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!

Snow Day in Prospect Park

I know that snow isn't everyone's favorite subject but I must take a moment and express how magical and miraculous yesterday's snowstorm was to me! As I saw the snow coming down I had a feeling it might be the last of the season so I decided to take a snow day and headed out to my favorite snow destination, Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It is only a 20 minute subway ride from the West Village and totally worth it. Why not Central Park you may ask? I have nothing against Central Park, there is just something about Prospect Park that resonates with me. Everything seems so quiet and peaceful giving me the sense of stepping back in time. It is also a manageable size; I can wander from one end to another in an afternoon and never fear of getting hopelessly lost although I must admit under the blanket of snow yesterday I did lose my bearings more than once! Here are some photos I took of the magnificence of nature in the heart of the city.

Sledding in the great meadow

Sledding in the great meadow

The Waterfall covered in powdery whiteness

The Waterfall covered in powdery whiteness

The Waterfall seen from the bridge, all the branches reaching up to the sky covered in white!

The Waterfall seen from the bridge, all the branches reaching up to the sky covered in white!

A King of trees majestically leading me on.

A King of trees majestically leading me on.

I couldn't resist the temptation to follow this bridle path toward the interior with only one set of lonely footprints leading me on

I couldn't resist the temptation to follow this bridle path toward the interior with only one set of lonely footprints leading me on

Walking was a bit of a challenge

Walking was a bit of a challenge

It was as if the branches had been hand painted with white

It was as if the branches had been hand painted with white

A well earned lunch awaited me at the 12th St Bar & Grill on 12th and 8th in Park Slope

A well earned lunch awaited me at the 12th St Bar & Grill on 12th and 8th in Park Slope

Bingo endorses Condo Puppy

Bingo was very pleased to be asked to represent Condo Puppy, a real estate website that helps dog owners find the perfect home with their pup. Bingo was first approached by Chip Barkel, a dog friendly real estate broker in Toronto who is a member of Condo Puppy and he was thrilled to be the spokes-dog. He knows how difficult it can be to find apartments and condos that accept pets.

 

Chip wrote a wonderful blog post about my work being used to decorate a child's room and gives some great tips about how to go about it.  You can read more about it here.

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.


Halloween In February?

I have noticed a surprising increase in Halloween themed sales in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits over the past few weeks and simply cannot account for it. I am happy to believe however, that the world is simply filled with fellow Halloween enthusiasts like myself who just never get enough!

Saying Good-bye to Christmas here in NY

Every year at this time I struggle with post Christmas melancholy. All those weeks of excitement; watching the mail for Christmas cards, decorating the tree, making cookies and seeing the city come to life with twinkling lights are all behind me. I always love walking around the West Village and peeking in windows to see all the Christmas trees, wreaths, bows and lights to get myself into the Christmas spirit. This week as I began to see the sad, discarded Christmas trees on the curbs I thought I'd take a last stroll with my camera and capture some of my favorite sites before they are taken down till next year.

                                                                              Simple Christmas Tree in Greenwich St. Car Rental

                                                                              Simple Christmas Tree in Greenwich St. Car Rental

                                                                                Reindeer in scarves in Bigelow Pharmacy

                                                                                Reindeer in scarves in Bigelow Pharmacy

                                                                    Beautiful snow scene in Hudson St Pharmacy window

                                                                    Beautiful snow scene in Hudson St Pharmacy window

                                                                        Sweet chocolate Snowmen in Lilac Chocolate's window

                                                                        Sweet chocolate Snowmen in Lilac Chocolate's window

                                                       Even the White Horse Tavern looks festive with their branches and lights

                                                       Even the White Horse Tavern looks festive with their branches and lights


Bingo and Santa 2014

 It is that time of year again and yesterday I happily continued one of my favorite holiday traditions; taking Bingo to Petco for his annual photo with Santa! This year was much less stressful than last year I am happy to say. I must admit that even though I understand playing Santa to a bunch of dogs and cats all day is not an ideal job I do wish the Santa's they hire could be a little more enthusiastic! All in all it is a fun excursion and I love Petco for offering this to pet owners everywhere.

Bingo-Santa-2014-1-sml.jpg

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

The Writer's Chronicle

I am so pleased with the new issue of The Writer's Chronicle which features an illustration by yours truly. It was such a pleasure to work on and I couldn't be happier with the layout and the beautiful script they chose for the cover story title.

Writers-Chronicle-Lisa-Zador

The title essay explores all the ways the image of the window has been used in nonfiction beginning with Forster's Room With a View, one of my favorites up to the present. It was a challenge to illustrate and initially I thought using an actual window would be too predictable. My love of repeating patterns however kept drawing me back to the possibilities presented by a curtain and wallpaper if a window was viewed from the inside out.  As I sketched out different ideas  I kept coming back to my original thought of using a lace curtain as a sort of veil between the inside and the outside. The essay mentions captivity vs. freedom as one of the concepts a window could represent and I thought incorporating the motif of keys and locks into the lace could be a subtle and graceful way of portraying that.

