Thursday, December 12, 2013

Two small, whimsical paintings

These two small paintings were auditions of a sort. I wanted to see how I liked the objects as models.  I think you may see them again. I already have ideas for my Neanderthal friend in a more elegant setting. In the meantime, here are two very affordable original oil paintings.

 Blue Egg Cup, oil on linen panel, 6 x 6

Old Boyfriend, oil on gessoed panel, 8 x 8

For more information, contact me at

Monday, November 18, 2013

A little bit more on printmaking

This week I posted about etching, drypoint, linocut, and woodcut as methods for making durable, quality prints by hand. I also experimented recently with "soft ground" etching, which delighted me by producing a print that looks like a drawing.

"Soft ground" is a softer version of the "hard ground" wax used for etching. When etching with hard ground, one must use a needle to scratch the image into the hard wax. For this technique, one can press a design into the soft ground with a pencil. One transfers the image by drawing on a piece of newsprint placed over the wax-coated metal plate. The wax will stick to the other side of the paper, leaving a duplicate image on the plate, ready to be exposed to the acid.

I lay this little sketch (based on a drawing I made last summer, at the Kenai River) on top of a plate waxed with soft ground. I went over it with a pencil, pressing my marks into the wax.

 When I lifted my drawing off the plate, this image, in wax, appeared on the reverse of my paper:

Wherever the wax stuck to the paper, the plate was exposed. Into the acid bath it went. Then I inked it and ran it through the press with a piece of wet paper. Here is the print:

Now I can make as many of these as I want! Neat, isn't it? 

I like this image a lot, but I liked the soft brown of the wax so much I might print it again using a sepia colored ink. I could also hand color the final print with watercolor to give it the Alaska Landscape finishing touch. Mostly, I want to experiment more with this wonderful, simple way to make prints.

Next post, back to oil painting. I am doing some small pieces (6 x 6, 8 x 8) which will be very affordable, especially if bought unframed. Stay tuned, shoppers.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Little Background on Jack Lambert

I mentioned a few posts ago that my grandfather, Jack Lambert, had attended Art Students League. Some readers found that interesting, so I thought it would be fun to post a few pieces of his work.

These examples are both inscribed to his friend Allen Porter, who met my grandfather in the 1940's, when Allen, as a very young man, worked at the Chicago Sun. My grandfather also worked at the Chicago Sun, as a cartoonist. Later he moved on to the Baltimore Sun, and stayed there until he retired in the 1960's.

Allen became an accomplished designer, and a member of the Chicago Bauhaus community. He found me online and offered me these pieces, which I readily accepted. He has graciously kept in touch and encouraged me in my work.

This image, an original drawing for a cartoon, dates from about 1943, according to Allen. The issue of red-baiting must have been in the news. The pencilled caption on the cartoon is "Let's Ration Red Paint." As you can see, my grandfather packed a lot of energy into an image, just what a cartoonist needs to do. I love the classic, 20th century look of this character, especially the spats!

Allen also sent me this photograph. My grandfather was an innovator, combining photography, sculpture, and cartooning. He used this same technique on two covers for Look Magazine, illustrating the Democratic and Republican convention coverage. On one, painted clay sculptures of donkeys are running across the page, on the other it's elephants. This example evidently was an illustration for the war bond drive. Two of his sons were in Europe, pilots in the Army Air Corps, at the time.

This little guy has spats too.

I am very pleased to have this photo. Many of my grandfather's sculptures were in clay, and used for purposes such as this. Later he used the clay for new pieces, so none of them has survived. He was a funny guy, and a serious artist. When, as I child, I asked him for advice about how I could become an artist he told me just one thing. "Learn to draw."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Some corrections, and more on printmaking

I wrote several things in the last post that were not accurate. First, regarding Japanese woodblock prints, I should have noted that they were not printed on a press. Those prints were hand-rubbed onto the paper.

Second, I said that for my color linocut print "Eden" I printed the dark outlines first, then the color sections. In fact, the colors went through the press first, then the outlines were printed on top.

