Louisa Giffard

Month: January, 2018

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

black and white birdsnbg

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.


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)


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


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.


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.


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

horse engraving

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.