Mysterious Rabbits

I have been equally fascinated by and frightened of giant rabbits since I can remember. Not giant rabbits exactly but what appear to be giant rabbits and are in fact people in rabbit costumes. I am not alone in this: I have a Pinterest board devoted to photos, mainly from the 1950’s and 1960’s of children accompanied by gigantic and often misshapen rabbits. I don’t have a clear memory of actually having had to sit upon the lap of one of these creatures yet this vague fear persists.

I do however remember that as a child my large italian family would spend Easter together at our house in Wildwood NJ . One Easter in particular when I was quite small, my cousin Cindy received a gigantic stuffed rabbit from the Easter Bunny that I remember as being at least as tall as we were. I was jealous of course, having not received one myself, but also reluctant to pass by her room on my way to the stairs for fear I would see its large, lifeless eyes peering out at me from the darkness.

This portrait is my homage to that fear of vague danger lurking in the dark. Even though he is shown emerging from the shadows, his gift of a single egg convinces me that there is nothing to be afraid of after all. Prints are available at www.curiousportraits.com

Some terrifying rabbits from my childhood

Some terrifying rabbits from my childhood

Can We Talk About the Elephant in the Room?

This pink elephant was originally begun as an homage to one of my favorite elephants of all time: the polka dot elephant from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer animated movie. Since I was a child that sad little elephant has haunted me. My childish mind couldn’t comprehend why he had been banished to the Land of Misfit Toys, I would cry to my Mother that I wanted him even if no one else did. When I was putting away my Christmas ornaments this January, including  my polka dot elephant ornament and stuffed toy the idea for this portrait was born.

Of course few paintings progress as planned and I soon realized as I painted that the polka dots were not going to work: they made him look as if he had measles which, of course, was not my intent. The half finished painting sat there for weeks in my studio staring out at me. At some point I realized that every time I passed by, the jingle from Crispy Critters would run through my mind. For those of you that do not remember Crispy Critters, it was a popular cereal in the 1960s that was 90% sugar and that came in the shape of animals: monkeys,Tigers, lions etc. At one point  pink marshmallow elephants were added and I was beside myself. According to my sister, I was already inexplicably obsessed with elephants and every time the commercial came on TV with the special Pink Elephant jingle, I went nuts. (Unfortunately I cannot find that particular jingle on YouTube so you'll have to take my word for it).

All these years later  that annoying jingle became the key to solving the problem of this painting and I went forward making the elephant a nice shade of salmon pink which, it turns out,  worked perfectly with the deep olive green ground I had already painted. The portrait pretty much finished itself from there.

So even though in color, he resembles the pink elephants of Crispy Critters, to me he remains a poignant reminder of that neglected polka dot elephant on the Island of Misfit Toys that no one wanted.

Pink Elephant Brooch and Ornament from  Curious Portraits.

Pink Elephant Brooch and Ornament from Curious Portraits.

Prints, notecards, brooches and ornaments featuring the Pink Elephant are available in my shop Curious Portraits.

 

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Wolves have gotten a bad rap over the years, especially in children’ literature. When I first thought of doing a wolf portrait, the first wolves that came to mind were from The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, both of which were rather mean and intimidating. It got me thinking of how some people who are gruff on the outside are often actually masking their own vulnerability and insecurity with their behavior. They just need someone to listen to them and offer some understanding and friendship. So I reasoned that if people could be that complex, wouldn’t it be possible that wolves could also have a softer side? Now I know that in reality wolves are nothing to take lightly but since the animals in my portraits are usually wearing clothing,  I thought I could stretch that a bit with artistic license. So here is my portrait of a woodland wolf, gathering red berry branches to liven up his little den: wise and perhaps a little stern but also kind-hearted with a gentle, sensitive side.  

Woodland Wolf Portrait-Lisa Zador

Woodland Wolf Portrait-Lisa Zador

The Three Little Pigs - illustrator unknown. McLoughlin Bro’s: New York. Ca 1900.

The Three Little Pigs - illustrator unknown. McLoughlin Bro’s: New York. Ca 1900.

Little Red Riding Hood. Illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Little Red Riding Hood. Illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Prints of the Woodland Wolf are available at my shop Curious Portraits.

