Louisa Giffard

Birds, birds and whales

Last year I took part in a contest called Create Art History, held by the State Library of Victoria, held in partnership with Redbubble. The library provided inspiration material from their collection, and the task was to reinterpret the material into something new. I selected this image, called Sea Creatures, by Isaac Commelin  Sea creatures (Isaac Commelin) - State Library Victoria.jpg

Inspired by the sea creatures massing around the ships, as well as the engraving style, I decided on an elaborate ink drawing I called Leviathans. leviathans smallUnfortunately I failed to place in the competition (which seemed more focussed on photoshopping/image manipulation than my typical style of working) but I’m proud of the design anyway. It’s available on Redbubble for all those fans of whales out there.

Next, a design celebrating Australia’s diverse range of black and white birds – the Australian Raven, the Currawong, Australian Magpie, Magpie-Lark or peewee, and the White-Winged Chough

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As a contrast to my slow careful nib drawing, this design was done quickly with ink and brush. It’s available on Redbubble

bird colour wheel nbgcrop.pngFinally, a bird colour wheel! I love the diverse and fabulous range of plumage colours in the natural world, and decided to…well, a bird colour wheel is relatively self-explanatory. The most difficult thing was curating the bird species. It turns out it’s fairly difficult to find bird species that are near-uniformly one bright saturated colour all over – but I found some appropriate species eventually! All the birds are painted in watercolour. This design is also available on redbubble.

 

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Textiles: a new domain

Do you like any of the fabrics shown below? You can purchase them on Spoonflower, as anything from gauze to denim to polar fleece, as well as wallpaper and wrapping paper!

This title might seem odd to those of you who know me in person. While not a lot of my textile-related work gets displayed on the website, I’ve been sewing for years, including going to trade school to learn professional sewing and patternmaking techniques. I also did a little screen printing on fabric during my degree. But recently I’ve started really getting into thinking about not just designing and sewing garments, but designing the prints on the fabric themselves.

Spoonflower fabrics from my shop

Four of my own designs, printed on textiles from Spoonflower

Despite my mutterings that I wouldn’t continue to create repeating patterns traditionally, I’ve become so addicted to the process that I’ve produced several more. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

(By the way, the previously discussed design Galliformes! is now available as fabric on Spoonflower, as shown above)

rubusrepeatRubus

This design is a watercolour painting of several different species of Rubus, the berry family that includes the raspberry and the cloudberry. I saw many of these beautiful berries in Europe. You can get the design on several products on Redbubble, and also on Spoonflower as a fabric!

fruitdovesgreenfinal.pngfruitdovesyellowfinal.jpgFruit Doves

I’ve always loved the variety of fantastically coloured, unusual birds out there, and fruit doves are particularly wonderful, especially when contrasted with the drab ubiquity of the feral pigeon. This piece was a joy to create – a faster, looser watercolour, less intricate than my berries, and it prints beautifully. Fruit doves twill fabricHere you can see the design printed on twill. You can also get it on Redbubble and Spoonflower!

strychninesmallStrychnine and Oranges

I also began to experiment with the beautiful capabilities of ink. Ink has such a wonderful luminous character, and using ink one can get pure, saturated colours. A while ago I’d had an idea for an exhibition called your fodder is my poison, which would involve a series of images that contrasted food plants with poisonous ones. This design follows from that idea, and depicts a combination of oranges with poisonous strychnine fruits. Available on Redbubble and Spoonflower

feralsgreysmallFerals

This design shows several of Australia’s most notorious feral animals and plants, in luminous rainbow inks. I particularly like the purple glow of the banteng. Available on Redbubble and Spoonflower

poppies.pngInk Pink Poppies 

This design is slightly different because it repeats vertically rather than vertically and horizontally. I was inspired to create this from the wild poppies growing in our garden last year, as well as the brilliant colours of the ink I used. IMG_8080
I ordered this pattern as wrapping paper and it came out beautifully! Available on Redbubble and Spoonflower

I’m very much looking forward to creating new interesting designs this year. I think creating a repeating pattern in woodblocks would be particularly splendid. But in the meantime, I’ve got quite a bit of sewing to be getting on with, and I’m thrilled!

Wood engraving – a new finer art

At the end of last year I had the opportunity to finally learn a skill I’ve been wanting to learn for a very long time – the art of wood engraving. I’ve worked with woodcuts for over 7 years and I love the diversity of mark you can create – from the finest curling line to the crudest gouge, and how the wood can be smooth and forgiving, or full of grain and line and detail.

Wood engraving is different. The marks are smaller, finer, the works often impossibly intricate, printed on very hard wood so fine and dense that even the tiniest scratch or impression will show in the final print. I was excited to see how my style of mark making would translate into this new medium.

The wood engraving class I attended was at Megalo, a Canberra-region print studio I am a member of, taught by Canberra region printmaking artist Peter McLean . I would like to make a general statement about how wonderful it is to be part of a network of other artists. Printmaking can be a very collaborative, supportive medium, requiring artists to share space and communicate with each other. I have always found printmakers to be wonderful people, generous with their time, and I am proud to count myself amongst their number.