Third, I talked about putting the "Falling Sword" plate into a dye bath, when I should have said acid bath! Alert printmakers will have caught my mistakes. Did my time dying wool gave me a wooly brain?

Now a note about another way to make prints from a copper plate: drypoint.

Drypoint does not require an acid bath, because the grooves are made on the plate directly with a sharp point. The drypoint grooves have edges, like a furrow, which catch the ink and hold it, giving a deep rich tone to the darks. The effect is softer than etching. You can see the difference in two images I made of the same object.

I began to make an etching of a basket, but I didn't like the first state, so I set the plate aside and started over on a new plate. The print is very small, 3 x 4 inches, so I had not lost much effort. Here are some states of the etched basket.

First state:

A state from the middle of the process:

The last state:

I then went back to the plate of my first, failed attempt and used it to experiment with drypoint. While this version began as an etching, you will see that it ended up with softer, darker qualities.

Looking at these last two images, I wonder, which do you prefer? Because these prints are from two different, plates, I could do an edition of either, both, or neither of them.

Here, by the way, are the two plates. The etched basket:

The drypoint basket:

I would love to hear from you. Which one you think would be best for an edition?

My New/Old Love, Printmaking

Along with drawing and painting the figure, while I was in New York I renewed my familiarity with printmaking.

One frequently sees the term "print" used to refer to a reproduction of a work of art,. These can be posters, or the more expensive "giclees" produced digitally from photographs. In this post, I am discussing the older technology of making a print by hand on a printing press.

The "press" of rollers under pressure transfers the image from a metal plate, a block of carved wood, or other hand-prepared, inked surface into damp or very lightweight paper. The product can last for many centuries. You have probably seen such prints by Rembrandt, or woodblock prints by great Japanese artists of the past.

Printmaking is process-rich and lots of fun! It is thrilling to put a plate through the press and then raise the paper up, seeing the image in its new form. Having just joined a printmaking co -op in Anchorage, I will soon be doing more.

I got into printmaking in college, many years ago. I still have some of those pieces, here is one, a woodblock from about 1968.

Later, I took a class at University of Alaska. This etching titled "Family Portrait" from 1987, commemorates my time living on a boat in Kodiak with my young son, husband, and the dog. If it looks a little grim, well, it was!

The process of etching involves coating a metal plate with wax, cutting through the wax with tools to make the image, bathing the plate in acid to bite away grooves where the metal is exposed, putting ink into the grooves (or tiny dots, as the gray areas on this plate had) and running it through the press with paper. Voila!

At that same period I experimented with multicolor linoleum block printing, with this result, titled "Eden". (Forgive the reflections on the glass, this one was photographed in its frame.) The dark outline was carved and printed first, then each separate color was inked onto a piece of paperboard and dropped into place for a second trip through the press.

Here is a sequence of "states", or increasingly developed images, from my recent studies in New York. This is a simple etching.

State 1 of "Falling Sword":

A state midway along the process, after a few trips back to the acid bath and the press:

The last and seventh state. From here I can continue to develop the image, or print an edition of 20 or so, mat them, and sell them to people who want very affordable original art!

Finally, here is the plate. (The dark spot at upper left is just my shadow, its 's hard to take a photo of such a reflective material.) I love working with copper, it's lovely.

Re: the photos in this post, several are slightly distorted as they were taken quickly with a hand held camera. The corners really are square, despite what you see here. I preferred to get this post out quickly rather than set up the good camera and lens, that's a morning's work all by itself.

I hope this will give you some idea of the process and of the value of a genuine "print" made by hand, by a human printer on a real mechanical press.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Report from New York, Part 2

All my instructors emphasized the importance of values. In this context, value refers to the lightness or darkness of a section of a drawing, painting, or print. Very dark areas are referred to as "low" value, and very light areas as "high" value. To depict anything in a realistic manner, the values must be rendered correctly, which is harder than it sounds. Conceivably, one could work with two, three, or beyond twenty levels of value. We did lots of value studies.