Summer Project - Making my Etsy shop more searchable

It has been a busy summer and I am afraid I have neglected my readers! Back in early June I discovered a site called Etsy Ranks which connects to Etsy and gives you all sorts of useful information to help you improve your shop and search potential. It pointed out simple things like spelling errors as well as more complex things such as whether you are using enough of the given characters in your title and if you are using your tags efficiently in the first paragraph of your description. It was a real eye opener for me and even though I found for the most part that my shop was ranking high, it made me take a closer look and I was astonished to find that some of my listings which hadn't been edited in years, frankly, had terrible titles, descriptions and tags. So I rolled up my sleeves and went through the Curious Portraits shop listing by listing which took me the better part of the summer.

I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the listings of other successful sellers whom I admire and let them guide me in making my own items more marketable.  I began with my titles which are the most important searchable part of a listing and tried to think like a buyer and what terms they would likely use to search for an item. For example I changed the title Spiritualist Fox Brooch to Fox Portrait Brooch, Fox Pin, Victorian Fox, Oval, Spiritualist Fox, Gothic, Steampunk, Halloween. By doing so I was listing all the information in order of importance as well as keeping it clear and descriptive. Next I tackled the item descriptions and tried to clearly describe the item as well as suggesting ways it could be used and who it might appeal to. My original descriptions, albeit charming, were more like stories and were lacking in searchable keywords. I also made sure all my related products were shown in the photos and had proper links. Last but not least I up-dated all the keywords, making them more specific and adding in style tags such as Gothic, Victorian and Steampunk if appropriate. This was indeed a formidable task but one that clearly needed to be done and in plenty of time for the busy Christmas season. I am happy to say not only are hits to my shop steadily increasing but sales as well! Below are some of the new items I've recently added to the shop.

New Victorian Animal Notebooks feature an allover print using my favorite portraits.

New Victorian Animal Notebooks feature an allover print using my favorite portraits.

For the new 2017 calendar I up-dated the look using new animal portraits and put the dates in a grid which many of you requested for the 2016 calendar.

For the new 2017 calendar I up-dated the look using new animal portraits and put the dates in a grid which many of you requested for the 2016 calendar.

New Victorian Writer Portrait Notecards featuring Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne, three of my favorites.

New Victorian Writer Portrait Notecards featuring Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne, three of my favorites.

New Victorian Animal Necklaces.

New Victorian Animal Necklaces.

New Dog Adventurer Notecards just in time for Halloween.

New Dog Adventurer Notecards just in time for Halloween.

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram @lisa.zador  and Facebook for daily up-dates!

Cheesy Portraits - Dairy Farm Animals

The idea of painting a series of farm animals has been in the back of my mind since I visited Fox Hollow Farm while working on their wine label and met so many beautiful animals. A few weeks ago I was enjoying a particularly creamy and delicious camembert when the idea of combining my love of cheese with the farm portraits came to mind. After some research I settled on 3 of my favorite cheeses made from the milk of a cow, a sheep and a goat.

The three finished dairy animals complete with their own special cheeses.

The three finished dairy animals complete with their own special cheeses.

I painted the animals as individual portraits first. I then created the laurel wreath, the banner and the cheeses on the plates separately and put them all together in Photoshop for the final artwork.

The three original dairy animal portraits without their laurel wreath frames.

The three original dairy animal portraits without their laurel wreath frames.

I wanted them all to have a different sky. From the beginning I knew that the sheep should be on a night time sky, given the association of counting sheep, and the deep blue ground would set the white of his wool off nicely. The goat had such a cheery face that I thought he should be set against a clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds and the cow reminded me of early morning milk for my coffee and cereal so he is pictured with a colorful dawn sky.

The original sketches before I worked out the laurel wreath frames.

The original sketches before I worked out the laurel wreath frames.

I toyed with the idea of putting each cheese on a differently patterned plate, mostly because I have a passion for mismatched vintage china, but in the end I thought keeping the plate, wreath and banner consistent in all three tied them all together as a set. The portraits are all available as prints with or without the frames and cheeses in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.

Fox Hollow Vineyard Wine Label

I truly enjoyed creating this label for The Fox Hollow Vineyards. They first approached me about creating the perfect fox to use as their brand. He had to be regal yet friendly. Their vineyard used to be fox hunting land and I thought it would be a humorous choice to put him in full fox hunt garb.

We knew from the beginning that he should be seen straight on; however, in the early sketches,  I experimented with various shaped horns and hand positions until we found the perfect combination.They suggested we use a landscape as the background which I created in the original painting but then thought it would be fun to use a fox hunt themed pattern instead.I jumped at the chance and created a tonal print in black pencil to keep it soft so that when the fox image was added in Photoshop, it would stand out nicely.

