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.

Watership Downton

Even rabbits had a class system it seems, in Edwardian England. Mr. Carson and Mrs. Padmore of Downton Abbey have nothing on this Rabbit Butler and Cook. They are all ready to serve up their own carrot delicacies and spread some good old British cheer!


Prints, Note Cards and Brooches are available for purchase in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.

Curiously Portable Portraits

I have been very pleased over the years that my portrait brooches have been so popular in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.  I have however been asked many times if they were available larger. The original size was 1" in diameter and I have happily found that the bronze settings I use are now available in an oval format of 1 1/4" x 1 5/8" which is absolutely perfect. I really enjoyed setting up a photo template that would be consistent for the series and chose my treasured vintage edition of The Tales of Babar for the background. Since Babar was perhaps the first anthropomorphic animal to win my heart  I thought it would be a fitting tribute. Now you can take your Curious Portraits with you wherever you go! I will be adding more portraits in the shop including all your Halloween and Christmas favorites.

The Tales of Babar

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

Two Wonderful Blog Posts about Yours Truly

I want to mention today how honored I am to have been featured on two wonderful blogs this week!

The first is by Evelyn Pelati, a talented jewelry designer who has a knack for finding interesting artists, craftsmen and designers to write about on her blog.  Just click the image to read more of her post about yours truly! You can see her beautiful jewelry on her website:


The other one is called Papoose Clothing by Ashley Duggan Smith who makes the most adorable and charming children’s clothes. Just click the image to read more of this wonderful post. You can find her unique clothing line in her Etsy shop Papoose Clothing.

papoose clothing-curious portraits

Thank you Evelyn and Ashley for your very kind words about my work!


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!

A Canine Up-date

I thought I would follow up the "Dog Portrait Deconstructed "post I did about a week ago with some adorable photos Luckie's owners sent me ... Luckie checking out her portrait

Here she seems to be sizing it up and deciding whether she approves or not...

Luckie with Ptg

And happily it was an enthusiastic YES. Phew! Dogs can be such harsh critics.

Lovebirds Collection

Love Birds pair I have really been enjoying working on this series of decorative illustrations and textile designs, it has been a nice break from my usual dark, moody work! This group began as a simple bird illustration, I was going to use various song birds but as I worked it out I had the inspiration to put love birds on a swing together. I think it is so touching that love birds mate for life, they seemed like the perfect subject matter at this time of year with Valentine's Day approaching. Once I painted them I fell in love with the colors and decided to make the whole thing about love birds. I used a pink ground which is unusual for me but it seemed perfect for the aqua, mint, butter and melon in the birds. The two pieces above are available as prints and notecards in my The Curious Kitchen shop on Etsy.

Bird Toile Detail

Love Birds Stripe - Plates


New Halloween Portrait - The Raven



This year for my Halloween portrait I chose the subject of one of my favorite poems, Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. I find such delight each year at this time in reciting Poe's poems out loud. His words just tumble and roll off the tongue. I imagined Poe's raven would be well groomed and dapper as was the style of the day and portrayed him as such.

More Cat Art from a Dog Person

My friends are beginning to wonder about my self professed allegiance to the canine community because I seem to be painting so many cats these days. It all began about  a year ago when I painted my first victorian cat dandy. Cats are such an interesting subject. Unlike dogs, they resemble each other and it is pretty easy to imagine a generic cat image. Dog breeds on the other hand are so distinctive and you really have to decide upon a particular one when faced with a portrait. Even the typical mutt varies so much in color and size. There is also something so sublime about the expression on a cat's face. They can say so much with so little and there always seems to be a hint of irony in their eyes. This new portrait was motivated by a request from an Etsy customer who wanted to feature the cat portrait in her engagement photos for her up-coming wedding and asked if I had a female version of Cat Dandy. I had been wondering myself why I always seem to paint my animals as males and I think it is less a matter of reverse chauvinism than that of plain old wardrobe preferences. I am so drawn to the simplicity and symmetry of a suit and tie and adore the fancy bows and lapels of victorian times, not to mention the hats. However I thought this request was an opportunity for me to challenge myself and this Lady Cat is the result. I realized that her clothes need not be frilly and dainty, she could, for instance, be on her way to a hunt and so be wearing her best riding attire. I like to imagine her independent and free spirited, not a slave to the wardrobe conventions of her time. In any event my Etsy customer was very pleased and I will share her engagement photos as soon as I receive them.

