, but I still put a lot of effort and love into it.

I like this 'Cocktails and Conversation' card probably because the premise of it piques my interest - light laughter and sophisticated cocktails with engaging chat. Already I'm imagining literary connotations and book deals being struck and romance set alight...

There are some variations but metallics are always a win for me.

'Bottle Shock' Party Invitation by  Kelly Wearstler

'Bottle Shock' Party Invitation by Kelly Wearstler

This floral design has a totally different vibe but again, the matching envelope is so fun. The colours are very pretty too:

'Woven Wildflowers' Party Invitation by Riffle Paper Co.

'Woven Wildflowers' Party Invitation by Riffle Paper Co.

Can someone please invite me to a cocktail and mimosa party?! 

Maybe e-cards and invitations could be saved in a special 'memory box' e-mail folder? That would solve the problem of preservation. It would always be right there with you, in your phone...

In Japan, once you receive a card 'its job is done' and you can happily dispose of it. Marie Kondo, famous for her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, even suggests photographing sentimental items or 'komono' to preserve the memory while throwing away (hopefully recycling if possible) the actual item. 

I love the dreamy ice-cream illustrations on this children's party invite while this vintage-esque Flamingo scene with the matching envelope liner is sooo pretty too:

'Flamingo Lagoon' Party Invitation by Rifle Paper Co.

'Flamingo Lagoon' Party Invitation by Rifle Paper Co.

As a fledgling designer myself, I'm always interested in other designers' work and what is selling. It's always a matter of personal taste, but I tend to be a bit left-field in my choices as a buyer, so that probably comes out in my designs too. I don't know if I'm commercial enough, but then most of the time it's about getting in front of the right people or having your work in the right places and available. People can only buy what is there and the market is crowded
'Yahoo Cocktaoo!' card design by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

'Yahoo Cocktaoo!' card design by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Handily, most sites allow you to upload your own designs so you can customise as much as you want. Ideal if you have forgotten someone's birthday until the eleventh hour and it's too late to send a traditional card through the post. Or how perfect for a less-stress way to ask your nearest and dearest to 'save the date'?

Save the Date card, Deighton, Paperless Post

And I'm already thinking ahead to Christmas - wouldn't it be nice to know your card really wasn't lost in the post and definitely arrived on time? Yes it's also nice having a real, tangible card to display on your festive mantel, but then, life. With the exception of my own seasonal offerings (below), I love this design

'Bear-y Christmas' by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

'Bear-y Christmas' by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

'I don't 'DO' Christmas...' by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

'I don't 'DO' Christmas...' by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Penguin Christmas Card by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Penguin Christmas Card by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

So many choices. 

I love receiving special cards in the mail, but a digital card or invitation is just as effective and super-convenient for modern times. And you can't always trust the mail-man!

Can't wait for my tech-loving husband to open this e-card on our anniversary <3

Some places to source digital cards and invites yourself:

To commission me to design cards/invitations, contact me via my collab page.

NB. This is a sponsored post, however all views and opinions are my own and I never promote or link to any product or service that I don't genuinely love. Thank you for reading. 

The Florida Spy - A Graphic Novel Page

This is where my writing + art life converge: the final assignment for my MATS Bootcamp 2018 was a GRAPHIC NOVEL page. Woah. I would NEVER have thought about attempting something like this, so this course has really stretched and challenged me in such a fun way.

This is the finished page:

The Florida Spy, Graphic Novel page illustration by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Set initially on Miami Beach, then moving swiftly (in 'le taxi'!) to the Everglades, it's a fun tale that I hope will make people smile as well as showing off my illustration skills.

First off, we were given an image of fun, random items to draw as a 'starter for ten', or rather, the 'mini' assignment. These items were:

A red toy camera

A yellow taxi toy

A vintage portrait of a dapper young man

A photograph of a lady with red hair in a green jumper with her dog

A postcard of a sunny beachscape

A toy shop dollar

A little blue table tennis racket

A ticket stub from a meat market

A plastic crocodile

A card with an image of two little dogs

Totally random!

The first image I drew was the dapper young man.

