Ronda Richley branches out in Ocala

The artist affectionately known as “The Tree Lady” has quite a few more tricks up her sleeve.

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Posted July 15, 2022 | By Julie Garisto

Ronda Richley calls herself a tree-hugger. Literally. She has embraced the trees in her yard before incoming storms, wishing them safety.

“I used to live in the woods,” she reminisced. “I’d name my trees, go out there and I’d hug them and make sure they wouldn’t fall on the house, and they never did. I warned them about the wind, and everybody thought it was crazy,”

Though she’s been dubbed “the Tree Lady,” the Ohio-born master of mixed media also explores other subjects. Richley is an experimental artist foremost and delights in navigating the twists and turns of the creative process, as well as uplifting anyone who engages with her work.

She earned a master’s degree in studio art from California State University-Northridge, but, before that, she refined her illustration skills at an advertising agency she used to own. While living in Los Angeles, she became skilled at Victorian art reproduction.

Now based in Ocala, she mixes 2D illustration and painting with textures using glass, painting, printmaking and ceramics. Her detailed, comprehensive website reveals an organized artist with business acumen. Raised by an artist mother and accountant father, heredity reinforces Richley’s balanced nature.

She has also gained what she calls “a second life.” The notion goes back to Dec. 2, 2019, when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. She endured surgery and chemotherapy, followed by radiation therapy.

After her recovery, in 2020, Richley shifted her focus back to art, creating “Sunny Daze,” a Van Gogh-inspired, sunflower-painted mare in the “Horse Fever” public art project. The experience led to her making new friends and connections in Ocala, so much so that she and her husband, a retired equine veterinarian and animal attorney, relocated from Ormond Beach to Marion County five months ago.

Sunny Daze

“I want to give back,” Richley said, sharing that she will be volunteering for the David and Lisa Midgett Foundation’s Arts in Health Ocala Metro (AIHOM) to help patients receiving chemotherapy cope by creating art with them.

“I am going to UF Health in Gainesville for a day next week and tag along with one of their artists in the cancer infusion center to see how they work,” Richley explained.” It is part of my training. … Each of the artists selected by AIHOM is going to do that independently as part of our training.”

Richley’s website details her past and current projects, and her blog reveals how she tests her limits by taking on projects she might otherwise find too daunting.

For example, she decided to take on creating mosaic mirrors for the bathroom in her new Ocala residence.

“I decided about two days into it, that I just LOVE doing mosaics,” Richley writes in her blog. “It was very relaxing, extremely creative and offered me another means of expression. Because of the project I did not want to do, I found something I am excited to begin, and am redoing my studio to accommodate this new form of art for me. And, I guess that is yet another moral for this story. To use an old cliche, ‘Don’t knock it till you try it.’ You just might find that thing that you have been avoiding is very different, and most enjoyable.”

Last November, Richley and a friend visited the Leesburg Center for the Arts. She admired a floor loom that happened to be for sale and now it’s in her studio. So, expect some textile art from her in the coming months.

On July 23, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the intrepid artist will paint hearts and personalize them for patrons attending the “Christmas in July” event at the Ocean Art Gallery, 197 E. Granada Blvd., Ormond Beach.

For more information about Richley and her art, visit