Lake Wales Art Festival Brings Out Local Artists For 48th Year
by James Coulter
Looking at the oil paintings of landscapes by Jeff Ripple, an artist from Micanopy, Florida, one would almost be forgiven for mistaking them for photographs. Each of the portraits contain plenty of painstaking attention to detail, especially with the lighting.
Ripple has been painting for the past 10 years. Prior to that, he was a photographer of large format photographs. Having previously worked in photography allowed him to better view the finer details of the world through the lens of photography, which all the more improves the photorealism of his landscapes.
Even back when he was attending art school, he used to study the paintings by the Hudson School of painters, especially with how they utilized lighting within their work. His studies allowed him to emulate their styles in his own work, he explained.
Such attention to detail in regards to his photorealism, as well as maintaining a cohesive body of work, allowed him to win the award of Best in Show at the 48th Annual Lake Wales Art Festival last weekend.
Ripple loves to attend the event, as it allows him to experience camraderie with his fellow artists, many of whom he has befriends at the event over the years.
“I have been coming out for many years,” he said. “I have friends out here, so we have a bit of a community. The show is easy to do. My friends are here, so it is easy to make it a little bit of a vacation and hopefully earn some money and getting the show is easy to do.”
Ripple was one of 75 artists who attended this year’s event hosted along the scenic landscape of Lake Wailes Park. He was also one of several other artists who were recipients of awards as presented by judges from the Lake Wales Art Council, which hosts the event.
Marylin Rackleman, a Winter Haven artist, was one of several artists who received an Award of Excellence. Her booth featured many of her sculptures, most of which are modeled after natural Florida wildlife.
“I am a Florida native, so my artwork reflects that,” she said. “I love to use the colors and textures and the plant life and animals to some extent. I love to user the local stuff to create texture and color in my artwork.”
Rackleman has been engaged in artwork all of her life, but had recently started creating sculptures within the past ten years. Aside from being inspired by nature, she also uses her art to make somewhat political statements.
One such sculpture, “Warning Song”, features the head of a bald eagle as it lets out a loud screech, evidently upset at the many bad things happening within the country it represents, she said.
Having attended the event for several years, she enjoys being able to engage in the camraderie of other artists as well as the people who organize it, she said.
“They really know what they are doing,” she said. “The people that run it are very organized, and they make us homemade cookies.”
The annual art festival has its humble roots alongside the sidewalk of the old Publix supermarket, where less than 15 local artists attended. The event has since grown in leaps and bounds, with this year featuring 81 booths with 75 artists from the surrounding area.
This year had a special addition of a tent featuring the artwork of the judges overseeing the awards this year, thus allowing the artists attending to see how their artwork stands up to their own, explained Erica O’Neil, festival coordinator.
The venue within Lake Wailes Park not only allows the scenic landscapes to better accentuate the artwork, but also provides a convenient location where random passersby can check out the artwork on display.
“Lake Wales has always been supportive of art events,” she said. “We have been around long enough that we have a loyal following. Community members always come out, so the quality of the art that is displayed is a great draw for them.”
Aside from exposing the local community to great art, the annual event also provides a great opportunity for local artists to view the art of their colleauges and to come together in shared camraderie.
“The people, walking around, as I have been doing all weekend, everyone is thrilled to be here,” she said. “The friendliness to the artists and visitors, it is a pleasant experience, there is a camraderie of the artists and the volunteers so it is a great weekend to enjoy the art and fellowship with the community.”