Uncle Omelette makes a splash

My portrait of Uncle Omelette was recently featured in the Manhattan User's Guide in their Food and Drink section and I couldn't be more pleased! He was included in a group of wonderful selections from Etsy, all with a vintage kitchen theme.  Manhattan User's Guide is a fantastic site that emails you daily with just about everything you need to know about what is going on in New York City, all five boroughs! In my opinion they have great taste and a terrific sense of humor. Uncle Omelette by Lisa Zador-Manhattan User's Guide

Click here to see the whole post.

Uncle Omelette by Lisa Zador

You can read more about the creation of Uncle Omelette in my blog post "Uncle Omelette: Creepy Food Icon or Ideal Husband?". Prints are available in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits!

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

Devoted Dog Lover or Maniacal Traditionalist?

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

New Curious Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Mouse-Curious Portraits I am so excited to finally have my new Christmas ornaments for sale in my Etsy  shop, Curious Portraits! I've been having so may requests for ornaments featuring my curious portraits and I have been busy researching the items I needed to make them. I finally found the perfect little bronze frames  2" in diameter and the glass cabochons that fit inside. I am so pleased with how sweet they look. They come with a red satin ribbon for hanging and arrive in their own red felt pouch tied with a mint green satin bow ready for gift giving. You can now hang Victorian Mouse, Cat Dandy, Santa and Elf Squirrels, Polar Bears, Snowmen, Foxes and more right on your Christmas tree! Happy Holidays to everyone!

Santa Squirrel-Curious Portraits

Snowman Ornament-Curious Portraits

Victorian Mouse Ornament-Curious Portraits

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: evelynpelati.com


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 Custom Kitchen Towel Design for a Fabulous Abode

I am so happy to finally be able to post this new kitchen towel design.  I finished it nearly two months ago but because it was to be a surprise I had to sit on it until I could get it to it's intended recipient. It was designed to celebrate my friend's wonderful beach house in Cherry Grove, Fire Island where we have spent many happy hours surrounded by colorful people and amiable animals eating, drinking and always laughing. I incorporated as many of the key elements as I could fit that make this place special such as his favorite deer and the squirrel that lives in the roof not to mention the drag personas they have come up with for the Pines Invasion every July 4th. It is a magical place and I truly wanted to honor it in the  kitschiest way possible. Deer-Abbey-Kitchen-Towel-Lisa-Zador

It is available for purchase at my Etsy shop The Curious Kitchen.

Pumpkin Season has arrived

pumpkin chart - Lisa Zador Every year around this time I find myself on the lookout for that first little bit of orange at the green grocers, usually in the form of mini pumpkins. Then follow the larger pumpkins and decorative gourds soon after. It truly marks the beginning of autumn which is my favorite time of year. Last year I was wandering through the farmer's market in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and I found a treasure trove of the most beautiful decorative gourds! I bought a whole bunch and they inspired me to paint this Pumpkin Varieties Chart to help usher in the season.  Just looking at these makes me smell the wood smoke and feel the chill in the air. Soon it will even be time to pull out my vintage Halloween decorations and begin carving a pumpkin. I like to try out different faces each year, usually scary and since it is always so hard to decide upon one, I thought I would do a painting of all sorts of Jack O Lantern faces, some scary and some friendly. I added in a black scroll border complete with crows to finish it off! Both paintings are available as prints in my Etsy shop The Curious Kitchen.

Jack O Lanterns - Lisa Zador

Uncle Omelette: Creepy Food Icon or Ideal Husband?

Uncle Omelette-finished painting. Lisa Zador I just finished this painting and thought I ought to do a post about it. Apparently Uncle Omelette is frightening people (if my friends reactions are any indication) and I am trying to understand why.  I suppose the somber colors and his inscrutable expression might be a factor. I admit that Anthropomorphic Food, one of my favorite subjects, can be a little creepy to some. I thought that telling the story of how the portrait came about would perhaps make the subject seem a little more friendly.

Originally this was going to be a portrait of Humpty Dumpty who seemed the perfect subject to be included in my series of anthropomorphic food icons.

Humpty Dumty sketch. Lisa Zador

One night during a bout of insomnia (when many of my best painting concepts appear) I had the idea that he shouldn't be sitting on a wall, as he is often portrayed,  but should be shown doing something domestic, to sort of show  Humpty Dummpty "at home".  It occurred to me that it would be funny if he was cooking bacon since he is after all, an egg. The painting then evolved into the second sketch. I was even going to paint him in bright, vintage kitchen colors with a pistachio green wall and vintage pot holders hanging in the background.

