Fine Arts Seminar (Houghton College)

thinking critically and building community around art and design

Charles Ritchie | Loghry

Out of the multiple artists I have heard from over the last three semesters Charles Ritchie stands out to me.

I love that unlike so many artists he is content staying in one place to work on his art for decades at a time. He doesn’t have to travel to satisfy his desire to create. It is refreshing to hear about an artist who works best by routine. I feel like artists are often categorized, possibly with reason, as whimsical, spur of the moment, roll with the wind type who discard any sense of routine. The discipline he practices in the everyday is inspiring. I also love that he takes his time, it is often hard for artists, especially us in undergrad to spend adequate time on a project, we are rushing from project to project and at some point we are forced to label it finished. His artwork is less about the finished products (which are gorgeous) and more about the process behind each work.

Similarly, his interest in dreams struck a chord with me. I am increasingly interested in the human subconscious. Having pulled influences from dreams myself I find it consoling to know that I am not alone. Ritchie commented saying, “I’m not doing this dream, this dream is coming to me.” I found this interesting. Often times when I wake up from a dream I think to myself, what’s wrong with me, why am I thinking of that? But when he worded it like this it shows that the dreams are out of our control and that they come to us not from us. His connections to home and dreams and books are all things that I find important in my work and ultimately my personality. It was a pleasure to experience such an incredible body of work and meet such an artist.

| Morgan Loghry

Charles Ritchie by Jill Magara

Charles Ritchie is very dedicated to creating his body of work. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon, Ritchie works out of his house everyday as well as working whenever a thought strikes him. Ritchie has kept and continues to keep a journal with every thought he has relating to his work. He started to keep his journals in 1997 and to date, he has 140 journals finished and is working on his 141st journal! Ritchie called these journals the “backbone” of his process and art work. His journals contain thoughts, little sketches, and small, quick watercolor drawings.

Ritchie works mainly with prints and watercolor in his body of art work. In his process for water color he uses graphite, conté crayon, pen, and ink which is primarily indigo and raw umber red. Mixed together, these create a very dark color. With his prints he uses rubber plates, rock mezzotint plates, ink, and acid/syrup. He generally collaborates with a friend when he does his prints.

The thing I found most intriguing about Ritchie was his journals. Each journal he has is hand made by his wife specifically for him to use for his journals. The journal pages are made out of paper specifically used for watercoloring. The books are filled with his thoughts (in writing that is not readable by almost anyone besides himself), dreams, and little sketches. Ritchie dedicates so much of his time to his practice because of his journals and that is something I hope to be able to do someday!

I am really glad his exhibition is in the gallery right now. It always leaves so much more of an impact on you when you can hear an artist talk about their work and then actually go over with them and see the work while being able to ask them questions.

Charles Ritchie

As Charles Ritchie began his talk and really got into the heart of his work, two words came to mind – passionate and committed. He is so passionate and committed to his work that he makes it a priority and habit to document his dreams every night, no matter where he is. He sketches and writes in journals (that are hand made by his wife), and he chooses to work at the most unlikely hours of 3-6 a.m because he knows that is when he is at his best.

His passion and commitment drive him to stick with the same ideas and subjects for all of his life. It is astounding to me how Charles has made a career at depicting, for the most part, the same thing over and over. However, as he explained why he chooses to do so, and the way in which he views little events – subtle changes – as seismic ones, it resounded with me because, unlike most artists, he is not out to shock viewers. In return, viewers (myself included) find his subjects relatable. Viewers can relate to his work without it feeling boring or uninteresting because he chooses to render his landscapes/subjects at night – giving a new way of viewing a recognizable subject. He also, by depicting the world around himself, avoids bringing his specific individualism in his work. The viewer then has room to bring their own imagination to the piece and create their own narratives.

I learned a lot during Charles talk about the process of printmaking that I had never known. Prior to his talk, I had never heard of things such as spit bite aqua tint. The time and commitment that he spends on etching his drawings for printing is quite impressive.  It was also inspiring to see and hear his love for collaborating with his printmaker and the how enjoys the outcomes of their work together. One of the most memorable things he said about printmaking was, the way in which creating a print of a drawing allows him to let go of the control he has over an artwork, and how printmaking brings a whole new way of seeing the same subject.

