William Miles Johnstone (1893-1974) studied at Edinburgh College of Arts, where he was influenced by his mentor William Walls.
A contemporary of EA Taylor and Jessie Marion King, Johnstone moved to Kirkcudbright around 1940 and had a store called “The Crafts”.
It is written this his ‘Zoo’ series are derived from studying the animals at Edinburgh zoo.
Hand decorated ceramics with zoomorphic designs.
Retailed from his store, “The Crafts”
William also sold his paintings and treen.
Articles in SPHR
Articles in Bulletin (Members only)
Typical Backstamps and Monograms
“Zoo” plus Monogram “WMJ”
Other Publications & Links
Assisted Sir Robert Lorimer with decoration of the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh. Friend of Ronald Searle. Sketches of Johnston’s children were origin of “Belles of St Trinians” drawings. First Kirkcudbright picture exhibited at Royal Scottish Academy, 1934.
As students and friends of Jessie M King, from 1918, Bill (as he was known to his friends) and his wife, Dorothy Nesbitt, were regular visitors to Greengate Close in the summer months where they stayed in one of the Close’s cottages. Bill was a highly talanted animal and bird artist, and his work was of such distinction that he was made a Life Fellow of the Edinburgh Zoological Society. After the war he also assisted Sir Robert Lorimer in his work on the Scottish War Memorial in Edinburgh. He also used bird and animal figures in his decoration of pottery, which he sold under the “Zoo” pottery brand. He inspired Jessie M King to work in this medium of decorative art.
In 1940, the Johnston family moved to Kirkcudbright where Bill opened “The Crafts” in Castle Street, from which he sold his paintings, ceramics and a variety of painted wooden objects – plywood cut-outs of animals and birds are perhaps best remembered. His watercolours of Kirkcudbright and the surrounding countryside (especially Carrick shore where the family had a hut) were much in demand locally. During the Second World War the Johnston family befriended Ronald Searle, when he was posted here as soldier. The Johnston daughters inspired his creation of the “St Trinians Girls”. Dorothy Nesbitt later became a Town Councillor and was instrumental with others in saving the harbour cottages from demolition and creating the Harbour Cottage Art Gallery.