Uncle Omelette Sketches. Lisa Zador

I began the painting as I always do with a grisaille underpainting using brown and white to block in the light and shadow.

At this point I became distracted with other projects and put the painting aside for about two months.  A week or so ago I decided it was time to work on it again. I know that sometimes when I let a painting sit too long I lose my train of thought. I felt strongly about this particular portrait and thought it deserved to be finished. I began to add in glazes of color and it became clear to me that all the background elements were unnecessary. The slightly green background  against the burgundy shade of his suit felt almost flemish to me. I found the contrast of this formal painting style with the absurd subject matter very exciting. I knew that the painting was nearly finished.

Uncle Omelette Painting Stages 2. Lisa Zador

When I look at Uncle Omelette I see a kind, caring face. The fact that I named him "Uncle" (something that again came to me during a sleepless night) made him seem immediately familiar.  Cooking for someone, in my opinion is a very caring act; in my family it is the best way to show people you love them.  So in my imagination, Uncle Omelette is a benevolent and loving family member who is trying to take care of me.

Uncle Omelette-finished painting. Lisa Zador

That being said I must also add in that according to my friend Danielle, because I am often attracted to bald men and am always saying that I would love a chef as a partner, this is actually a portrait of my ideal husband.  I may like her interpretation the best!

Cleaning House, Etsy Style

www.curiousportraits.etsy.com I am always reading articles on Etsy's blog about having great photos for your listings. Since my items are all prints of my artwork I didn't think there was much I could do to improve them. A few weeks ago I had some extra time and decided to look over my shop with a critical eye.  I realized  that my jewelry listings were abominable! When I first began to carry jewelry I was so overwhelmed with all the details of finding the proper supplies, deciding how to package them in an appealing way, and how to photograph them properly. I found that it was very difficult to get a good clear photo (with the camera I had at the time).  I did however want to get them up and running to see how they would do, intending to polish the listings up later so I just photographed them all against a soft blue suede background. Two years later I realize that they continue to sell well despite the terrible photos so I thought it was about time to do some polishing! I decided to put cheery backgrounds behind them in polka dots, stripes and damasks that I thought helped to convey the feeling of the image. With a little help from Photoshop (and my new camera which I love, a simple point and shoot Nikon Coolpix S8200 ). It has a terrific wide angle that allows super close up shots and in just about every setting allows you to adjust the color balance and light exposure which is important especially when you don't use a flash. It was so much fun putting in the backgrounds and seeing them come to life. The good news is that with these new flashy listings sales have definitely  gone up so I am grateful to Etsy for all those inspiring and motivational articles ! I have included a sample of the before and after of my Christmas Elf Squirrel so you can see the difference.

Christmas Elf Squirrel before and after







The Nostalgic Appeal of Recipe Cards


I love to cook and particularly love to bake. I am always jotting down a new recipe idea on scraps of paper or printing them out from Epicurious but when I find that a recipe becomes a favorite I love going through the ritual of writing it out on a fresh new recipe card and filing it away into one of my vintage recipe boxes. There is something so satisfying about it, as if I am giving it my stamp of approval. I know how much I treasure my Mother's recipe cards written in her own hand that stood the test of time. Mostly they are worn at the edges and stained from use but that gives them their charm and meaning. How sad it would be for future generation to miss out on that piece of history. I know I am not alone in this as there are many adorable recipe cards to be found especially on Etsy. I have also found some fun ones that are free to download from The Graphics Fairy, one of my favorite sites for vintage ephemera.

free recipe cards from The Graphics Fairy

I have used many existing recipe templates that I have downloaded over the years and recently decided to design some of my own. I started out with 6 images per set (2 of each)  from my each of my anthropomorphic food prints which are vintage inspired. I am offering them for sale in my Etsy shop The Curious Kitchen as they go along with their matching kitchen towels and prints. I thought photographing them in my kitchen along with some of my vintage recipe boxes would be appropriate. The one below even features the salt shaker I used for the print!





Here is a cute vintage Halloween Recipe Card that I found on Amy Barickman's blog:

vintage halloween recipe card

Here is one of several adorable Halloween Recipe Card Templates (despite the misspelling of cauldron...) over at The Peach Martini blog:

vintage halloween cat recipe card

Here is a particularly pretty Christmas Recipe Card that is for sale on Zazzle

vintage christmas recipe card

There are even  vintage cards complete with recipes available, these are from Regina's Studio on Etsy:

vintage recipe cards


New ACEO Prints at Curious Portraits

curiousportraits.etsy.com 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.


