Alison Lambert – Practice and Inspiration

Alison Lambert is a contemporary artist who specialises in large scale human portraits uses charcoal and torn paper as her medium. Alan Dyer explains in the book ‘Emotion and Expression’ about how Lambert, over the years, has managed to perfect the ability to create many emotions in the work and make the viewer question which emotion is most dominate in the work. Esi Edugyan wrote an article where she talk about how she experience Lambert’s work in person and emphasised that this was so much more empowering than seeing it in books and on the internet. She explains how you can feel the physicality of the work with the large scale and intensity of the charcoal and black pastel she uses.

“the expressions are impossible to pin down in a single word and always changing combination of emotions that depend entirely on the mood of the viewer”

Two of full bodied pieces names ‘Grip’, 2001 and ‘Emergence’, 2001, were influenced by the eroded statues at Rouen Cathedral in Normandy, France. The emotion forms an expressiveness which is also evident in Lambert’s work. The faces of these two portraits shows so much pain with the intensity of the pastel and the way Lambert has framed in so much charcoal to almost blackened out the whole face.

Looking at the Emotion and Expression Book in the library, I discover the method in which Lambert uses to create the work. It is fascinating the way she uses the charcoal to create shadows and the white paper to create highlights. In the book, you can see a stage by stage break down of her process. The reason for looking into this is to discover different ways for me to produce my own work. Rather than using the extra pieces of paper to add size to the work or to cover up any mistakes, the use of paper will create highlights which can then be worked on with charcoal to create tone. The torn paper added into the work also creates texture and so the materials together form this real empowerment in her work. I feel this is a really interesting and innovative way of using your materials and feel it could be something I use in my own work.

Francis Bacon’s Life Drawings

“Every movement of the brush on the canvas alters the shape and implications of the image”  (Francis Bacon, unidentified newspaper cutting, 1960).

This quote by Bacon is fascinating because he understands that every brush strokes should be thought through and the artist should understand that every mark they make changes their work for better or for worse. I feel this quote can also be applied to drawing because no matter how big or small the marks you m are are, they all alter your work.

Francis Bacon used life drawing as a form of ‘notes’ as part of his portfolio of works. I am fascinated by his use of graphite and charcoal because he uses it kin a way which create long marks forming fluidity and movement in the work. As he uses them ‘notes’ you can almost see he’s thoughts in the work. Bacon is looking at the shape of the figure to understand it before beginning more complex interpretations. Bacon’s work has inspired me because the use of life drawing has helped develop his ability to draw and apply this to painting. The way he uses to graphite adds a sense of emotion and mentality to the work because although they are just ‘notes’, he still manages to add his feelings into the work.


The sculptural artist, Giacometti widely used drawing in his work however, he did not work from a model in his work. The reason for this is because the drawing accompanies his though process. Working from a model means you are focuses solely on the shapes and contours of the model in front of you but, as Giacometti worked with his thought process, the pencil was able to flow more so accommodate his workings. Giacometti worked through a stage in his artist career where he would draw old creations through memory. This exercise may mean the new work are distorted recreations which may even push for new ideas and new works.

Much of Giacometti’s work is categorised under ‘Surrealism’ which is art that releasing the potential of the unconscious mind’ As he worked mostly from memory in his drawing, Alberto allows his mind to flow in the creations of his work. I enjoy the way Giacometti works because he does not only use his surroundings in his work but he also uses his own mental state and thought process to interpret and influenzas ce the way he draws and creates work.

Surrealism is a more conceptual way of working and brings in the potential of the unconscious mind to take control and interpret the idea independently.

Artist Statement

As a Fine Artist, my work focusing on the exploration of human existence, looking at it anatomically as well as conceptually. I have explored the idea of our existence in a range of ways including, the universe and societal issues of body shape and anorexia but currently, I am looking into the expression of the human body through movement and distortion. I believe distorting the body enables you to truly see it. You need to look deeper, really seeing the body.

My current work explores the human body anatomically through life drawing and ‘people watching’. I am fascinated by the way the body moves naturally in day to day life. Our bodies move, distorting our shape and contours forming interesting positions. I used charcoal and chalk in mist of my work because with the use of long fluid marks, you can begin to form movement in the work. When working on quick drawings, the charcoal allows you to make fast marks to begin to form the shape of the figure.

Life Drawing

The first life drawing lesson of the year consisted for quick poses ranging between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. The short timings meant you had to trust your ability to follow lines. I found the best way to work during the shorter times, was to make long marks to create fluidity in the work. It can be quite scary using this style of mark making because there is the fear of making it wrong but, this is one of the benefits of working with charcoal because you can easily smudge it out. I was the only fine artist is the class and this was definitely evident in the different styles of drawing. The tutor, Morgan, is an animator and explained how this discipline focuses on the movement of the model and the drawing ability of the artists. This was reassuring as I am a little out of practice with life drawing. Focusing of the movement of the model is more important than the ability to draw because this will come naturally. The movement focus is more important to you because this is what I am interested in. the movement of the body and how we can distort and change our body shape to challenge the logical way it should be. The model exposed us to a wide range of poses some of which were very challenging! I am happy with most of my work but some are a lot better than others!


It was a great experience being in a class with different disciplines because  it was interesting to see the different ways people work and how to interpret the model. I will be attending as many classes as possible to build a portfolio of works throughout the year.

Figurative Art in the modern world.

Figurative artists were once identified after the arrival of the abstract art because they continue to apply parts of the real world in their work whether this is the human body, the environment or both. However, the style of working can be traced back to ancient times implying it has been a very popular way of working throughout history including Frida Kahlo, Reuben’s and Ancient Greece.  This style of working steers away from strongly conceptual work, being the polar opposite too abstract art, where it gives a clear depiction of the environment and real life. Figurative art is a very aesthetically pleasing way of working because the use of paint or drawing creates beautiful works. Being the opposite of abstract art where the audience is challenged in a more conceptual way and where they may be question ing the meaning of the work. With figurative art, the mean ing is more obvious and can be interpreted easily.

I am fascinated by figurative art because sometimes we overlook our surroundings and become too conceptual as artists so, I want to explore my surroundings more in order to stay in touch with them and have a better understanding of them. Although I enjoy abstract art, I prefer working with my environment and tackling social issues in my work. The reason for this is because I want to incorporate my understanding of the real world into my work and show it to the work for them to comment on it. The reason for this is to question society and to involve the audience in my arguments and encourage them to comment themselves. I find in today’s society many people, specially young people,  don’t comment on today’s issues including politics and cultural and so through my work I want to encourage them to begin commenting and form an argument themselves.

Lucian Freud, Girl in Striped Nightshirt, 1983-85, oil on canvas