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We worked with very small maple end-grain blocks, carefully sanding them, coating them in white gouache and drawing an image on them as a guide for our cut lines. For my first engraving I choose to draw a spider. spider engraving

The spider, printed.

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The finest lines would print. Here is my second image – Arabell from Horse and Art 

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This tiny image is 3.7 by 4.7 cm.

My final image was of a barnacle goose, from my trip to Finland in August 2017. Goose engraving

I carved this image faster than I did with the spider and the horse, so I’m not as happy with the result. However, I am extremely happy with the overall effect of wood engraving, and am looking forward to getting some tools of my own to continue the practice. Small scale works have a lot of advantages, especially if you’re travelling for residencies or have to worry about storing your work, and wood engravings are tiny, intricate and perfect.

Horse and Art 2017

I’ve just been in Europe for 5 weeks! While there, I attended a wonderful, unusual artist’s residency called Horse and Art.

The two program was in a tiny town called Barnag, in rural Hungary, and it emphasised the connection between equestrian arts and visual arts. I got a chance to use my Hungarian language skills, my printmaking skills, and to have a lot of fun working with horses for the first time in my life, having interactions with these beautiful animals that were a far cry from the four standard 2 hour trail rides I’d done in the past.

As a consequence, I did a lot of art. Of horses.

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Depicting horses is something I used to do significantly more in the past, before my practice switched to one based more on my own personal observation. I love horses and I love depicting them, but I think I became a little bit worried over the years about avoiding cliche, because horses can be a very cliched subject – think of the painting of the dramatic rearing steed, a herd of galloping horses, or the beautiful pony with flowers in his mane. So I admit that I was a little anxious to resume depicting horses in my work.

I decided to spend time with them, to observe the movement of their bodies, the way the light shone off their coats, the way they moved, the shiver of their muscles and the angles of their moving legs and heads. I created works based on their shifting, contorting bodies.

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Zselyke’s chest and legs

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Zselyke in print

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Arabell dealing with an itch

I also did a lot of work to do with the environment. Barnag is a beautiful place, rolling fields and spectacular skies, covered in wildflowers, thyme, herbs, and berries. IMG_6555IMG_5781IMG_5898

One of the horses, Arabell, would roll in the field and get covered in stains from the dewberries and blackberries. I was intrigued by the berries, and so I did several works based on Arabell’s interaction with them.

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The horse herself

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An intaglio print, coloured with berries

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Woodcut

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hand-coloured version of the same woodcut

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Small sketch

I also did some other works involving berries, depicting the other horses.

Finally, something non-horse related. A painting of some of the wonderful wildflowers, following on from my wildflower painting I did in Canada. I did this in a much looser style than I usually work, emphasising the ephemeral nature of these abundant plants.

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Painting from life

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A bouquet of wildflowers and weeds

It was half the length of my previous residency, but it was a very busy, involved time. I met some wonderful people and had some wonderful interactions with the horses. This is a beautiful part of the world – the Hungarians value horses very much, having a history of equestrian skill going right back to the Huns, and the hosts, Beáta and Marton, have wonderful responsive horses whom they work with in a very natural way (lots of bareback riding, significantly less tack than most other equestrian disciplines.) It didn’t matter that I hadn’t had the experience with horses the other residents had had – I was given the opportunity to learn at the pace I was capable of. Now that I’m back in Australia I’d really like to continue riding, although I’m not sure how yet, given that I don’t have a horse or access to a horse!

Redbubble, Spoonflower, and other forms of accessible art!

I’m really happy to belatedly announce that I now have a Redbubble store!

I’ve had people asking about purchasing prints of my art for a very long time, and I finally got around to creating a Redbubble store! Primarily I was intending to sell prints, especially to international customers (as Redbubble handles the shipping, rather than having to handle exorbitant shipping fees myself) but then I realised the other possibilities for my work. .

Many of the works I’ve previously posted online are available on Redbubble, but I’ve also created a new series of works specially for sale. Here are just some of them.

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I catered to Twitter’s arachnophiles and spider scientists with this cute little knitting spider!

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Repeating pattern of Japanese windflowers, drawn in highlighter

I began experimenting with creating repeating patterns in traditional media. To be honest, it’s such an arduous process that I’m not sure I should continue, but the effects are so wonderful that I might do more.

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Galliformes

capercaillie

Capercaillie

cloudberrynbg

Cloudberry

There will be more things available on my Redbubble periodically! If you like my art I encourage you to check it out.

The Darkness Torch

If you like the works in this post, they’re available as prints at my new Redbubble store! I’ll do a further post about the launch of my Redbubble next, and more information will be there.

Hello there. It sure has been a long time since I posted.

This year I had an exhibition in May/June, called The Darkness Torch. The theme was an exploration of the differences between working in additive media, and in subtractive media (dark to light vs light to dark, the differences between painting and woodcuts.)