Lastly, after viewing his exhibition, my favorite pieces would have to be his interior-exterior reflections. I kept revisiting some of those pieces, and in their immense detail, found myself discovering new details every time. I believe Charles Ritchie’s talk and artwork has allowed me to see the ways in which passion and commitment can create amazing work, but not letting yourself get caught up in one piece.

Charles Ritchie

After hearing Charles Ritchie speak, I was impressed. Not that I wasn’t impressed before after hearing him speak the first time in Art Seminar but it was even better to have him walk us through his works in the gallery itself. I loved hearing and seeing him interact and discuss each of the works around him. Especially his interior exterior works.

His subject matter of his home and the view outside his own window got me to think about my own spaces around me in new ways. Here at my dorm I think of all the spaces or rooms that I have shared with others and the familiar objects scattered about. It makes me think about the changes and history of each space. Just as he spoke of the view from his window changes, so have my own views changed.  Take for example my dorm room closet. I have never had my own closet before, I have always had to share closet space with my sister and roommates. But now I have all this space to myself and it has become familiar to me. My stuff is organized based how I want it to be. It’s become its own composition. Charles Ritchie help me see that these spaces create their own works of art.

Charles Ritchie mentioned that if he was able to make us stop and reflect on our own memories with his work then he had accomplished what he wanted out of his painting, journals and prints. It worked with me, I recalled a couple of memories that related to how things have changed outside of my own windows. I remember the oak trees that used to line our front lawn before they were uprooted by the Labor Day Storm or the lilac trees that bloom outside our living room window each spring. I enjoyed the memories and thanked Charles for the opportunity to reflect on them.

I also learned a lot about printmaking from Charles Ritchie. Before his class I had never heard of Aqua prints or Mezo tint. It was fascinating looking at his process to get each print. It would be nice to try one of the methods some day. Another thing about his process of creating his work I liked was the fact that his wife was the one who provided him with most of his journals. It was neat to see the way she would sew and bind the journals that would become her husbands canvas. I like the collaboration between both him and his wife and him and his printer.

The last thing I enjoyed about Charles Ritchie was his love for the subject of space and stars. I share this love and found myself drawn to the prints and drawing that depicted either stars, the sky or the moon. My favorite of them had to be the his Daffodils with Astronomical Chart. My first reaction to the drawing was that there was no way it was just watercolor. I thought it was a some kind of photo at first. The detailing was beautiful, especially on the star chart behind the vase of daffodils. The way he handled the reflections on the vase and the table top was amazing. My second favorite was his spit bite print X. Comet. How amazing it was that he captured the beauty of such an astronomical event in one small print. It just captivates me. Lastly I agree with him that he should never sell that large stat chart he has on his studio wall.

-Brett Loretz

Douglas Degges

At first I was a bit skeptical of Douglas Deeges’ work, because he works with abstract paintings and artwork. As he was showing his work and explaining it, I became interested in it and how he reaches a finished product . I am not one to judge because I have never worked with this kind of art before. It’s completely different than representational artwork. Yet both methods have the same type of thought patterns. It was interesting to hear how he works and gathers up his thoughts to prepare and make a piece. Doug brought up a few questions that sparked my interest. He said that he puts himself into situations where he is uncomfortable in front of his own work. This can be interpreted in a few different ways.
First off, get out of your comfort zone by working with materials that you aren’t used to. It helps to widen your range and experience with your artist skills, and you may even find something else that you like better. It may get boring working with the same old same old every day, so why not try something new. Another way to interpret what he said (although, I don’t think it’s what he meant) is to create artwork that leaves you and the viewer hanging and full of open ended questions. It leaves you with questions of ‘did I make that?’ Art should get your mind working and questioning what your work really means.
The other phrase that he said that jumped out to me is that sometimes he feels like he’s putting out a lot of shit in the world. I think we all go through that phase of questioning our existence as an artist, and if it’s something we can actually live off of. Doug’s persistence and wanting to learn more has brought him to a place in life where he can confidently say who he is and what he does for a living. I have a lot of respect for Doug and his career that he is pursuing.
-Becca Sarrge