'Claude' illustration, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Already my mind started creating a 'story' for him and he become French. I called him Claude. I drew him in pencil and ended up leaving him like that; quite raw and sketchy. It's the first time I've drawn a moustache!

And of course I had to show him 'sniffing ze moneyz'!

'Claude' with jewels pencil illustration by Rebecca Johnstone

Next I tackled the 'lady with the red hair'. I drew her in watercolour pencil but never did add water. I loved working on her hair and adding texture and building up subtle layers of colour. In the original image her hair was the same as the dog's so I stuck with that. I quite like it?

Lady in Green, illustration, Rebecca Johnstone

Next, I tackled the crocodile who was really only a green plastic toy in the starter image, but already I'd had the idea for basing part of the story in the Floridian Everglades. With that in mind I decided to go for a 'real' crocodile who became: Monsieur Le Croc.

Monsieur Le Croc illustration for MATS Bootcamp 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

After that, the 'big assignment' had been released so I was masterminding the story and wondering where to really, properly....start.

So many ideas but how to draw them? How to contain everything to just one page?

Although the concept of a graphic novel involves a story, I knew that the art was the main focus of this class. Being a writer too however, I knew I really wanted to rock the story as well as the art. And be clever. And fun. And do it all. 

Yes, I'm someone who suffers from 'The Gap' syndrome Ira Glass so eloquently outlines in this video. The fabulousness in my head rarely ends up on the page, but maybe, maybe, I get to convey a little smidge of the excitement I see in my mind to the page. I hope so.

I used a combination of pencil sketching, the Procreate app on the iPad - particularly for the lettering - and then used Photoshop to stitch all the elements together. I particularly love 'BINGO' the dog detective. He looks so cute and harmless, but clearly he has a killer instinct for the truth (and a steady paw for working a camera...)

BINGO Dog Detective, Rebecca Johnstone

It would have been a LOT faster to just draw a page straight-off, but I had so many varying elements to juggle and I do love the tweaking stage. Working out where things should go and shifting things around, and then deciding I need another scene or a different scene or more words or new words.

This assignment taught me a lot.

Taxi illustration, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Le taxi...

A quick sketch done on the iPad using the Procreate app. I was quite resistant to iPad tech at first but since I discovered the possibilities, I haven't looked back. I love this looping image showing the various iterations of the image.

And I feel a lot more confident about my own handwriting which is a happy by-product of taking the MATS Bootcamp, and especially this assignment.

I've always shied away from using my own writing, preferring the crisp clarity of a typed font, but now I'm seeing the value and fun of using my own handwriting and I think it worked particularly well for this graphic novel page. 

Let me know what you think of this first foray into the graphic novel medium. Did you like the story? Does it make you want to see more?

The full class gallery will be live soon, and I'll at the link then :)

Risograph Printing with RISOTTO STUDIO + Corners

Friday was a Big Day for me: I had a free-pass sans bébé AND I was taking part in a Risograph printing workshop at The Lighthouse, run by RISOTTO STUDIO in conjunction with Corners; a cool riso duo from Seoul, South Korea.

It was sunny and I was in town in the early am with an empty portfolio case and my reusable takeaway mug and it felt like I was on holiday. (Glasgow is like that; a city of many facades and Friday proffered a particularly sunny vista.)

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The workshop area was 'wallpapered' in A3 riso prints with displays of funky risographed zines from all over the world and prints from pro artists + the other workshops hosted by Atelier Bingo (France) and Wobby Club (the Netherlands).

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Just seeing the shapes and ideas was so inspiring, but also just how much you can achieve with only a 2-colour riso print.

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

For me, it's the colour options that make riso printing so fun and funky; they are bright and light and fluoro - options you just don't get with a normal printer.

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Risograph printing is basically a cross between screen printing and photocopying. The Risograph is an environmentally friendly and cost effective printer, which uses soy-based inks to produce unique outcomes.

As a surface pattern designer with an interest in textures and mark-making, the outputs from the previous workshops were really fun and inspiring to see. It reminded me how amazing it would be to work in a shared studio space with like-minded creatives on a day-to-day basis. 

"Which design do you prefer?"