When searching for ideas, I suddenly thought of a pink raven – and how the idea of a raven is so linked to its colour. Would the same bird be recognisable in a different coat of feathers? pinkravensmall

I expanded this into a small series of familiar birds in unexpected colours

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Black Gull

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White Black Swan

Bower hen small

Bower Hen

Next came a few landscape paintings.

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Scene with No Black

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City for Cars

This scene was inspired by a day when I went to go and see a small architecture exhibition at the National Archives. I took a wrong turn and parked my car at the West Block, instead of the East Block. The carpark was deserted, and it got me thinking – how often is a carpark deserted, except for your own car? My Honda Jazz looked so strange and melancholy, alone in the middle of a city designed for cars.

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South

This near-abstraction of a landscape almost killed me to paint.

Also included in the exhibition were some woodcuts I’d created. Two depict horses, as they were pieces created to apply for a horse-themed residency. I’ve always really liked horses, but I turned away from depicting them for several years, as my practice changed to one based more on personal observation and I don’t really have much access to horses. Therefore, I decided I needed to create some more recent horse-based works, to demonstrate that I have an interested in horses in art.
(I got the residency placement by the way, next post will be about my time there.)

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Horsebeast

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Winter Coat

The first of these was done on a wood plate, the second on a piece of plywood. Both have very different textures, and the line created by the chisel works very differently on each one.

Finally, I created a botanical motif based on my walks around the neighbourhood, seeing signs for fuel-reduction burns tethered to plants in the bushland.

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This exhibition was the largest I’ve done yet, and the effect of the works on the walls ended up being absolutely wonderful. However, creating the works took a lot out of me, which is why I seem to have fallen off from updating this site a bit. It’s been a rather busy year, and I’m trying to get back into it.

Thanks again,

Louisa

Last night I dreamt I went to Ash Park again

titlecardyTitle card for the gloriously over-the-top but still genuinely effectively TV show A Place To Call Home. Bought to you by PAYNE’S GREY, apparently.

I attempted a homage to film posters from the 40s and 50s, and was of course reminded of Rebecca. The looming, huge house (a real place, called Camelot in real life, Ash Park in the show) brought to mind Manderley.

Above Ash Park, Elizabeth Bligh looms – the matriarch, the leader of the empire. Her worried grandson James serves to inherit, but feels anxious, unable to live up to family expectations – while underneath, the evil Regina lurks, undermining the whole Bligh dynasty. Meanwhile, Sarah and I are separate from the house – outsiders. Sarah, an outsider in the town; I, an observer of the show itself.

Title cards can be hard – I decided to use a new watercolour paper that came in a pad rather than a block. Not my preferred way of working – far more prone to buckling. My composition is also very off. I tend to forget the dimensions I need to make a good title card (significantly narrower, more of a 16.9 than a 4.3) so my work expanded to fit the paper. Oh well!

 

Dignityspect

Oh my, it’s been a long time since I put anything up here. New title card! This is for a review of DIGNITY AND RESPECT, a really official, dry and hateful comic about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the US policy about queer people being able to serve in the military. So of course I made the title card as gay as possible.

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Splendid!

Daniel

There Will Be Blood woodcut

A title card for Paul Thomas Anderson’s fantastic, grandiose 2007 movie There Will Be Blood. The film has a pretty incredible aesthetic. It’s so dramatic. I thought that if any film deserved to be a woodcut – that wonderful stark, expressive medium full of painstakingly hewn lines lines and yawning blacks- it was this one. God I love woodblocks!

I haven’t had much time on my hands lately, so while I managed to cut a block I didn’t have time to go to a print studio and print it properly, with a press. So this is printed with oil-based ink (appropriate for such an oily movie!) at home, using a baren and a spoon. I hope for a more even pressure and a denser black next time.

A final note: the first woodblock I ever did in my life was of Daniel Day-Lewis, featuring him with a Wilson’s bird of paradise.

(It’s a very rough block, but it’s literally the first one I ever did!)

Something about the man’s very expressive face makes him a great subject for woodcuts, and I’m amused that this is the second time I’ve depicted him in this medium. I’m also wishing that I had the time to do some larger blocks again – it’s a lot easier to depict the details of a face when the whole face is a4 size, rather than trying to chisel out a likeness of a person’s face less than 10 cm square.

Commercial sequel

Another illustration for another episode on Mad Men!

It would have been easy to do the same kind of style as the last illustration, but I wanted to do something different. I attempted to imitate the style of Brian Sanders , especially the sketches he did on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This was..surprisingly hard. I don’t naturally have such a casual style, and so I’m not entirely sure I managed to convey the same sort of sketchy 60s feel, but I’m pretty happy with what I got. Gouache, pencil and watercolour, and really rough (doing skin tones in gouache is just horrible, so I switched to watercolour.)

Mad Men - the lift

We’re all in the show’s infamous lift! Mad Men has several great lift scenes – one of which actually pays tribute to 2001, so…tangentially related I suppose.

And this is the last of my widescreen watercolour paper! I’ll have to find something else similar for my next title card – that pad was a great find, although for fine details it might be nice to have something with a smoother texture.