Frequently Asked Questions

Did you go to art school?

Yes, I got my bachelor's degree in studio art and English. But the visual art program ended up not being the right fit for me. My most valuable learning took place post-college at various workshops across the country.

Do you work from photos?

Many people have asked if I work from my imagination, from life, or from photographs. 

In my sketchbook there are plenty of drawings that I doodled from my imagination or observed from life (what I saw in front of me). For my professional, paid work I consult a photo or several photos. 

While I work from photos, I don't copy them with the goal to recreate them with perfect accuracy; the entire time I'm thinking about how I want the drawing or painting to look and making choices to get me there. That said, there's nothing like photography for capturing details I never would have imagined or fleeting emotional gestures that otherwise would have been lost.

How do you create your paintings?

I create my paintings in stages.

1) Concept and thumbnail sketch

2) Photo shoot (or acquisition of a photo provided by the client)

3) Detailed drawing and/or digital photo composite

4) Draw the composition on canvas or board using graphite pencil

5) Paint the values (lights and darks) with acrylic paint

6) Paint 2-5 thin layers of oil paint, letting each layer dry before applying the next

7) Finish with varnish, let dry, and frame

What is the process for commissioning a pet portrait?

Please see How to Commission a Pet Portrait for full details!

How long does a painting take you to make? 

A typical pet portrait painting will take between 12 and 20 hours of work. I work by applying multiple thin layers so I do have to let each layer dry 20-24 hours before going on to the next layer. That drying requirement adds some time to the process.

How do you say your name? It's so difficult!

You know the name "Annabelle"? It's like that, but with "lisa" instead of "belle". 

Or you can remember it this way: you know the famous work of art the Mona Lisa? My name is Annalisa

Just don't leave too much of a pause between "Anna" and "lisa" because it IS all one name, not a first name plus middle name.


E-mail: annalisa.schaefer at

Phone: (203) 939-7498

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