Driven to work with animals, Yarelis Serrano Fernandez found a career as a veterinary assistant at the Longmont Humane Society. Her passion for animals doesn’t stop there, she also creates pet portraits for her business, Lucky Pet Art Studio.
"It's all for the love of the animals," Fernandez said.
Fernandez first began creating pet portraits when their family cat, Leo, died.
"Leo was our first cat and we loved him so much that it devastated us. I wanted to do something to remember him so I painted his portrait and it really brought happiness back to our lives," she said.
Though not all her pet portraits are of deceased animals like Leo, many are. She wants to support others in their grief journeys. She encourages people to take their time after they lose a pet. But, also acknowledges that a ritual or a remembrance object may be helpful.
"I guess what pet grieving is, it's all about time. Do you feel like you need to do something to honor them? That's fine, too," Fernandez said. She and her husband, Norman Jalbert, still honor Leo in other ways.
"We have a shelf full of all of Leo's favorite things. It will get better definitely, but you know they'll always be there in your heart and you're always going to remember them," she said.
Creating the portrait of Leo reminded her how much she loved art and she began painting for the first time since giving up art in high school to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. She finds it meditative and appreciates that it gives her a chance to de-stress from all the chaos and the demands for multi-tasking each day brings.
Jalbert is very supportive and since Fernandez is shy, he uses his outgoing personality to help her promote her work.
"I'm more reserved and he is very proud, so he has always encouraged me to reach out to have people see my work," Fernandez said.
While many pet portraits are created digitally, all of hers are hand-drawn and hand-painted. Fernandez primarily uses acrylics sealed off with resin epoxy.
"Acrylic painting loses the brightness through time, so with the resin, it seals the brightness forever," she said.
She's also beginning to play with incorporating real-life objects like sand from the beach.
Fernandez said one thing that's unique about her pet portraits is that every portrait's background is different. While she can include elements of someone's pet's story if they wish to share, she usually picks the background based on what she can see in the pet's picture.
"When I ask for their pictures, I like to use the picture of their eyes, because that's the way they can tell their pet apart from other pets," Fernandez said, "because there's a bunch of Labrador Retrievers, but the eyes I think that's a way they can tell. Okay, this is Fido. This is my dog."
It's the pet parents' reactions that motivate Fernandez to keep up the work. "My favorite thing about doing pet portraits is knowing that it makes people happy. I enjoy it when they say, 'this is my dog. This is my cat. Or, this is my horse,'" Fernandez said. I love when they open the box and say, 'Oh, my God, this is it."