Gretchen Serrano, Artist Inspired by the Great Masters


If you want to see an original Vincent Van Growl, Pablo Pawcasso, or Salvador Doggie, head to the 3rd floor exhibit area of the Fort Myers Beach Public Library in June and July to view the doggone great art of Gretchen Kish Serrano!

Inspired by the Great Masters, Gretchen intermixes pets into art classics to create “Paw Palettes,” that honors both our animals and some of the world’s greatest artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Klimt and others. The Library show features Gretchen’s entire series of ‘Paw Palettes’ originals along with select works from her drip paint collection, totaling roughly 35 pieces.

“’Paw Palettes’ is for all pet lovers,” explains Gretchen, “while my commission work is for specific projects for loving pet owners, because to a lot of people, their pet is a beautiful work of art. We personalize the painting by spending a lot of time with owners and their pets, to capture the style and look that displays the love that exists between them.” She is a proponent of the free-flowing style of Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionist movement of dripping, splattering and trailing paint across the canvas, to create a unique expression without the use of brush strokes, as well as utilizing the brushwork style of Van Gogh for other projects.

Feels Like The First Time

Serrano applies the finishing touches of 23kt gilding to her Gustav Klimt-inspired “Greyhound Kiss.” Photos submitted.

Gretchen has an interesting connection to the Fort Myers Beach Public Library – until recently, she’d never set foot in it! “My friend, Patrice Koerper Robson, loves the Fort Myers Beach Library, and knows the director, Dr. Leroy Hommerding, and she made the connection. I understand my exhibit is a little unusual, in that they have a different display each month, but since it is the off season, we will keep it up for June and July.”

Born in Peoria, Illinois, Gretchen moved to Missouri as a baby, growing up in a town of 2,000 people. College at Northern Illinois University brought her back to her birth state, where she attained her degree in fine arts, then moved to Chicago. “I was a graphic designer and art director for two years until Leo Burnett Advertising, one of the biggest agencies in Chicago, hired me. Living Downtown was great, but so different from the little town where I grew up, so it was a massive change and a little scary at first, but also exciting and fun. While there, I took painting classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and that was awesome! It was there I came up with the idea to copy a masterpiece like Picasso, and the fun concept of ‘Paw Palettes’ was born, with my first model being my own dog, Sophie, who sadly passed away several years ago.”

A Family Thing

Gretchen Serrano, family, artist, fort myers beach
Artist Gretchen Kish Serrano with her children Enzo (l) and Gigi in front of a tribute artwork they created in honor of Sophie a rescue dog that inspired Gretchen’s future in art.

Gretchen recalls being into art as a little girl, “because my Mother is an artist and so is my brother, and now my daughter Gia, who will soon be 11, has the art bug and will drip paints. My husband Joe is not only a really really good digital artist in advertising, but he sets up the tent and materials at my shows. Our teenage son Enzo is the concept guy at our brainstorming sessions, so the whole deal really is a family thing.”

They moved to Southwest Florida in 2008, “because it seemed like a good idea, then The Crash came, and we did not enjoy that. It’s one thing to come down for the fun part of the year, but it is something altogether different when you simultaneously have a family and work and start a new business like ‘Paw Palettes’ all at the same time.”

Her initial work was actually of a young daughter of a friend, “and everyone thought it adorable,” recalls Gretchen. “Then it hit me: rather than people, why not dogs, as that would be the funnest thing. I painted Sophie, who was a beagle whippet, in a Van Gogh, as I love Van Gogh, and it was ‘So CUUUUTE,’ and one thing led to another, and the next thing I knew there was ‘Paw Palettes.’ Now my current kettle dog, Penelope, is in a lot of my work.”

She recently opened a new studio in Downtown Cape Coral. “My original idea was to start an artist colony, then I found this space and it is ideal for me, and a big part of fulfilling my dream of being a fulltime artist, as now that time is here.” Gretchen is active in the mission to bring a ‘No Kill” animal rescue shelter to Cape Coral, as it does not have one. “I am so excited about that, as that is a big part in what I want to accomplish.”

Hold That Pose

Your dog does not actually pose for Gretchen: “I am always so surprised when I get that question, because people ask me that all the time! If I tried that, we would have paint all over me and the pet and the entire place! Clients send as many photographs of their pet as possible, from many different angles, then I observe owners and pets together to see their personalities. I provide sketches to see if I am capturing it correctly, and once they approve, it is several more weeks to complete, so the entire commission takes 3 to 6 months to reach your home, once I fit it into my calendar.”

Gretchen wants her customers to love their works as much as their pets: “I strive to bring a unique happiness that makes their hearts’ sing. The portrait tells the story of the love you and your dog share, and people usually cry when they see the completed painting. I love it when my art connects at that deep of a level. As for me, the best part is when I am in that happy joyful flow, and time just disappears; when I find that theme while painting a dog, and hopefully others see that joy.”

People always ask Gretchen when she will paint people, particularly children, “but I avidly do pets. My drip paintings are big because the love you have for your pet is big! My works make people smile, so it is a positive for everyone as well as fun for me. When I work, I have other portraits on the walls, so all these big happy eyes watch me. What I do is a challenge, because there are a wide variety of art masters, and an even wider variety of dog breeds, so it is interesting to fit the style to the dog, making each a new experience. I am launching my dream, and now that it is here, I am a little nervous but excited, so YAAY! I am going for it!”

To learn the story behind Gretchen’s lovable creations, there is a “Meet the Artist” Reception on Thursday, July 13, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. For information on ‘Paw Palettes,” see; for the Library see or call 239-765-8162. The library is at 2755 Estero Boulevard; hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; closed Sunday and holidays including The Fourth of July.


Gary Mooney