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Variety of mediums will be on display at festival

Participating artists are from across the continent

January 9, 2012
By TIFFANY REPECKI - , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

From functional pieces to stop-and-stare creations, hundreds of artists will display their wares at the 27th annual Cape Coral Festival of the Arts.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 14-15 along Cape Coral Park-way, East, between Del Prado Boulevard, South, and Vincennes Boulevard.

Admission and parking are free, and food and drink vendors will be on site.

Article Photos


Gretchen Serrano will be showing her paintings at the Cape Coral Festival of the Arts.

Each year, artists and craftspeople from across the country submit an application, along with a samples of their work, in hopes of being accepted.

Approximately 300 applicants have been invited to participate this year.

Gretchen Kish Serrano, a Cape resident and painter, is attending for the fourth year. She creates impressionist-like paintings of the masters, from Pablo Picasso to Andy Warhol, then uses different dogs as the subjects.

Most breeds are painted in Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night."

"It's a pet art collection inspired by the masters," Serrano said, adding that she gives her pieces a "doggie name" to go with the artistic style.

For example, a van Gogh of hers is titled "Van Growl" and a Salvador Dali work - this is her first year showing them - is called "Salvador Doggy."

"I have a dog and love my dog - I tried my dog first," Serrano said of her idea for the paintings. "I thought it was fun, and people seem to enjoy it."

"It's really a tribute to the pets and how they enhance our lives," she added.

Asked why she likes participating in the festival, Serrano cited the quality art, the welcoming artists and the wide representation of work present.

"It offers me an opportunity to get in front of pet lovers," she added. "Find out what breeds they want (painted)."

Each year, one artist's submission is chosen for the festival's poster.

Fort Myers artist David King's "Blue Heron" was selected this year.

"I was amazed," he said of being picked.

King and his wife, who also is an artist and a participant in next weekend's festival, were driving back from a nearby art show when they saw a billboard announcing the event - it was King's watercolor painting as the backdrop.

"I didn't know it," he said. "I had no idea."

King took up painting in 1967 after he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force. After tinkering in a variety of mediums - oils, acrylics and even chalk - he settled on transparent watercolor because of the difficulty.

"I think they're the most challenging," King said.

"There's no covering up mistakes," he added.

While living in Michigan, King focused on painting plants native to the area. After moving to the Cape, he found that not as many people were intrigued by his work because they were not familiar with what they were looking at.

So, King - a regular visitor to the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel - focused on more Florida-friendly subjects, like the blue heron.

"That's the reason I paint a lot of them," he said. "I see them all the time."

This is King's first year back at the festival following a short hiatus.

"I decided to come back and do that one," he said, adding that the Cape event is probably one of the better shows in the Southwest Florida region.

"I think Cape Coral is unique because it has something for everybody," King said of the upcoming festival. "Different styles, different expenses."

In the fine crafts category, Frank Gabriel has been pleasing festival-goers with his hand-carved and painted fish for about two decades. A resident of Springhill, Gabriel learned to whittle wood from his father as a boy.

"I've been in the fish business since I was 7," he said.

Gabriel has 25 years of experience as a sport fisherman, and he spent 11 years working as a commercial fisherman. Whittling has been a hobby.

"I'd make more money selling wooden fish, then fish," he laughed.

The fish come in all sizes, both game and tropical fish. Gabriel creates the details using a knife, then stains the wood using his own mix of oil colors.

"It's more art than a wood carving of a fish," he said.

Gabriel first learned about the Cape festival while doing other art shows in the local area, and he participated for the first time in the early 1990s.

"I just kept coming back to the show," he said, adding that attendees have always been good to him. "I've always had a real good show down there."

Making new friends and having a great time is an added bonus.

"I love what I do, and people seem to appreciate what I do," Gabriel said.

For partners Dawn Weber and Cindylee Sly, their speciality is handcrafted wooden pens. Sly "turns" the blocks of wood with special woodworking tools, then Weber creates graphic arts designs on them using a mix of materials.

"We call ourselves functional art," Weber said. "Everything we create, there's a use for it."

From metals to acrylics to resins, the Cape locals also create wine bottle stoppers, key chains, razor handles and more. For this year's festival, they will unveil their new product - soft-touch styluses for tablets and iPads.

Weber explained that functional art goes behind that artwork on a wall.

"That's nice," she said of that hanging on the wall. "But to have something that you can use every day, and enjoy every day, is even more special."

The artistry of and on Sly and Weber's pens run the gamut, from whimsical and light-hearted to spot on, like a replica .30-caliber bullet with a deer on it. Probably the most interesting pens are the ones that have history to them.

Weber explained that the pens are carved out of blocks of wood from places like George Washington's estate or one of Thomas Jefferson's estates - the pens come with a certificate of authenticity to back up their background.

Their third year at the festival, the pair enjoy taking part in the event.

"It's really one of the top shows in the state," Weber said, adding that the artists come from all over. "It's really a lot of fun to be a part of that."

It also gives the duo an opportunity to support the local community.

"We really enjoy supporting our local art," she said.



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