Douglas Degges: The Upchuck and the Whisper by Carrolin Jackson

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Douglas Degges was quite an interesting person to hear, see, and learn from. From the moment he began speaking to our class, it was evident that he was full of ideas, concepts, and themes that he’s spent plenty of time thinking upon and working through. He seemed to be a person unafraid of telling it like it is; of being brutally honest with us and with his own thoughts, feelings, and musings, even if it came at the price of seeming not to ‘have it all together’, and it was honestly refreshing. I’m appreciative of how open he was with the class, how willing he was to answer tough questions and give us honest answers. He had no pretensions about being incredibly successful, or knowledgable, or ‘having arrived’. He’s human, he questions, he experiments, he struggles, just like the rest of us, and he knows it.

I’m glad he spoke so much about collaboration and his experience with it. Here at Houghton, I don’t feel as if we (art students) ever really spend a great amount of time, energy or effort on collaborative pieces or projects. There are exceptions to this, of course, where its been important to work together, such as in the recent paper making class, but I feel as if this is the exception to the rule. Most of the time we are encouraged to explore our own thought processes, our own themes, own pieces, singularily. So it was enlightening to hear him talk of the lack of control in a collaborative piece, of the fear and threat of hurting someone’s feelings and in turn being hurt yourself in the process, of the long, glacial paced conversation that happens when you collaborate through the mail. I love how he spoke of his mentors and his collaborative groups, conversely made up of twenty, forty, and seventy year olds, and how they all bring their own wealth of knowledge, perspective, and story, how they all challenge him in their own ways.

Besides his collaborative work, Douglas has a huge and varying body of his own work. He tends to be content in taking on large series and ideas at a time. Of note are his sculptures of blown up line drawings made up of written word, his work and exploration with GPS tracking devices as they scatter frantically, trying to chart his every movement, and his experimentation with his ugly, chunky paintings. He spoke of how he purposefully pusues color, texture, and shape that he finds unappealing. Its a virtue, to him, to be able to work with ‘ugly’ material, and still be able to create something out of it. He wants to feel uncomfortable, he wants to feel challenged, in front of his own work, in his own studio.

He shared with us a bit about his other various jobs; being an art handler, being an artist’s assistant, whatever it takes to stay connected with the art world and other artists. His recent move to New York city, and all of the merits but also all of the detriments to living so close to the art scene. He laments that perhaps he’s become a little too saturated, and dangerously so, with all of the art out there in the world, how there’s an abundance of bad work out there, that often frustratingly receives undeserved recognition. He encouraged us then, not to make bad work, and to make lots of it.

Douglas Degges loves the push and pull, the stretching and shifting of boundaries between the beautiful and pure, and the raw, gestural and guttural. He rejects the safe and complacent. He delights in the unexpected, the uncomfortable surprise his own work brings him, and leaving us with these words, “Alone in my studio, I get to be someone else.”

Douglas Deeges, As Told By Katie Kloos

Doug was an interesting individual to meet. After his talk I was fortunate enough to go up to the art building with him & look at my paintings for a critique. He wrote down so many names to look up: of both contemporary painters & poets. An avid member of the New York City art scene, he knows what’s happening. Doug was honest about how he makes money, which sometimes means working for other artists. He said he felt a little weird making other people’s art. He also handles artwork (sometimes expensive top secret stuff) for local galleries. When he has the chance to make his own work, he collaborates & makes ugly paintings. I mean this in the best way. He mentioned that he likes to feel uncomfortable in front of his paintings & that he chooses colours that he hates on purpose. Those weirdly sized paintings he said should be way bigger are called “the upchuck & the whisper.” He plays with what looks like layers of paint but is actually a crunchy base that makes it seem puffy. Doug is all about contradictions, which is evident in his upchuck paintings. His series “limbs & letters” are all about writing/letters as deliberate line art. He uses original line drawings and then creates 3-D wall sculptures out of wood. These have a childlike innocence & curiosity to them; I’m not sure if he would appreciate that, but that’s how I see them. His “props & pictures” series deals with crappy photos that are then printed on canvas that is dragged out of the printer. I appreciate these hazy creations and their haphazard lines across the canvas. Overall, I enjoyed Doug’s talk.

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