This cat portrait was inspired by a tiny statue I spotted in Lambertville a few years back. If I remember correctly it was originally a cat inside of a bird house but I imagined it in a more Sylvester/Tweety type of situation. Naturally I had to put the cat in a suit and tie and I also had to be sure that the bird won out in the end. I couldn't bear to think otherwise being such a bird lover myself.

Hippity Hop

Why is it that rabbits always seem to be in such a hurry? Perhaps they are simply punctual by nature, which in my opinion, is a good thing. This portrait began as any other rabbit you would find in your yard (wearing a suit) but as it progressed I just couldn't keep myself from adding in the pocket watch! It must be the inevitable influence of Alice in Wonderland that I could not resist and I do think it adds to his gentlemanly appearance. He is now available in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits as a print, notecards and as a brooch. Happy Easter!

Old Fashioned Cat Dandy

Now what can this dapper cat be up to? He is certainly a gentleman and seems to befriend mice. He must be a cat that marches to the beat of his own drum. I was so happy with my Headless Skeleton portrait done in sepia tones that I decided to go the same route with this portrait. I believe it  gives the impression of being a vintage photograph for those who appreciate a good old fashioned cat portrait from yesteryear. Prints of him are available in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.

A very nice post from the Pet Museum

Andree from the Pet Museum wrote this lovely post about my animal portraits and I thought I would share it:


lisa zador and a magical cat

image copyright and by kindest permission of Lisa Zador
You knew it. You knew there was a reason why your cat keeps examining you with that analytical look in her eyes. Why she always lands on her feet. How she can leap up and do a triple lindy in midair after that pesky fly and never miss a step. Well, Manhattan artist Lisa Zador has painted it all for you. Here's her "Portrait of a Mathematical Cat," just one of a world full of clever creatures. You can meet them all at her perfectly named Etsy shop, Curious Portraits.
Of this particular portrait Lisa writes, "This is a portrait of Atticus, a genius among cats. Always obsessed with mathematical logic as a youngster he went on to become one of the leading cats in his field."*
Lisa herself is an artist and animal lover living and working as an illustrator / textile designer in New York for over 20 years. Originally from Philadelphia, she now shares her home in Manhattan’s West Village with her dog Bingo. Her first dog Toby was the inspiration for her portraits of dogs and cats. He became the subject of many Christmas cards over the years, which eventually led to having 2 books of animal portraits published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang in 2001: The Well Bred Dog and The Well Bred Cat.

also copyright and kindest permission of lisa zador

This is Lisa's portrait of Rosie, the unexpected Chihuahua, who came to live with Lisa and Bingo after her "mom" passed away. Though she has some health challenges and is now pretty much blind, she's still alive and kicking! Animals are great that way. Bless you, Rosie!
More on Lisa: she's nothing if not nostalgic, and you can feel her fondness for good things and days gone by in her work. "I feel that everyday objects close to our hearts have their own noble beauty just because they mean so much to us," Lisa says. "I try to bring out their unique qualities and a little of the personalities I see in their faces. Seeing them come to life on the canvas is always a magical moment for me! I work in oil on either canvas or wood panel in a traditional technique called grisaille. This just means that I begin with an under-painting using sepia and white and then build the color up through a series of subsequent glazes. I believe this technique gives the paintings a special inner glow and depth."
And it certainly does. You'll find something to love both at her Etsy shop and at her website Lisa Zador. She does a particularly fine squirrel, I'll tell you.
*He's also featured in The Well Bred Cat (available at, written by James Waller.
Posted by curator at 7:21 PM 

Christmas Parrots

Well I took the sketches I did on the table cloth last weekend and worked them up into proper drawings for a pair of paintings. I got the idea from looking through my sketchbook where I had found this old sketch of 2 parrots together. I thought green parrots with red fezs would be beautiful and strangely Christmas themed so I am adding them to my Christmas portraits queue.

Curious Portraits

I am very happy to finally have my new ETSY shop Curious Portraits up and running. It has taken a lot of work but I think I finally have all the little details ironed out! I've already made a few sales and have been featured on 4 different treasuries (2 of which I've posted below) so I am very encouraged. I hope you will take a look and let me know what you think.