Vintage-Themed Wedding features my Victorian Cat Portraits

Matching Victorian Cat Portraits I just received photos from a beautiful, vintage themed wedding in which I participated in a very small way! Nearly a year ago I was commissioned by the bride to paint a female version of my Victorian Cat Portrait that she wanted to feature in her up-coming California wedding. It was a very fun project and she was so delightful to work with. As you can see the wedding is absolutely gorgeous. So much care and thought went into every detail of creating this vintage, country atmosphere which of course is right up my alley. Here are a few samples of the beautiful photographs that were taken by  Matthew Morgan Photography.

The beautiful Vintage table with the portraits.

Victorian Cat Portraits table

Victorian Cat Brooch as part of the Groom's boutonnière

They even used the Victorian Cat Brooch as part of the Groom's boutonnière!

The dessert table

I love how all the delicate colors work together from the dessert table above to the Bridesmaid's dresses and the bouquet below...

Wedding Pary


Desk and Chalkboard

The vintage furniture and cameras and chalkboard are such a perfect contrast to the Instagram Photobooth!

Victorian Cat Portrait

Victorian Lady Cat Portrait

An Unusual Portrait Commission

Lisa Zador-Joey the Bat About 6 months ago I was approached by a gentleman who was interested in commissioning me to paint a portrait of a stuffed toy. This in itself wasn't all that unusual, I have done many portraits of vintage Steiff animals and have painted favorite stuffed animals on commission. The interesting part was that I was to be one of many artists he was commissioning to paint his stuffed bat....named Joey. When I began to research him I found that not only did he have his own Facebook page (Joey T. Bat) but that he had travelled all around the world and been photographed in every location. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Joey's owner also didn't want to see sketches or concepts at all but preferred to be surprised at the end. That was a little unnerving but I assumed that he looked over my work and had a rough idea of what the outcome would be.  He even provided a "Stunt Joey" for me to use as a model as I wanted to set the light source up myself and not rely upon existing photos. I did use those photos however to note the subtle differences between the actual Joey and the stand in. It was difficult to decide how best to portray him; should he be outdoors? If so what would the best setting be? Should he be full body or simply his face? I tried several different poses and made quite a few sketches before I settled upon a classic head and shoulders. After all, that is the signature style of most of my animal portraits, stuffed and otherwise. I also decided to paint him in sepia tones instead of full color. I thought it added dignity and sense of mystery to him. He is in fact only 5" tall standing so I wanted to zoom in to create a greater sense of stature.

I sent this photo of the painting to his owner yesterday who was very pleased and said that I captured the softness and peacefulness of Joey which is exactly what he had hoped for so I couldn't be happier! It has turned out to be a delightful experience and one I thought worthy of sharing. These are my favorite kinds of jobs, the unusual ones that bring you in contact with such interesting people who you never might have met otherwise.

You can read more about the Joey T. Bat project on Joey's blog  Zip Me Up. It tells the story of how the project came about, how it has evolved and is chock full of wonderful photos!

You can see more of my Vintage Stuffed Animal Portraits on my website lisazador.com or in my Curious Portraits shop on Etsy.

New Vintage Inspired Aprons for the Nostalgic Kitchen

lisa zador - www.thecuriouskitchen,etsy.com I have to admit that putting on an old fashioned apron really gets me into the spirit of cooking and baking. It must be because it reminds me of my Mom and how safe and cozy I always felt in her kitchen. To this day whenever I feel melancholy or am trying to work out a problem and wish that I still had my Mother here to advise and comfort me I bake up a batch of cookies or a cake and by the time they are cooling on the rack I feel as though I had somehow visited with her and benefited from her advice. That is also why I must have designed my own 1950's style kitchen around memories of the one we had in our little house in South Philly. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling and has been a profound influence on my paintings and designs. With all this in mind I have just added  a new line of vintage inspired aprons into The Curious Kitchen shop featuring my favorite anthropomorphic food fellows. These guys always put me in a good mood and I hope they do the same for you!

lisa zador-www.thecuriouskitchen.etsy.com

lisa zador-www.thecuriouskitchen.etsy.com

lisa zador-kitchen

You can see more photos of my kitchen on my Apartment Therapy Kitchen Tour.

