Cornelius the pig

I have had so many requests to paint a pig portrait and have just been waiting for the inspiration to hit me. I had in mind a Renaissance thinker or philosopher and wanted to portray the intelligence and personality I believed he possessed. It is painted in oil on wood panel beginning with a grisaille underpainting and maintaining the color palette of a Bronzino or Holbein.

Prints, cards, ornaments and brooches are available in my Curious Portraits shop.

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.

Giving the Etsy Shop a Facelift

I noticed this week that Etsy changed their home page layout a bit by adding a shop image and a photo of the shop owner. That inspired me to take a fresh look at the overall branding of my shop Curious Portraits which I have changed several times over the five years it has been open and I thought it was due once again for a facelift. I thought it would be nice to emphasize the Victorian theme of the portraits themselves and put the images inside black decorative frames. I can still change the images within the frames for the holidays or when I want to promote a particular new portrait. For now I went back to my sepia toned Cat Dandy which I still feel is still representative of the shop as a whole. I added in a black border that reminds me of old fashioned visiting cards and mourning stationary.  I still love the mixture of script and regular type but I thought the title needed to be bolder and the rest of the text sans serif to make it slightly more readable at a small scale.

For the banner I added a soft grey ground to stand out a bit against the white page but for the bio card, which accompanies each sale, the shipping label and the business card I thought a white ground kept it more legible.

Below shows the old branding. I'd love to know if you think it was an improvement!

Curious Portraits by Lisa Zador-old branding

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.

Etsy Shop Facelift

As an Etsy seller I always find January and February to be a good time to review the items in my shop, Curious Portraits. I have learned to keep track of things that I notice need improvement during the holiday frenzy when there is no time to address them. Then when things slow down I can tackle them one by one. Two weeks ago a spike in Halloween themed sales had me up-dating item descriptions for all of my goblins, pumpkin men and skeletons. This week I've been looking at my Christmas ornament listings. I have been feeling the need to re-photograph them for awhile and realized while doing so that if I photographed the non-Christmas themed ornaments in a non-Christmas setting that I could re-list them as wall decor instead of Christmas ornaments. This was very timely as Etsy recently re-vamped their categories and I had to re-evaluate my old ones anyway. I also re-titled them as Portrait Miniatures instead of Christmas Ornaments. Since I am in the process of designing a new, higher end line of Victorian inspired Portrait Miniatures for the shop these can now act as ambassadors for the new product! As soon as I get my hands on some holly or red berries I will re-photograph the Christmas themed ornaments as well since I do like a little Christmas cheer in my holiday listings! Here are the before and after shots, let me know what you think!

New Portrait Miniatures Listings

New Portrait Miniatures Listings

I used a damask stripe that I had designed for another project and printed it out in soft, neutral tones for the background.

New Portrait Miniatures Listings

New Portrait Miniatures Listings

Former Christmas Ornaments Listings

Former Christmas Ornaments Listings

For the new Christmas Listings I will keep the red ribbon and add in some greenery and red berries (if I can find any in February) but put them on a cleaner background, perhaps the same damask stripe that l used in the Portrait Miniatures of which I am so fond.

Victorian Sock Monkey

I just received an interesting portrait commission that I am very eager to begin.  A lovely customer from my Etsy shop Curious Portraits, contacted me about painting a portrait for her nephew of his beloved sock monkey but in full victorian dress!  She loved my original sock monkey portrait whose model was my dear friend Keith's vintage childhood toy. She also loved my Cat Dandy portrait and wants me to take my inspiration from the two paintings.  I love doing portraits that will be given as gifts because I always feel so much love behind them.  It will be a surprise Christmas gift so I have plenty of time to finish it!

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

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.

