Excerpt from the interview with Charles Ritchie:
Read the full interview here»
I am pleased to share this email interview with the incredible Silver Spring, Maryland based artist Charles Ritchie who for the past 30 years has drawn from his home and neighborhood as the starting point for deeply personal drawings, journals, prints, and paintings. Ritchie has made 143 complete volumes of his art journals since 1977 many of which can be viewed from his extensive website which offers an unforgettable and mezmerizing display of his many forms of artmaking.
In a 2014 Houghton Star essay Hope McKeever wrote:
Ritchie works from a chair in his home, slowly creating a layered representation of the metaphysical world using watercolor, graphite, pen, and ink as his tools. He attributes his unique style of creating to rebellion. Rebellion against the way he was brought up. He moved a lot as a child, and he finds the stability of his home liberating. However, he does not settle for stagnancy. He described how he enjoys “getting to know the world in a profound way through limited experience.” He compared this process to the life of a musician. A musician practices scales every day and listens to the rhythms and musicality of the notes. Ritchie described how he wants to be a receptor of the beautiful art that proceeds from his study of the observable world.
He sees his methods as a skill that takes time and patience to acquire. “Training the eye and hand has helped me isolate what is important,” he mentioned. His impeccable knowledge of color value is one of the important tools that he uses to create this isolation. Because he primarily works in black and white, Ritchie described how he must use the full range of color that these two colors offer. In a value class that Rhett taught, he used Ritchie’s work as an example of exceptional use of value. Rhett encourages his students to observe contrast between colors in their work instead of framing every section of color with lines.
Along with contrast in value, Ritchie studies time as a crucial element in his work. He finds immense importance in the stillness of time and the movement of time. Without the movement of time, he would not be able to capture the changing shadows on the wall, yet without the stability of time, he would not be able to document the reverently still environment. Both are crucial elements in his work and his observance of the world. He strives for moments that become “iconic rather than fleeting.” For example, Ritchie explained that he is currently working on a project that will take many years. He is observing the growth of an oak tree as it slowly adds layers to its core across a wide span of time, mastering the art of transitions.
Humility translates through his work because he realizes that he may not be alive to finish some of his projects as he believes, “no decision is final.” His work constantly evolves, creating an accurate representation of how his “inner voice” evolves with his work. Laurissa Widrick, a senior art major, observed this evolutionary aspect of his work and marveled at how, “his process is a lifelong commitment.”
Because his personal life connects so closely to his work, Ritchie’s own voice is the primary one that translates into his work. His inner voice, “the dream voice” as he calls it, captures the “train of consciousness” that goes through his mind during his early morning meditation times. These dedicated early morning reflection times are essential to the consistent patience that he exercises in his work, Rhett remarked. Ritchie finds solitude extremely important in the spiritual act of studying the inner voice and the psychology of self. He concluded that, “I think in a way, one’s spiritual world depends on those things.” This spiritual element permeates through his work turning small-scale pieces into scenes portraying vast universes that are easy to miss in a quick glance.
Ritchie is represented by BravinLee programs in New York, NY and has had solo shows at many notable venues including Houghton College, Houghton, NY in 2013 and Georgetown University, Washington, DC in 2012. He has received numerous awards including 2013 Ballinglen Fellowship, multiple Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, 2005 The Franz and Virginia Bader Fund and a 1999 The MacDowell Colony Fellowship. He has been reviewed by leading publications including: Art News, Haber’s Art Reviews, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Boston Globe. Since 1988 Mr. Ritchie has worked as an Associate Curator, Department of Modern Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. He received his MFA in painting in 1980 at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, and a BFA Graphic Design in 1977 at the University of Georgia, Athens, GA.
A solo exhibition of the artist drawings is currently being planned for 2017 at BravinLee programs in NYC, NY
Read the full interview here»