Louisa Giffard

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!



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.




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.


I’m currently doing two episodes on Mad Men, and the prospect terrified me. It’s a show rich in incredibly memorable and distinctive visuals – and how do you distil hundreds of hours of show into a single image?

I came up with a solution – paying homage to the world of commercial art at the time, and depicting myself as an illustrator at a creative agency. This particular episode focusses on Mad Men’s female characters, who are shown here as illustrations-within-the-illustration (I could have gone recursive with this! But that would have been far too much of a headache.) So here’s my attempt at mimicking the commercial styles at the time!

Mad Men: The Women

I hate gouache, but if you want something to look like a pre-digital commercial illustration, you pretty much have to use it. However, during the course of making this, I began to really appreciate gouache’s effects, once I adjusted to the fact that it dries darker, the reverse of watercolour, which dries lighter. You can get great uniform flat colours. It’s easy to lay down a swathe of colour very quickly. It dries quickly. It’s pretty consistent. I can see why it would have been used so frequently in commercial art.

All in all, doing this illustration was an absolutely delightful experience. It came together relatively quickly, and I was pretty happy with the effects I got and the general of-the-time mood that I was able to convey. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to effectively mimic some of the distinctive commercial art of the time, but using the right medium definitely helped.


A whole new series of works!
Currently I have an exhibition on at M16 Artspace , called Interior/Exterior. These works explore the interaction between the outside world and the inside – how home can be a refuge, but also stifling, and how we try and integrate the natural world into our domestic lives.

Like my previous exhibition The Mysterious North, Interior/Exterior draws a lot from my observations from life. Unlike that exhibition, much of the imagery I worked with was very local and very domestic – my own house and yard. I’ve been resistant to depicting things in my life for so long, but now it seemed right to draw inspiration from what was so commonplace to me.

First, four paintings in watercolour and ink.

26 Suburban Species

A representative of every species of bird I’ve seen in my back yard

Encroach of the Horrible Ornamental Whatevers

A modernist house overwhelmed with the ornamental plants that plague my back yard

Sky Laundry

Dyeing transforms a domestic clothesline into something celestial

Rounding the Corner in the Evening

It’s quite something when you’re going for a walk, turn a corner and find a strange abandoned mattock. 

The next few images are woodcuts. Less a depiction of my surroundings, they explore the Victorian concept of Pteridomania, the desperate desire to collect and tame the outside world. In these works, people are engulfed by the plants they wish to tame.

Some of the woodblocks are in their original printed state, others are hand-coloured.

Bid for Freedom

Vicia Faba

Vicia Faba

Vicia Faba (uncoloured)

Vicia Faba (uncoloured)

Finally, I experimented with knitted works. Using a combination of fair isle and intarsia techniques, I created charts and knitted three images – views through windows, depicting a desire to escape from the confinement of domestic tasks.

The Light Curls Around the Maples, Early Morning

An early morning view in Canada, capturing the brilliant golden glow of the sun upon the trees and fields outside

The Light Streamed Through the Ivy, Afternoon

Ivy bursts through the glass of a shed window, bringing with it the light and air from outside

Laundry View of a Condemned House, Evening

A view at dusk of a house condemned

This last piece has particular significance, as the house depicted is one of the houses due to be demolished under the Mr Fluffy asbestos scandal. The family has long-since left and the house lies dormant, waiting for its eventual destruction.

These knitted works were the most experimental of the exhibition. I’m not entirely sure whether I’d work like this again, but it was an interesting challenge trying to reduce an image to as few colours as possible – like particularly crude pixel art.

If you are in Canberra and you would like to see Interior/Exterior, it is on until the 15th of November 2015.

A torrent of title cards!

Dear me, I haven’t updated this site in quite a while. Partly this is because I’ve been very busy with my course, partly this is because I don’t feel that the work I’ve been creating has been particularly scintillating and stellar. But I may as well share some of the title cards I’ve been doing for my show. 

House of Cards/Halt and Catch Fire

House of Cards and Halt and Catch Fire! It’s supposed to have the look of one of those great pieces of Atari box art, a style that turned out to be very hard to emulate, especially when I wasn’t using the same techniques and media as the original artists.

The following works are for my series on four Dirk Bogarde films. I thought I’d be depicting Dirk Bogarde far more than I ended up doing – he’s only in two of these. They are all done on Stillman and Birn sketchbook paper, which seems to only be available in the US and Canada (I picked up some while I was in the DC area.)

Dirk Bogarde

Dirk Bogarde in Modesty Blaise – looking suspiciously like Charlie Sheen

This is Stilman and Birn Alpha Series, supposedly good for dry media and light washes – but I found it worked very well with the use of a little watercolour.