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 -
Lisa Zador -

New ACEO Prints at Curious Portraits For awhile now I have been hearing about and running across the acronym ACEO regarding artwork and prints. After some investigation I discovered that it stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals and has become a hugely popular way for people to collect and trade miniature artwork and prints. The only criterion seems to be that they must adhere to a standard size of 2.5" x 3.5" ; the original size of baseball trading cards. Being extremely fond of anything miniature myself, I thought it would be the perfect way for me to offer less expensive editions of my artwork in my Curious Portraits shop on Etsy!  I spent last weekend experimenting with different ways of photographing the prints in a way that would show their unique, petite size. In the end I propped them up in my bookcase with some vintage books and a vintage camera which I thought would also convey the old fashioned, vintage feel of the prints and photographed them in natural light. So far I have only listed the most popular prints in this format but I'll be adding more every day. Meanwhile I have added a listing to the shop through which you can order just about any image in the shop as an ACEO.

The sudden cooler weather here in NY inspired me to begin listing some of my Christmas Portraits too!

I also decided to finally list some MINI prints in the shop that are slightly larger than the ACEO prints . They are 3.5" x 4.5"  and printed on 5" x 7" paper ready to pop right into a standard frame. I always get requests for framed prints so I will soon be offering this size print already framed and ready for gift giving. I got to use some of my favorite mini dog statues and my mantle clock for these photos.  I have also added a general listing for this size print to use until I get all the separate listings up.

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.

The Singing Squirrels


This year for my official Christmas portrait (and Christmas card which hopefully all of you have received by now) I went back to one of my favorite subjects. These cheerful squirrels live in the courtyard of my apartment building and are a constant source of inspiration. This year I have at least 3 squirrels ( I suspect a mysterious fourth) who come regularly to my studio window for their daily meal of peanuts and/or acorns and who are not in the least bit shy in front of the camera. I sit out there on the fire escape and photograph them while they eat and they don't mind at all. Of course it was tricky getting them to put on the hats and sweaters but in the end they all cooperated...

A very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog and a very sincere thank-you for your support this past year!

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.

Homage to the humble mouse

We have had a mouse in our apartment for the past few weeks and have grown rather fond of him. We’ve even named him Henry. I don’t know why but he just seems so polite and apologetic after having eaten the corners off the banana bread we foolishly left on the kitchen table overnight. We know we must send him on his way before his friends and family turn up but I decided to paint his portrait to remember him by. I imagined him as an old soul so I've painted him in quasi victorian garb.

Mouse Portrait Victorian
Mouse Portrait Victorian

Bunnies on the Brain

It must just be this Eastery time of year but I can't stop thinking about rabbits. I was originally going to paint 2 separate rabbit portraits, I do so like to do things in pairs, but I decided to take a risk and put them together in one. What a surprise it has been to me to see their mysterious relationship  spring up before my eyes. I admit that I am not privy to their personal goings-on, but I continue to be intrigued by it.

 I've finished another painting recently that goes along with that Spring feeling. It is a portrait of a very gentlemanly goose. It was done as a silly tribute to a very dear friend of mine who recently passed away and who we  jokingly called Goosey. We always teased him because we thought his head was gigantic and perched upon a very spindly neck. It was all in good fun and after 30 years he still signed his e-mails with a "honk, honk". His head really wasn't enormous at all, it was really just his big, puffy hair that was all the rage in the late 70's!  The odd thing is that this portrait actually resembles him. My Sister pointed it out. It is something about the playfulness of his eyes I think. Well, wherever he is I hope he is chuckling over it. I've grown very attached to this goose portrait and I feel strangely close to my friend when I look at it.

Dove Portrait in Needlepoint

I was away visiting my sister this weekend and was able to finish a needlepoint I have been working on for nearly a year. It is one of two patterns I designed after a a pair of paintings of mourning doves I had done. I've shown the second one is in progress because I always like to see how other's begin their projects! I just love charting out the crosstitch patterns on graph paper. It is tedious work but very satisfying when it is finished.

Red Dove Needlepoint in Progress


Original Dove Painting