Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia Art
by Ann Erskine
Tom Ritchie is an oil painter who lived the first half of his life in the rural midwest and has resided in Baltimore for twenty years. His artwork depicts both of these geographical areas because he is drawn to the community similarities he observes. He compares the declining family farm to the end of the industrial era in America's cities. He feels that a "landscape" in the traditional sense no longer exists. The landscape has become a "constructed landscape" in the sense that land of the twentieth century became dominated by "constructions" such as cellular telephone communication towers and suburban sprawl. Tom's paintings depict the compromise with which the contemporary landscape must deal.
Tom's work was recently on display at the Resurgam Gallery on South Charles Street in Baltimore. He exhibited several of his plein air paintings created on the sidewalks of the city. He feels that he is "in the moment" while painting what is before him. He is drawn to the seasonal changes that he observes in the "nooks and crannies" of Baltimore and he is fascinated with the architecture of the area. Yet, when he travels back to the Midwest to visit family and friends, he still finds the vast open spaces of the farmland equally as intriguing as the urban landscape.
Ritchie considers himself both a photographer and a painter although, photography has become more of a tool to assist the painting rather than a vehicle for artistic expression. He feels that the use of the camera removes the artist from the subject. He uses a black and white photograph as a reference for a painting in order to establish the value and design relationships. He enjoys the inexhaustible potential of paint as an ever changing medium. He says, "Ultimately, the canvas becomes a puzzle where efforts in one area of a painting require a response in another section of the effort. If one is lucky, the final painting weaves the pieces of the puzzle together and offers a transcendent whole."
As his influences, Tom Ritchie counts Hopper because "the alienation he perceived is still evident in the post-modern society." He likes the work of Thomas Hart Benton due to the Midwest work ethic present in his art. He admires the realism of Richard Estes work and of the Baltimore painter Crystal Moll who also paints the urban landscape in plein air style. (left: Federal Hill South)
Ritchie first considered painting as a young child when he visited the studio of his father's friend, Norman Mangold. Norman was paraplegic and rolled around his studio on a tricycle which was quite appealing to the three-year-old Ritchie. Tom grew up with two professional musicians who taught on the university level and married a musician so he's never been far from a concert hall or a museum and the encouragement to create. As a teenager, he painted and found the experience a rewarding way to explore a sense of expression. Ritchie considers himself self-taught although he received his basic knowledge on preparing canvasing and dealing with the technical aspects of oil painting from the studios of Jim Pfaff and Paul Moscatt. He feels that the "doing of it" has given him more education than what he could have learned in several years of study in an art program.
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