They loved the pattern so much that they asked me to design a tablecloth and coordinating napkins to be used for their first wine tasting.

 

The Finished Label - The original painting - The fox hunt pattern

The Finished Label - The original painting - The fox hunt pattern

Early Sketches

Early Sketches


A Gentleman Fox for Fox Hollow Vineyards

I've just finished working on one of my favorite projects; designing a wine label for Fox Hollow Vineyards. Joe Casola and Kim Casola hired me back in December to paint a handsome and gentlemanly fox for the labels of their new wines premiering in the autumn. They were so wonderful to work with and their beautiful farm was truly an inspiration.  We began with a formal portrait of a gentlemanly fox with a landscape background representing their farm.

Fox Hunt Portrait by Lisa Zador

Once the portrait was completed Joe had the idea of isolating the fox from the background and putting some sort of pattern behind him. With all of my textile design background and love of repeating pattern, I jumped at the chance to design a fox hunting themed pattern. We wanted to keep it soft and neutral to sit nicely in the back so I drew the elements in black pencil instead of painting them in gouache as I normally would.

Fox Hunt Pattern by Lisa Zador
Fox Hollow Label Detail by Lisa Zador

We don't yet have the printed labels but Joe mocked up some sample bottles just to see how it will look! I did a blog post back in March about the design process including sketches and preliminary drawings which you can read by clicking here.

Fox Hollow Wine Labels Lisa Zador

Curious Mood Boards

I have been busy this summer freshening up my Etsy shop Curious Portraits in preparation for the holiday season. I make a habit of reviewing the product shots in the shop from time to time which I find has a similar effect of re-arranging the art on the walls. It makes everything look new! I have been very inspired by the many beautiful Mood Boards I see on Instagram and have discovered how much I love putting together cherished, vintage objects from my collection.  The result of all this is an on-going project of styling some of the items from my shop in with the vintage collectibles. They make a pleasing display and a gentle advertisement all in one!

Animal Portrait Brooches from  www.CuriousPortraits.Etsy.com

Animal Portrait Brooches from www.CuriousPortraits.Etsy.com

This is the latest in the series featuring some of my favorite vintage jewelry arranged with my Animal Portrait Brooches. I often use my own textile designs printed out as the background, this is one of my original damask stripes.

Lisa-Zador-Portrait-Miniatures

I thought that some of my vintage buttons and notions made a pleasing display when arranged with some of my Victorian inspired Portrait Miniatures. (You can read more about the inspiration and making of these here)

I used one of my favorite vintage alarm clocks in this one along with a few writing notions. I thought the soft grey of my Daisy the Squirrel Portrait Miniature complimented the color scheme.

Bingo-Mood-Board-sml.jpg

My dog Bingo also got his paws into it and created this one featuring his own portrait miniature with one of my original dog themed textile designs in the background!

New Beaded Portrait Miniatures and Mourning Brooches

I have been fascinated by the beauty of antique portrait miniatures since my first visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Uffizi in Florence. I am no expert on the subject but from what I have learned over the years is that they were often given as a keepsake by a loved one and were popular until the development of photography. Also referred to as mourning portraits they were given as a memento mori to mark the passing of a loved one or in the vanitas style of the day meant to remind the recipient of the transience of life.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Portrait Miniatures

Here are 2 beautiful examples from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.  A fascinating variation of the Portrait Miniature is the Eye Portrait.  Given as love tokens, having only the eye painted kept the identity of the subject a secret to everyone but the beloved recipient. I find the idea of this clandestine gift giving so touching .

Some examples of Georgian Lover's Eye Brooches

Some examples of Georgian Lover's Eye Brooches

My fascination with this art form led me to design a contemporary version using my own animal portraits which already have a Victorian theme. I was first introduced to the art of bead work by costume designer Ramona Ponce. I remember watching her doing her intricate bead work and just itching to get my hands into a big jar of glistening glass beads! It wasn't until I saw the embroidered bird brooches of Conieco and the whimsical wall hangings of Rebecca Purcell that I began to imagine how beautiful the combination of Victorian animal portraits and bead work could be. All the following ornaments are available in a round or oval format in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.

Here is a sample of my first set of portrait miniatures. I used the eye from my Deer Portrait as I thought it was the most alluring of all the animals!