This drawing (18 x 24) was a month-long value study. The model posed for 20 days, 3 hours a day (with breaks), giving me a rare opportunity to develop the drawing. However, I made the mistake of adding the background somewhat late in the process, only to discover that I had to change all the values of the figure, in order for the whole image to make spatial sense. Lesson learned!

The model below was beginning a 4 week pose, but I had to leave at the end of 4 days. I sped up my process, but the drawing (18 x 24) is unfinished. I was struck by the model's dignified bearing, and wanted to do her justice. It would have been very satisfying to show the rich darks of the shadows moving down the figure from the head, through the arm, along the leg, to the feet. Even so, I learned much from this drawing. 

My color studies over the last few years, combined with all that practice on values, helped me greatly on this 2 week figure study. Again, a wonderful model. 

Our figure painting instructor, Dan Thompson, gave me permission to be as colorful with this piece as possible, which was lots of fun. As noted, it is just a study (20 x 24), and my time ran out before I could finish that extended arm and hand.

Next post, a short tutorial on etching.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Report from New York, Art Students League Part 1

I spent the month of October in New York, attending classes at the Art Students League. I was following in the footsteps of my grandfather, Jack Lambert. He attended the Art Students League approximately 100 year ago, then went on to be a well known political cartoonist, as well as a portraitist and sculptor. I had fun picturing him working alongside me in the same studios!

My instructors, Michael Grimaldi for figure drawing, Dan Thompson for figure drawing and painting, and Bill Behnken for printmaking, were all outstanding. I also admire and appreciate the models who pose for ASL classes. They maintain the same position during every class period for up to 4 weeks. Their talent and professionalism are key to the student experience.

Our instructors emphasized the importance of understanding, at great depth, the energy and structure of a living body. In the drawing below, if you look very closely, you will see that I made lines going through the figure, noting the angle of hips, ribcage, head, and feet in relation to the entire figure. (The lines are easier to see if you click on the image to enlarge.) I also found anatomical landmarks, such as the top of the pelvis, and the connection point of the thigh and hip bones. Learning to get these angles and structures right saves a lot of trouble later on! This was a 20 minute pose.

Later in the month we worked with much shorter poses, and I found that practice had brought me some progress. Below is a page from my last week at ASL, four 5-minute poses (the arrows indicate light direction.)

I got to work on the same kind of "starting moves" in Dan Thompson's painting class. In the oil sketches below, I tried to capture the model's gesture and energy, while also noting the physical structures most key to the pose.

On this next one you can see Dan Thompson's visual notes on the right side, helping me to see how to keep the whole figure as open as possible as I worked.

This is not glamorous stuff, but it is very important to the skill and craft of being a painter. If anyone reading this went to an art school where these things were not taught, I know you are jealous reading this! Next post, a little more color, I promise.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Memories of Summer

Here are the last florals of the summer, with the flowers that were most plentiful in my garden, nasturtiums and lobelia (some of my favorites!) The piece below also features a red cup I fell in love with, plus some of my collection of glass bits. 

The piece shown below is a pastel on paper. Colorful, isn't it? Pastel just tempts me to go all out with the color, it is such a lush medium. This piece looks great in a mat, the energy is nicely contained, just the thing to brighten a winter day.

Red Cup with Blossoms and Shards
Oil on Linen Panel
9 x 12

Bed of Nasturtiums
Pastel on Paper
11 x 15

For more information, contact me at

Sunday, September 29, 2013

An opportunity

Hi all,
This is a note to let you know that if you would like to buy a small piece at a reasonable price, this one is going to be available in October at International Gallery of Contemporary Art, as part of their 100x100 show. The show title refers to the fact that they get as many members as they can to enter a small piece priced at $100 (or less.)

This one is selling for $100. It's nicely framed, and would be an attractive, warm presence in a kitchen or dining area

The show opens on October 4, at the usual late afternoon First Friday hours. Otherwise, they are open Tuesday through Sunday noon to 4PM. The address is 427 D Street, Anchorage, AK. I hope you will make a visit and see what is on offer, a purchase will benefit a very unique gallery and all the artists associated with it.

Squash Study
Oil on linen panel
6" x 8"

Saturday, September 21, 2013

August Floral SOLD!