The Elusive Muse

I am often asked how I find inspriation and once found, how I hold onto it.The creative process is a mysterious thing and everyone has their own personal relationship with their “muse”. I myself have suffered through many setbacks and  time periods barren of creativity. I find these times to be profoundly challenging so over the years I have developped some habits and practices to fend off those dark days and I thought it might be helpful to share them One thing I have always done is maintain a sketchbook. It is a great place to keep your thoughts organized and to have a visual record of your creative evolution. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even neat; it is after all for your benefit so don’t worry about making it pretty. Just get a blank unlined sketchbook and start filling it up with ideas, sketches, clippings of inspiration. I even put in postage stamps that I find particularly beautiful and lists of things I hope to accomplish. These are all mixed in with sketches of ideas, sometimes different versions of the same concept.

lisa zador-sketchbook

pg 1

I take a smaller version with me when I travel and fill it with sketches done on the spot or notes about something I found inspiring, all for future reference. So many things will come to mind when I am away from the studio which I would never remember if I didn’t jot them down.

lisa zador-travel sketchbook

I also keep pen and paper by my bed as I tend to come up with some of my best ideas during the night or in those magical moments in the morning when I am just waking up.

lisa zador-sketches

Another thing I do is to keep a wall of inspiration. Mine is actually the 2 sliding doors of my closet which are flat white and just begging to be filled up. I’ve heard other people say they keep a clothesline in their studio and clip pages to that .The idea is to keep your ideas in front of you for focus and to keep you moving forward. I usually have sketches of the different projects I am involved in and those I haven’t gotten to yet as well as any inspiration I have collected pertaining to them.

lisa zador-inspriation wall

In my studio I have a library of reference books including artists biographies, how-to books and clip art. I don’t know where I would be without Dover Publications and their exhaustive collection of reference books including early advertising engravings of everything under the sun including old wood type, engravers ornaments, historic textile design, period fashion and costumes, animals, it is just endless. I go back to those books on a daily basis for ideas.

lisa zador-reference books

lisa zador-reference books

I also keep an extensive collection of reference files. These days they are digital but I still go back to my paper files on a regular basis as well. Keeping them organized is very important so that they will be easily located when needed. For example I will have “Textiles” as the main folder, then “Vintage”, “Damask”, “tablecloths”, “Christmas” etc. Another good habit is to re-name the photos when you drag them into a file. For example instead of using the given name which is usually just a number, I will re-name it in simple terms that I can easily search for no matter where it ends up on my computer. So instead of "DC2257666" I’ll call it "mouse-umbrella-victorian".

I am often involved in several projects at once so I find it helpful to keep individual files for each project that will have printouts of reference and sketches all together instead of in one pile on my table or scattered around the studio.

lisa zador-project folder

So now when I find myself in a dry spell or stuck in a project and not knowing in what direction to take it I can relax with a cup of tea and flip through my sketchbook or my paper files or sit down at the computer and browse through my reference files. Something always pops out at me unexpectedly and provides the missing piece of the current design puzzle.

mr peanut - lisa zador

Finally, one thing I have learned is to stop myself from second guessing an idea. It is easy to talk yourself out of doing a new painting or project because it sounds unusual or you tell yourself no one else could possibly be interested in it. I had sketches for my Mr. Peanut portrait on my inspiration board for nearly a year before I finally started the painting and it is now a popular favorite in my Curious Portraits shop. If I believed that voice in my head telling me that no one would want to buy anthropomorphic food prints The Curious Kitchen shop wouldn't exist. Trust your instincts, it is your creative self trying to get your attention! I hope you find this helpful and I would love to hear about your own personal ways of fighting off “artists block”!

anthropomorphic breakfast - lisa zador

New Vintage Inspired Kitchen Towels

www.thecuriouskitchen.etsy.com I am pleased as punch to introduce some new products in The Curious Kitchen shop - Kitchen Towels!  It has taken quite a bit of research and experimentation to get them right but I have finally gotten the kinks worked out.  First I had to find a place to have them printed that has good fabric and isn't unrealistically priced. They are 100% cotton, washable and the colors are nice and rich. Then I had to figure out the best way to photograph them which took a bit longer than I expected but I wanted them to be crisp and color accurate. I tried natural lighting, tungsten bulbs, photo flood bulbs and just about every setting available on my camera!  It was actually quite fun "styling" them with a bowl of eggs for the Breakfast Towel, a croissants on a plate for the Desserts and watermelon for the Barbeque Towel, all of which had to be consumed in the end by yours truly. I also thoroughly enjoyed designing the labels which I wanted to be cheery and express the vintage feeling of the shop. I think it all works together and I hope you agree.







Italian Marinara Sauce

thecuriouskitchen.etsy.com When I was growing up in Philadelphia it just wasn't a proper Sunday if the smell of simmering tomato sauce wasn't wafting throughout the house. Fresh tomatoes, aromatic basil, tangy garlic and onion, mmmmm! I created this watercolor painting as an homage to my italian family, particularly my Grandmother. It is now available as a print in my shop The Curious Kitchen.