Victim (1961)

The Servant (1963)

The Servant (1963)

The title cards for Victim and The Servant were done on Stillman and Birn Zeta Series, which is a smooth, hot-press, heavy duty surface that is supposed to be good for wet media. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to react well with waterproof ink, and watercolour also pools and blotches and dries with frilled edges on its surface, as if the surface isn’t absorbent enough (you can very clearly see the results of this in my large areas of wash). Maybe it’s supposed to be used for acrylic or oil?

Bearing this in mind, I turned back to the Alpha Series for my next image.

Death in Venice (1971)

Death in Venice (1971)

You have no idea how long it took to paint all those stripes! It’s fun painting a striped or patterned surface though, because it’s easy to indicate shape and depth without even using shadows or highlights. This work is incredibly flat.

I’m currently on a mid semester break, so with any luck, I’ll be able to speed up my painting, and maybe even turn my attention to some prints!

Oh, and just as an aside – here’s a fashion illustration I did for class. I designed an outfit for David Lynch, so now you get to see what David Lynch would look like as a fashion figure!

David Lynch design


The Mysterious North!

I’m currently in the middle of the run of my first exhibition – a show I’m putting on together with my contemporary Eadie Newman. The title refers to my time spent in Canada, walking around through waving fields and seeing gnarled trees, vast creaking buildings, and all manner of beasts scurrying and slithering and flapping in a clattering cloud into the sky. As Eadie also went on an overseas trip this year – she to Europe, and I to North America, I decided that it would be a good tribute to our respective journeys northward.

The exhibition opened on January 15th. The opening went very well indeed. Here’s a picture of early in the night.

Opening of The Mysterious North

(Eadie is in the green dress, I am a sliver of skirt off to the left.)

The exhibition will be open until January 26th. All of our works are for sale, and I am selling prints of mine. If you’re in the Canberra region and you’re interested in attending, it’s at the Front Gallery and Cafe, at Lyneham Shops.

Now that the exhibition’s well under way – here’s some more of the works I’m showing!

Field of Life Bars

This work is inspired by the computer game Stronghold. The little bars are how one measures the health of one’s troops. I played the game a little too long before I went away, and I was plagued with mental images of all the health bars, jostling together as far as the eye could see – rather like corn in a cornfield.

Birdhouse and Loon

Picton ON is known for its birdhouse city, which has birdhouse representations of nearly every building in the town. I decided that Spark Box Studio should have their own birdhouse.

The Waiting Chair


There’s not all that much to say about this one, just that it’s a slightly heightened representation of the inside of the above Ontario farmhouse.

Transitional Boreal Dwelling

I was lucky enough to travel to Bancroft, and see the transition to boreal forest. I was entranced by the swamps lining the roadside, crowded with the skeletons of trees, and decided it’d be an appropriate setting for a rather strange house I found while walking on the island.

Tree Within Trees


The island was covered in huge trees, in various states of health.

Weed Damask

The wealth of greenery didn’t just end at trees. The farms and the alleys were bursting with all manner of plant life, some familiar and some strange.

Tree's reach

And finally, a work that isn’t in the exhibition. This is a very straightforward depiction of something I saw on Mont Royal, in Montreal, once again demonstrating that when it comes to mysterious and intriguing scenes, I don’t always have to change anything.

Everything ends at exactly the right time

There are two reasons a movie is difficult to illustrate. One is that it’s dull-looking, was probably based on a play and has the cinematography of a British TV show from 1983. The other, is that the movie is so full of wonderful, intriguing imagery that you’re overwhelmed and have no idea how to sum it up in just one image. Well, I finally got around to reviewing Picnic at Hanging Rock, and it was most definitely the latter.

Picnic at Hanging Rock


In my mind, Sara, the one who was left behind, is just as important a character as the three girls who disappeared. The rest of the movie, I’ve tried to represent with a few objects – Miranda, and the rock itself. I’m represented by the powder blue gloves I wore in the review.


Yes, this time it’s walls rather than windows. More specifically, the Berlin Wall, and the movie that was screened on the very last night of its existence. That would be the East German movie Coming Out. It’s the first East German movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s about exactly what you’d expect it’d be about.


Yes, another crowd shot like the last one! The nice thing about crowd shots is I can stick myself in there somewhere and it’s not as awkward. I’m enjoying this kind of thing, but painting that many people does take some time. Except this time they’re not lavender, they’re grey, because nothing was more Eastern Bloc than the colour grey. Or something.

Happy belated 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, everyone!