Here is a sample of my first set of portrait miniatures. I used the eye from my Deer Portrait as I thought it was the most alluring of all the animals!

I began with a printed image of the animal and sealed it behind a resin cabochon (as I do in my brooches). I then glue that onto a double sided felt setting with a cardboard insert and a grosgrain hanging ribbon and hand sew the rows of black glass beads, which I import from the Czech Republic. A final layer of felt backing is applied to make it neat and ready to hang! The round ornaments measure approximately 2 3/4" in diameter and the oval ornaments measure 2 3/8" x 2 3/4".

 Uncle Omelette may be my favorite portrait miniature, his unusual countenance seems perfect for this presentation.

 Uncle Omelette may be my favorite portrait miniature, his unusual countenance seems perfect for this presentation.

The White Rabbit looks especially good in a round format.

The White Rabbit looks especially good in a round format.

My Headless Skeleton Ornament should appeal to all you Victoriana and Gothic aficionados out there!

My Headless Skeleton Ornament should appeal to all you Victoriana and Gothic aficionados out there!

Renaissance Reindeer

Presenting Renaissance Reindeer, the Curious Christmas portrait of 2014.  I realized this year that of all the Christmas portraits I have done I had never painted a reindeer. As I worked on his portrait I found I was using a color palette resembling that of some of my favorite Italian renaissance painters so I decided to name him the Renaissance Reindeer! 

          

 

 

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

Prints, Christmas cards, brooches, coasters and ornaments featuring his portrait are all available in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits! Merry Christmas everyone!

Outer Space Bingo

For Bingo's annual Halloween portrait this year I combined my love of Jules Verne and of 1950's sci fi movies in an homage to vintage space travel. I have always loved reading Verne's  imaginative descriptions of victorian science, particularly in From Earth to the Moon. I have also spent many Saturday afternoons as a child entranced by 1950's sci fi movies such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, Destination Moon and It Came From Outer Space to mention just a few of the many.  I also thought a lunar landscape would be the perfect counterpart to Bingo's deep sea adventure of 2013. I had so much fun combining the deep black of space with the atomic green of the cheesy moon foreground.

Let me also make it clear that Bingo was never in any actual danger during the painting of this portrait.

Outer-Space-Bingo-Lisa-Zador

Revisting The Well Bred Dog & The Well Bred Cat

I've been busy working on the new website and today realized that I neglected to include my two books, The Well Bred Dog and The Well Bred Cat! I pulled them out to scan and arrange them for presentation and was reminded of that wonderful year when my dear friend James Waller and I were working on them together. It was such an exciting project. Sometimes I would do the painting first and he would come up with a clever biography for the dog or cat and sometimes he would have an idea for a story and I would then compose a portrait to accompany it. It was a truly wonderful experience to be collaborating with someone I felt so connected to both personally and creatively.

Some of the subjects were dogs and cats who belonged to friends or who lived in my neighborhood and some were eagerly waiting to be adopted at the Humane Society of NY. Here are a few of my favorite portraits:

Bellboy-Cat-Lisa-Zador
Dog-Dandy-Lisa -Zador
Yellow-Labrador-Lisa-Zador
Pug-Portrait-Lisa-Zador
Triple-Cat-Portrait-Lisa-Zador

Copies of the The Well Bred Dog can be purchased here and The Well Bred Cat here.

Dog-Portrait-Maltese-Lisa-Zador

Of course I had to include the portrait I did of my two dogs at the time, Toby and Bingo. Bingo was less than a year old at the time!

Animal Spiritualism

One of the founding members of the esteemed Society of Psychical Animal Research established in 1880, Edmund F. Renard was one of the first animals to explore unexplained phenomena including phantasms, apparitions, spirit writing, thought transference and mesmerism. Like many of his fellow Victorians, his inherited wealth made it possible for him to study and catalogue numerous cases of unexplained events.  A leading scholar of his day, he was able to infiltrate and ultimately expose many purported mediums and in so doing increase his credibility when events arose that remained unexplainable. At a sitting with the much celebrated spirit communicator Madame Eusapia Volpe, the spirit of his beloved mother spoke to him and he remained forever a believer of the paranormal, claiming the experience gave him comfort and peace. He sat as president of  SPAR from 1880 until 1892.

 

Spiritualist Fox Portrait-Lisa Zador


Pioneering Animal Scientists of the 19th Century

I have long been interested in the place animals have had in the sciences , particularly in the 19th century which was such an exciting time for science with so many diseases being researched, when space travel was just a dream and the idea of spirits and the world behind the veil was at it's height of interest. I thought it was time to honor some of these pioneering animal scientists in a series of portraits. Here are the preliminary sketches for the first few.