Not 24 hours after posting this painting on the blog, I had inquiries about availability and price. This afternoon I delivered the painting to the new owners, which was very exciting. As you can see by the photo (that's me on the left), they are pleased, too.

In fact, they expressed a hope that this sale, coming so soon after I published the photo, will inspire others to follow through quickly to inquire about a work they admire. I can only agree! Don't hesitate to contact me for more information when you are interested in one of my pieces.

If you regret missing out on this one, there will be more. I was able to complete a different floral to my satisfaction, to be posted soon. It is very different from this one, less formal overall, but it turned out pretty well. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

August Bouquet

Most of these blossoms were growing in my Alaska garden during the month of August, thus the title. It started as a quickly assembled decoration for the table when I had guests early in August, and eventually became this painting. Those of you who know of my fascination with the artist Raphealle Peale may see some influences here. I like the way he sometimes uses vines as a device to impart a sense of movement to his composition.

August Bouquet
12 x 14
oil on linen panel


For more information, contact me at

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Noodling around in the summertime

This summer I finally went full time with the artwork, but, inevitably, other activities worked their way into my schedule: time at a remote cabin, and a trip to the Kenai river, getting in a winter supply of  salmon. And we got a dog, so I became a dog trainer. Life, in other words, intervened. Nevertheless, I noodled around with my sketchbook. Here are some results.

A graphite study of the birch just outside the cabin bedroom:

A quick watercolor of Mt. St. Elias, one of our prettier volcanos. That's the Kenai river in the foreground, where my friends were fishing for salmon while I kept the dog company!

I spent some time in the studio as well. Thinking about a still life I want to tackle, I made this preliminary sketch in charcoal. The second photo gives you an idea of how things are set up in the studio. Such a small space, but all mine.

There are no finished oil paintings in this post because I worked on painting florals for the rest of the summer. Florals are a challenge! Of three paintings started, I am satisfied with only one. It is drying and waiting for varnish and its "official" photograph, coming in a week or so. 

Our summer is ending, and I am headed east for a month of classes. I'm excited to see what will come of an intensive period of painting and drawing. More on all that later. I hope you had an enjoyable summer!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gold Pitcher, Noble Ladies

I am playing around with fabric backgrounds. My experiments are not always successful, but there is something about this one I like.

Behind the pitcher is a Japanese textile showing some ancient court ladies, with their long tresses and billowing robes.

My reflection is visible on the surface of the pitcher, backlit, so it is just a shadowy form.

I hope you like my experiment too.

Now, just for fun, I'll tell you what happens to a painting after the last brushstroke.

First, it dries for several weeks, then I varnish it.

Then I gather lamp stands, high temperature bulbs, diffusion filters, extension cords, an easel, a bubble level, a tape measure, a tripod, a camera and a lens. I mount the painting, level it and the camera, and measure to equalize the light from all directions. I take 3 shots, at different exposures.

I bring the camera to the Mac, download my shots, check for glare reflection, color accuracy, focus, and that the image has nice, square corners. When all is finally right (2 tries for this painting), I crop the image to just the painting, make a few color corrections, then I save the image in various sizes.

I put my copyright on the web size shot. I post it here, on Facebook (Carol Lambert Paintings and Drawings), and sometimes on my website. I also create an inventory page for the piece. I frame the painting, and, when it sells, I record my costs, the buyer's contact information, and the price. That's the whole process. Someday I will have a brilliant assistant to do it all.

Until then, you can contact me directly.

Gold Pitcher, Noble Ladies

11 x 14
oil on linen panel
For more information, contact me at

Friday, May 10, 2013

Head of a Young Girl, after Greuze

I'm still working on heads and faces.

I found a book with some great photos of drawings by the French painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725 - 1805). He painted genre scenes that are coming back into favor, though they tend to  sentimentality.

However, his drawings are another matter entirely. There is no better way to appreciate his skill than to attempt a master copy of one of his drawings. I hope to do several in the coming weeks. This Head of a Young Girl is deceptive in its simplicity. It is balanced as finely as a suspension bridge.