"Which colour-way is best?"

"Anyone got a phone charger...?"

Working freelance + solo can be quite isolating, which is why attending a workshop like this is so much fun and so important to generate new ways of working, learn new techniques and just meet other people and gather inspiration like a little hamster; saving it all up for a rainy - or just less inspiring - day.

I love the pineapple print above and just the sheer energy that springs from the quick and fun images there were created.

For the Corners workshop however, the focus was more on the technical side of preparing artwork for riso printing, so we all brought our own (digital) images to work with. Even just going around our small group a real mix of styles and influences came through in each design.

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Onto the printing...

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I had really wanted to create a new design for this workshop, which I did ('RAINBOW GIRL', below), but on the day I realised I needed something a little more simple, with less layers and detail while I was still learning the process. (And because there are always limitations on what can be achieved in one day, despite wishful thinking!)

Rainbow Girl illustration, Rebecca Johnstone

The key to riso printing is colour separation, while one of the best things about it is the ability to layer colours to create other colours (yellow + pink = orange, yellow + green = blue, etc).

The only exception to this was the metallic gold which prints opaque, but the others can be adjusted in the initial separation to allow varying degrees of transparency. It's also not good riso practice to print too densely in large areas of the paper anyway, because it becomes too saturated and risks smudging and tearing.

Colours available to us for printing were: Aqua Blue, Medium Blue, Fluorescent Pink, Fluorescent Orange, Bright Red, Yellow, Violet, Metallic Gold, HD Black and Grey. Each colour requires its own drum that slots into the printer.

Handily, you can download the exact colour swatches from the Risotto site (+ other templates) when working on your design, in the best format for the software you're using (usually Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator). All very helpful when trying to make important colour decisions!

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The printer 'reads' in greyscale, so the colour layers/channels have to be stripped out of the original design to create the layers for print, like a clever digital version of exposing a screen for traditional screen printing.

This was the crux of what I wanted to learn so that in the future, I can fully prep my files myself and get some funky-cool riso prints done, on demand!

I got a little confused at first between 'channels' and 'layers' in terms of the colours, but basically layers give a more clear-cut print and would perhaps lend themselves more to vector-based images, whereas channel separation gives a more blended, softer finish (often using more colours overall) and is more suited to rastor-based images.

So far so good, only that I don't normally use a laptop and I had an image that was created as a vector but that I'd rasterized, duh! Nevermind. It was a learning process.

Under pressure to choose my design and start stripping out the colour, I went with my back-up file of the Glasgow Coat of Arms/Crest, based on the 'Miracles of St Mungo'. So far I've only ever had this traditionally printed in obvious primary colours + green. Can't forget green as in 'the dear GREEN place'!

Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms illustration, Rebecca Johnstone

Deciding which colours to go with for the riso print was hard, especially when I had to stick to four main colours max. With the two-drum printers we were using, that still meant two passes of the paper through the printer, and each time, 'registration' had to be adjusted (lining up the blocks of colour in the image to ensure a good print).

My first print used pink, yellow, teal and gold, making a fifth shade of orange.

My second print used pink, yellow, federal blue and gold, again making the fifth shade orange.

I took advantage of the coloured paper on offer too, to see how that would affect the overall print. Although these were fun, I prefer the bright white as it gives the best colour vibrancy, particularly with the fluoroscents.

And I'm delighted with the results!

Glasgow Crest Illustration, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

The image is totally transformed in neon and with the fabulous opaque gold outlines. Notice the 'gold' bell in the first print?

I managed to get a sneaky print of just the gold outlines on white paper too which is ace, and I just wished they'd had black paper available on the day because I know the gold will really pop on a black background. 

I'll definitely be doing more riso printing and was so happy to have the opportunity to attend a workshop like this in my home city. Riso still feels kind of edgy and underground, yet it's so instantly recognisable.

Limited edition prints from this first run will be available to buy soon, with more variations and sizes in the pipeline. 

Thanks so much to Gabriella at RISOTTO Studio and the guys at Corners, plus the print technicians helping out on the day with all the tech Photoshop details. I couldn't have done it all in time without Mari! <3