Writers-Chronicle-Lisa-Zador-cover-spread

The second essay was even more abstract. It explored all the different elements a writer must consider in creating a character's identity in a story. I decided to continue the theme of a repeating pattern that I had used for the cover and incorporate some of those elements including location, religion, home life, occupation etc. This was an engaging project and the art directors were a dream to work with. I am so excited to be part of this issue of the magazine!

Writers-Chronicle-Lisa-Zador-Story-Spread

Portrait of a Sock Monkey Dandy

I just finished a particularly enjoyable portrait of a sock monkey commissioned by a very lovely woman as a gift for her nephew via my Etsy shop Curious Portraits. She shared with me how much he loves this sock monkey and thought dressing him up in formal attire would make it special and memorable. The original monkey had a striped body which would of course be covered by the tuxedo. Since it was this characteristic that made him stand apart from any other sock monkey I decided to incorporate his stripes into his bow tie to portray his own personality.  These whimsical projects are just about my favorite to work on and I never get bored with all the interesting requests that come my way.

Sock-Monkey-Portrait-Lisa-Zador

Autumn Leaves

Autumn has always been my favorite season. As soon as Labor Day is over I start anticipating all the wonderful things I love about the season. Here in the Northeast the air is already beginning to chill and I am on the lookout for the changing of the leaves. As a child growing up in South Jersey I spent hours in our yard collecting different leaves, seed pods and acorns. I decided to try to capture these moments from my childhood and put them all in one painting. Researching all these familiar leaves and seeds was like going home again. The Tulip Poplar, the Sycamore and the Sweet Gum feel like old friends. Just looking at them all together brings the scent of woodsmoke to my mind and puts me right back in my Parent's yard all those years ago!

Prints are available for purchase in my Etsy shop The Curious Kitchen

Prints are available for purchase in my Etsy shop The Curious Kitchen

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!


Two Handsome Men and a Richly Roasted Coffee...

I recently did an illustration for the Rabbit Coffee Roasting Company's premiere coffee label. They just had a very interesting article published about them and their company in Opulence magazine and I thought I would share it. Being such a coffee enthusiast myself I found their story and all  the subtleties of the coffee bean roasting process so fascinating. It was such a pleasure working with Iain Yeakle on this project and I am so pleased with the final product. I am however waiting for a sample bag of these rich, velvety beans to reach find it's way to me...

Rabbit-Portrait-Coffee-Label
Two Handsome men and a richly roasted coffee bean, what more could you ask for?

Two Handsome men and a richly roasted coffee bean, what more could you ask for?

Rabbit Coffee Roasting Label new.jpg


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.

Curiously-Portable-Portraits
The Tales of Babar


Beautiful and Delicious

I was working away in my studio the other day when I detected the unmistakable sound of a squirrel in my living room. I say unmistakable because, unfortunately this is not the first incidence of a squirrel intruder in my apartment. I went to the window just in time to see a grey, fluffy tail disappear through a freshly chewed hole in the screen. I opened the screen to look out and was horrified to see the culprit making off with my prized, handmade tomato pincushion in it's mouth! I shudder to imagine how I must have appeared to my courtyard neighbors, hanging out the window yelling "drop it!" to a fleeing squirrel. I watched helplessly as he leaped from the fire  escape onto a tree in the adjoining courtyard and proceeded to shred the once beautiful pin cushion to nothingness. I stood transfixed at the absurdity of the situation but somehow realized that this was a rare photo opportunity and managed to snap this shot before the item was completely destroyed.

 

thieving squirrel with stolen pin cushion

I simply could not fathom why a squirrel would be so attracted to a pin cushion, aside from the fact that I feed my courtyard squirrels during the winter months and by so doing erase their natural instincts to avoid human contact. In my experience they never cross the border of the squirrel/human existence unless there is a powerful motivation such as an open jar of peanuts taunting them from within. It wasn't until I related the story to my dear friend who had in fact presented the pin cushion to me as a Christmas gift that the whole thing made sense. He had purchased the pin cushion for me from Jane McMillen  after I admired the one he had bought for himself and he informed me that they are stuffed with none other than crushed walnut shells! Suddenly the whole incident made perfect sense and I couldn't really blame the squirrel for simply using it's natural resourcefulness to find food. My only fear was that he would ingest some of the fine, decorative pins adorning it but fortunately I found a neat pile of pins along with my needle threader on my windowsill where he must have painstakingly pulled them out before making away with his bounty. Jane has since very generously offered to replace my beloved pin cushion and I really must admit that the whole thing now ranks as one of the most absurd and amusing stories that I will enjoy telling for years to come.

handmade wool pin cushion

Here is a photo of the original item, hand stitched with love from wool and yes, crushed walnut shells. Truly beautiful AND delicious. You can purchase similar items at Jane's Etsy shop Little House Home Arts.


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