Fran Giffard is a recent graduate from Camberwell College of Art and has just been taken on by her first London Gallery.
She draws things she would like to own, but, cannot because it would be impractical or impossible!
Please can you tell us a little about your current solo exhibition at the Northcote Gallery, Battersea - When did it open. When does it close. Which artwork is featured ....
‘Aviary’, my solo exhibition, features a collection of bird drawings. I am showing the ‘Swatches’ series, where I have drawn birds perched on a stag’s skull, or in Chinese cages, inspired by my time in Hong Kong. The birds are in colour; where as the rest of the drawing is in graphite pencil, and produced by drawing only horizontal lines.
The other pieces exhibited are my ‘Old Paper Alphabets’ where I have drawn birds onto my old Moleskin diary pages. I unbind my used Moleskine notebooks and draw the birds to fit amongst my writing, doodles and musings.
The two series refer to each other. I draw and study a species of bird on Moleskin before deciding whether I want to pursue it further and produce a Swatch piece. Quite often a Swatch drawing will be referred to in a subsequent Moleskin page. There are usually scrawled notes mentioning colours or framing. The two collections really feed off each other and you can see this when they are exhibited together.
Aviary opened at the end of April and will close on the 21st of May.
Now please can you tell us a little about yourself:
Did you enjoy drawing/making art as a child?
I loved drawing and making things as a child, but I believe most children do. I pursued Art, as a subject, through school. It was the only subject I could imagine doing all day, every day. However, I found I focussed on drawing throughout.
You have established your artwork signature based around the method of using horizontal pencil lines to construct images. What made you explore this particular method?
It was luck really. In my last year at Camberwell College of Art, decided to play with different textures in drawings. This was to add depth but also to make my work stand out. After a certain artistic level, it seems everyone can draw and shade with a fine smooth gradient, so I wanted something new. The horizontal lines were an experiment which completely paid off. Interestingly, the first piece I drew using horizontal lines, was also my first bird drawing, so the subject and technique have been pair together from the start.
Which artists do you admire?
It is not so much the person I admire, but the work ethic. I admire artists with a determined practice, who work all hours and try their hardest. Anyone who has achieved success through perseverance deserves admiration. Artists seem to have a bad reputation when it comes to working, a similar reputation to students, and it is highly frustration to try and counter this.
Which artists do you feel have influenced your work/style?
Most recently, I’ve been influenced by Mondrian. I had seen his paintings as a child and foolishly considered them simple. I recently went to an exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, featuring Mondrian and Nicholson. I saw the rhythm of the lines within his paintings and how these balance the empty spaces. I also enjoy the way his pieces are quite stark. I like the heavy contrast between the black lines, pale spaces and the limited but bright primary colours.
I enjoy the imaginative drawings by Charles Avery of his fantastical Islanders. His determination to create an encyclopaedia, documenting his fictional island, is impressive.
I feel the influence but also take comfort from Ornithological Natural Illustrations.
There is no reality to the composition of my drawings. I arrange the birds so that the layout of the piece works as a whole.
I draw the birds in cages, as a cage has a flexible structure, but offers a perfect contrast to the birds. You can appreciate the ridged yet rhythmical graphite cages independently from the bright, aquarelle birds, and then see how they complement each other as a whole. In each piece, the birds appear to interact, but these are idealised scenarios, showing off the creatures’ beauty in an amicable setting. The situation is fictional.
Natural Illustrators do a similar thing. They want to present an animal in the best way possible, so that it is recognisable but also aesthetically pleasing. I prefer the pieces without a background, just a simple branch for the bird to perch on, so there is nothing to distract you from the beautifully study.
You travel abroad frequently to visit family. Would you consider living abroad permanently in the future?
I think it would be fun to live abroad, but at the moment, I could not imagine living away from London. As an artist, it is fantastic to have such a concentration of galleries, museums and parks, all in one area. I spend so much of my time working, it is refreshing to be able to jump on a bus and go to the Natural History Museum. It is easy long for foreign places and then forget what is available where you are.
Are you a city or countryside person?
I am a city person. I enjoy the countryside and I love going for long walks and getting very lost or wet. I cannot drive though, so I feel quite dependant on others while I am there. I prefer the freedom I have in the city.
Where is your favourite place in the UK and your favourite place outside the UK?
My favourite place in the UK is probably my studio. I truly love drawing and feel odd if I do not draw for a day or two. My favourite pieces have been produced there, so it has good memories.
My favourite place outside the UK is a tricky question, but it is probably Grape Bay Beach in Bermuda. I could happily lounge on the sand or in the sea for hours.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
I do not like to think. I work hard so that I do not have to consider other options.
What is your favourite time of day?
I have two:
11 am, when the lighting in my studio is perfect for drawing and photography.
12.30 am, when I am getting tired and thinking of going to bed and everything is quiet outside.
What is your favourite season?
Again, I have two: spring and autumn.
In both, when you have the slightest of warm days, you hope that summer has arrived or summer is lingering. Summer is usually damp and winter is only fun till Christmas, afterwards I long for spring.
Do you write a blog or keep a diary?
I do not keep a personal diary, I just have my Moleskins that keep track of my life.
What type of books do you like to read?
Sadly I find that I rarely have time to read. I usually work very late, till I am tired, and then I just sleep. I listen to audio books and the BBC IPlayer all day, while I work. The last book I listened to was Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.
When you are not creating art what do you enjoy doing?
I rarely take a break from drawing. When I do, I usually walk all over London, from home to museums and exhibition. I find that if I am not drawing, the day goes by very slowly, so I like to spend as much time as I can, out and about.
How have you found your experience of being a PURE arts group selected artist?
I’ve enjoyed working with PURE Arts group. It is great to have an artist collective outside London that are so well organised and offer so many opportunities.
Do you think winning the best overall artist award has made a difference to your career so far?
It certainly has. It is always so elevating to hear that people like my work, but to be called ‘Best Overall Artist’ was completely wonderful.
Also, quite simply, to win the prize money was fantastic. It went straight into framing my other drawings, which were subsequently exhibited. Everything I earn goes back into my practice, so again, winning that money was fantastic. I wish I could say that I went on holiday, or used it to buy something memorable, but it just went straight back into funding my work.