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Self-Taught Artist Janice Serilla Is Good at Pet Portraits

If you like big, bold, and bright, you’ll love the artistic style of Janice Serilla.

The Santa Cruz artist, a runner-up for Best Pet Artist in Bay Woof’s Beast of the Bay 2017 contest, paints pets using acrylic paint as her medium. Their usually straight-ahead faces peer from vibrant solid or patterned backgrounds, and just by looking, a viewer can almost feel the pet’s wet nose, his wiry coat, or her hot breath. These canines (and other animals) wink, smile, and demure. Serilla’s stylized paintings are equally as good at conveying whimsical and goofy characters as they are at depicting lovable rascals, surprised pups, and the aloof lapdog.

Serilla said in recent telephone interview with Bay Woof that she is a self-taught artist, having begun her career with graphite and color pencils. She moved from Detroit to Santa Cruz in 2009, “got crafty with sewing,” and eventually started designing and making fabric handbags as Mackerilla Design. Today she sells patterns for the Mackerilla handbag designs on online retail sites and ETSY.

Four years ago, Serilla joined the world of painting in earnest, picking up brushes and supplies locally, and plunged in. A longtime animal lover, she chose pets and animals as her subject and practiced by doing paintings of her friends’ pets.

“I was clueless,” the 53-year-old said. “I thought, ‘I suck,’ but I kept practicing and homed my skills.” Her artistic talents soon gained her bona fide clients. “I just do it. I don’t know any different,” she said about her technique. “I love being creative.”

Serilla often works from clear close-ups of pets as her model and in each painting strives to reach and reveal the animal’s true spirit.

“It’s my interpretation,” she said of the portraits. Often they are posthumous paintings, a little tough, she said. Something Serilla, fresh from the recent loss of a favored Papillon, quickly revealed about herself in the interview is her love for elderly and disabled animals, of which she has fostered and nursed many, as well as her fondness for the Papillon breed. Serilla said she donates a portion of pet painting sales to shelters or groups with special needs animals.

“Disabled animals always come to me,” she said. “They chose me.”

Locals may have recently seen some of her work on labels for bottles of Flanders Oud Bruin at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, her artwork a riff on the famous Cassius Marcellus Coolidge portraits of dogs playing poker; her dogs are drinking beer. She also hopes to participate in the fall’s Arts Council Santa Cruz County’s Open Studios event in October. Learn more at about Serilla at

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Main article photo by: Portraits courtesy Janice Serilla