Louisa Giffard

Commercial

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.

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Interior/Exterior

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

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.

Walls

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.

titlecard

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!

The most lavender of marriages

Ah yes, a title card! It’s been a long time since I’ve had an opportunity to a) put myself in a title card and b) make it kind of stupid.

Some movies are hard to turn into visual interpretations, because they’re not movies you’d really remember for their visuals. The 1990s gay comedy In & Out is one of those. You can’t really represent the irritating camp nature of I Will Survive in an image, so I took a different approach.

It's your wedding, I hope you're having a nice time!

It’s your wedding, I hope you’re having a nice time!

It’s rather fun doing something nearly in monochrome, and having the opportunity to draw a hundred near-anonymous people rather than fussing about likenesses. Doing everything in lavender does make me feel like I’m colouring a panel of The Phantom though.

I just realised this is the second time I’ve drawn a crowd of vague blurry people in a church.

Canada

I recently had the privilege of spending four weeks at the wonderful Spark Box Studio, a residency in Prince Edward County. There, I was surrounded by farmland and the sizzling sounds of cicadas, the shuffling expanses of cornfields and the cries of wheeling, screaming jays. Rural landscapes in Canada are very different to the countryside in Australia, in almost every conceivable way. The animals you disturb while walking are different. The farmland is different (crops, rather than livestock – I haven’t been to many crop-growing areas in Australia, and my city is slap-bang in the middle of what was historically sheep country.) The buildings are different, built for different conditions – huge barns like aircraft hangars, crumbling facades of historic houses where doorways end in midair.

I managed to complete a small series of works while there, working on and off while gathering visual information wherever I trampled on the island. As I’ll be having an exhibition in January, I won’t be showcasing all of my works yet (for all my non-local readers, I’ll put the works up online, in time.) However, here are a few that might give viewers an idea what I’ve been working on.

Canada house

The buildings especially really stayed with me. Here, finally, were the absurd Victorian dwellings that depicted in my previous work – and they were everywhere around me! Simply walking around the country revealed dozens of strange buildings, some needing a new context, others hauntingly weird on their own.

I didn't have to change anything

I rounded one corner and saw a caravan, isolated in the middle of the woods, windows boarded up and a pile of firewood next door. Needless to say, I got out of there as fast as I could.

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Some buildings looked as if they’d outlived their usefulness and littered the landscape like shipwrecks.

As well as my paintings, I did a series of objects. These are made of thermal plastic (what you might know as “shrinky dinks” ) kindly provided by one of my hosts at the residency. Each piece is less than 6 cm/2.5 inches wide

img044 - Version 3

img044 - Version 2

 

(This is the distinctive milkweed plant that proliferates across the country)

img044

This last piece is a magnolia warbler I had the opportunity to see up close at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory. This piece is particularly tiny – half the size of the others.

Of course, my trip ranged rather further than just Prince Edward County, and I was able to take photographs of a lot of very strange and unusual things. As a consequence, more work will probably come soon, featuring other aspects of the North American continent.

 

 

The Colour Scheme

When I walked into a second hand store and bought a ludicrous striped shirt in 2008, I had no idea how much that shirt would come to influence my work. Yes, whenever you see this incredibly obnoxious combination of colours, it’s because of that impulse purchase – of a shirt that was obviously far too garish for its original owner. Whenever I’m too uncreative to think of a good way to incorporate myself into a title card…out comes the colour scheme! It’s just a very convenient shorthand for my show.

titlecard

I think I’ve managed to employ it to new heights of hideousness this time! Hopefully a hideousness that’s so eye-burning, it becomes almost compelling. At least that’s my excuse. The picture still works if you convert it into black and white, by the way.

You’re tearing me apart!

Before that line was associated with the heinous antics of crater-faced Tommy Wiseau, it was said slightly histrionically by James Dean, in his most famous movie, Rebel Without a Cause.

titlecard

One of the main things I learned from this movie is that to be regarded as a chicken is the worst thing of all. (Kind of funny, considering that the director was a bit of a chickenhawk himself, so the constant chicken motif has an added dimension.)

Oh, and fathers who do any sort of housework are unmanly and terrible, and should be hitting their wives in the face instead. Hooray!