Here is the copy in process.

You can see that I failed to capture the subtle head tilt. I noted the error and continued, knowing that even an imperfect copy could teach me much. How did he get that expression of guileless innocence, just a bit serious, a bit sweet? I'm still wondering, but in the process I gathered some clues.

Here is the final copy. Conte pencil on paper.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

One Year of Figure Drawing Practice

Before the Upstairs Studio co-op disbanded, I used my little studio to do some "long pose" (4 hour) work with one of the figure models. That was about a year ago. Here is an example of a drawing from that period.

Looking back on it now, it is an ok drawing, but not very lifelike.

During my recent fun with our figure drawing group at University of Alaska, we were able to have long pose sessions (3 hours) a few times. Here is my first for 2013:

I saw some improvement, the figure looks more natural. But I didn't like how I failed to use the available space on the page. I vowed to get those drawings bigger!  My next effort pushed the edges nicely.

Same model, very different energy.

The school year came to a close, but we had time for a final session with one model in one pose for 3 hours. (Don't worry, they get breaks every 20 minutes. These models are truly wonderful. It takes strength and discipline to hold a pose.) Here is the last drawing. You can see that my work on hands helped me on this one.

All the drawings shown here are graphite on paper, except the third on the page, which was done with charcoal pencil on paper.

It's a great opportunity to work with a live model. Looking over these 4 drawings, I hope you will see some improvement. I encourage anyone out there learning to draw to seek out a figure drawing group and get some practice.

Friday, May 3, 2013

More Anatomy Study, Hands

I said in my last post that the next one would feature a master copy of a charming young woman, but I got sidetracked. My figure drawing efforts were running into trouble in the hand department, so I took a trip over to that part of the body.

There is a fine old tradition of drawings of the artist's left hand. Here is my left hand, done about a year ago, I didn't spend a lot of time on it, but I offer it as comparison for what I have been doing recently.

Following the sequence our study group uses, I copied some construction drawings and a master drawing. Below you see two drawings of the hand as a set of squared off parts. I copied the top one from the Russian Academy book I have mentioned before, Fundamentals of Drawing. I found the bottom one in Dynamic Anatomy by Burne Hogarth.

The drawing on the right side of the page above is my master copy, also from Burne Hogarth's book. Below you see a photo of Hogarth's drawing, which I used for reference.

Then I got to work on the drawing from life. My 2013 left hand, below, took a bit longer than the one I made in 2012. I can see that these studies are helping me to develop anatomical understanding.

I hope you find these exercises interesting. There will probably be some pretty ladies in the next post.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More fun with facial planes

After making copies of the structural drawings of the face in the Russian Academy book Fundamentals of Drawing (see last post) I went in search of a photograph to copy, since that is another step in the series of exercises we have been doing as we study each part of the body.

It is surprisingly hard to find good photos that show the planes of the face. Once you start looking, you realize that portrait photos in commercial publications are invariably softened. I recalled seeing an impressive photo closeup of Vladimir Putin's face in The New Yorker, and located the issue. This amazing photo appears on page 94 of the December 19 & 26 issue of 2011, as part of a photo essay by the photographer Platon.

I was intrigued at Platon's use of the camera's tendency to distort closeups of the face, making the nose look larger, the rest of the face look longer and narrower, which he further enhanced with the black background. Spooky! Given this treatment, Mr. Putin looks like a feral rodent. The planes of the face, however, can be discerned, so I decided to copy this photograph. I used graphite on paper.

I seem to have got carried away with the big nose, it's even bigger in my drawing. I did what I could to delineate the facial planes, even though they are a bit washed out in the original photo.  Most of all, I was fascinated with the facial expression, very hard to capture, of deadpan, um, deadness. A very instructive exercise. Hats off to photographer Platon.

Moving on to a character with a bit more personality, I did my "life" study (another step in our series of exercises) of the head on one of the skeletons at the UAA drawing studio. These are charcoal pencil and white pastel pencil on toned paper.

So who is the spookiest? Putin or the skull?

Next post, at least one master copy of a charming lady, nowhere near as scary.