Squirrel Chemist sketch

The first one naturally features a squirrel. He is shown mixing a delicate balance of chemicals in pursuit of a cure for rabies, distemper or another of the animal diseases that were once so devastating. 

Fox Spiritualist sketch

The second is of a prominent Fox who was a founding member of the Animal Society of Psychical Research which strove to research spiritualist activities from a scientific point of view. . 

Bear Scientist Portrait sketch

This bear was perhaps the first to study Astronautics and Rocketry. A true advocate of animal space exploration he dreamed of one day landing a bear on the moon.

    

 

 

The fourth in the series so far is one of the first rabbits ever to consider  space travel a possibility. He was also a great experimenter in time travel and teleportation.

Hippity Hop!

The Rabbit Coffee Roasting Co. recently licensed one of my paintings for the launch of its new espresso roast. The packaging is making a most timely debut, with Easter weekend right around the corner. I just love how my Victorian White Rabbit looks on the label!

Acorns, anyone?

I  have just finished my latest portrait of a Gentleman Squirrel. Since I love food and entertaining so much I thought I'd picture him serving up a tray of his finest roasted acorns to his guests. It is done along the lines of my other victorian inspired animal portraits but I amped up the color a bit as I thought the grey suit complimented his grey fur. As with my other squirrel portraits I've used my "pet" squirrels from my courtyard that feed daily on my fire escape as my models. Prints and also portrait brooches of the Gentleman Squirrel are available in my Etsy shop, Curious Portraits! 

Lisa Zador - www.CuriousPortraits.etsy.com
Lisa Zador - www.CuriousPortraits.etsy.com

Devoted Dog Lover or Maniacal Traditionalist?

OK, so every year I like to have my dog Bingo photographed with Santa. I know it may sound excessive to some but most dog parents would agree that these magical moments with your pet captured in time are priceless. I usually go down to the Petco in Tribeca as they are always so nice and accommodating but this year I just couldn't make it down during Santa's hours because of work. However, I located a Petsmart on Broadway and Houston that had Santa today only until 4:00 but naturally, as luck would have it, I had to work until 4. Yesterday I phoned them and simply would not take no for an answer. Always polite I begged Santa to stay until 4:30 when I would have just enough time to run home, grab Bingo, stuff him in his bag and run over to Petsmart. He kindly agreed and everything was set UNTIL nature decided to deliver a blizzard today.  I was late getting out of work and when I got home I had to rummage through my closet to find my boots and THEN stuff Bingo into his bag and head out. The wind was in my face all the way as I walked across town (not a cab to be found). I could feel Bingo's bag vibrating as he shivered inside but I didn't care, I HAD to get that photo. I run into Petsmart only to be told Santa had just left but might still be in the store so I began to run up and down the aisles calling "SANTA, SANTA...." until someone took pity on me and located him by calling his actual name which was Mark. He put on the suit and took Bingo in his arms and only then did he inform me that I was supposed to bring my own camera!!! Of course I had forgotten my phone in my frantic rush to get there on time but this very kind Santa offered to let me take the photos with HIS phone and email them to me.  I admit that he may have been motivated by fear of this maniacal dog mother with wet and bedraggled hair and a wild expression in her eyes ready to burst into tears if she did not get that photo but I prefer to think it was just good old Christmas spirit that was at the heart of his kindness. I felt so satisfied with myself for keeping up my annual tradition that walking home too quickly and smiling benevolently at the snowflakes I slipped on the ice and literally fell right on my bum, feet up in the air! Thankfully Bingo was secured in his bag and sustained no injury but I am going to have a lovely bruise tomorrow. It was all worth it, I got my damned photo against all the odds and  Bingo got a new Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer toy so we are now filled with CHRISTMAS CHEER! Merry Christmas everyone!

Bingo and Santa 2013
Bingo and Santa 2013
Bingo safe at home with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Bingo safe at home with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Face Your Deepest Fears this Halloween!

My dog Bingo is facing his deepest fear (of water) this Halloween for his annual card. He has bravely donned his diving gear to explore the mysteries of the deep. I hope he will be an inspiration to you. A very Happy Halloween to everyone! (c) 2013 Lisa Zador

Prints of Deep Sea Bingo are available in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits!