Bingo and Astro at Quigley Mansion

My new pup Astro joins Bingo this year for his annual Halloween portrait which is my canine tribute to one of my favorite Saturday morning programs growing up in Philadelphia called Cartoon Corners (aka the Gene London Show). It starred Gene London portraying an artist who lived near a haunted house called Quigley Mansion and had a tremendous influence on my career choice as well as my love of mysteries and the paranormal. His character, among other things, was always solving mysteries, encountering ghosts and finding secret tunnels and hidden passageways. All in all it was the perfect show for someone like me who also devoured Nancy Drew books and loved Scooby Do and Johnny Quest. He was a captivating story teller and would use his drawings to illustrate the tales. He truly made me believe that my dream of becoming an artist was possible, something for which I am forever grateful.  I had the opportunity to meet Gene London many years later at a party here in NY and he was so warm and gracious even as I swooned all over him. This year's portrait is dedicated to him and his wonderfully enchanting show. You can see a charming interview with Gene London here.

Bingo and Astro at Quigley Mansion

Bingo in the Land of the Pharaohs

My favorite week of the year is here and it involves sending out my annual Halloween card featuring my long suffering dog Bingo in some form of mortal danger. Each year I agonize over it; second guessing myself, re-sketching, re-painting, changing it at the last minute up until the 11th hour. I always think I am so behind schedule until I look at the date the card went out the previous year and am surprised to see it is always sent at the last minute.

This year I decided to change it up a bit and go back to the sepia toned look of "Ghost Stories for Dogs" and "Sleepy Hollow". It was a tough decision because I was so happy with the 1950's sci fi look of the previous 2 years "Outer Space Bingo" and "Deep Sea Bingo". I originally got it into my head that Bingo as a mummy would be funny. That evolved however into Bingo playing the role of Howard Carter and being the one who discovers the mysterious dog mummy. I really wanted to stress the darkness of a tomb and show everything lit by lantern light which was no small challenge. Poor Bingo had to pose standing upright above a spot light while my friend took photos. I also posed one of his dog toys propped up with its arms out to see how the light might fall onto a dog mummy, if one actually existed. In the end it was the light source that made the whole thing work. I even had to let go of all the hieroglyphics and cave paintings I had put into the background when I knew it had to be inky dark to make the action going on in the foreground stand out. When I thought I was finished and ready to lay the card out, I had the idea to make it look like an old torn photo in order to stress the vintage over all feel. I found some old book reference on-line and fiddled with it in Photoshop until I came up with the finished product.

Here is the progression of the painting.

Here is the progression of the painting.

It is always so hard to keep the finished image in my mind as it goes through the various stages from sketch to finish.

Sometimes I have to get creative when trying to imagine something that doesn't actually exist and it comes in handy being a collector of eclectic objects to use as stand ins!  Prints of Bingo in the Land of the Pharaohs are available for sale in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.

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.


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:

Dog-Dandy-Lisa -Zador

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


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!

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!

A Newly Commissioned Dog Portrait

I am working on a commissioned dog portrait at the moment that I am thoroughly enjoying. The owner of “Luckie” found me on Etsy nearly a year ago and inquired about a portrait even though my listing was a bit outside of her budget. She was so kind and so clearly in love with her beautiful dog that we had an instant rapport. I truly wanted her to have a portrait of her beloved dog and we worked out a simple, classical approach that we were both happy with. It is going to have a rich, dark background in the style of renaissance portraits that will compliment her golden coloring. In the past I’ve had many clients who desire lots of background detail and even props in their portraits that frankly, I love doing, but of course all involve more work. The personality of the subject is often revealed through the use of props. For example a rugged outdoor dog would naturally have a familiar landscape in the background and conversely some lush drapery and a soft cushion would describe a dog that prefers the comfort of an indoor life. That being said there is nothing like a clean simple portrait which focuses purely on the subject and allows their personality to shine through. It is always this challenge  that appeals to me when beginning a new portrait and ultimately the appreciation of a happy dog owner that makes this such a worthwhile occupation.


This is the the portrait in progress. I always begin with an underpainting in sepia and white to block out the light and shadow before I begin to add color.

Dinah sml

This portrait which was done a few years ago is a good example of how a landscape helped to portray a true outdoor dog who loved exploring the woods near her Connecticut home.


This portrait is a good example of a very pampered Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who loved the comfort of her home in Palm Beach!

A Fun Commissioned Portrait

I just finished a custom portrait of 2 dogs that was such fun. My client wanted her dogs to look as though they had lived in Dickensian London or perhaps roamed with the Gangs of New York. I do enjoy a challenge. I decided to go with an all sepia portrait giving it the look of a vintage photo about which my client was very enthusiastic. It is so satisfying to work with other animal lovers in an effort to portray their special pets as they see them!

Angus & Pungus ptg 1

Angus & Pungus sk-2

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 

Parisian Puppy Portrait

It's been awhile but I managed to finish the Parisian Puppy Portrait. So named because I found him in a shop in Paris in 2000 and thought I'd love to have a real puppy just like him. I never guessed that Bingo, who looks so much like him, would come into my life the very next year! I started painting him weeks ago but have been busy setting up my new Etsy site Curious Portraits which I hope will be up and running by next week.  Here is the final and two shots of the portrait in progress.