William B. Ritchie
Art is a disease you drive yourself mad doing it. Why? I don't know, but there is a great joy in being an artist, though it's a struggle to get the work done a great struggle
From Art As Life: A New Portrait of Bill Ritchie by Philip Hicks. Arts Atlantic 55, Spring/Summer, 1996, p.27.
William Ritchie was born in Windsor, Ontario, in 1954. After attending several art colleges in Southern Ontario, Ritchie moved to Halifax where he graduated with a bachelor of fine arts from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1976. That same year he travelled to Nain, Labrador, to work for Memorial University of Newfoundland's Artist-in-the-Community program.
Gilbert Hay, an artist and native resident of Nain, shared his knowledge of Inuit mythology and survival tactics in the Labrador wilderness with Ritchie, in return for Ritchie's instruction in silkscreen printing and lithography techniques. Labrador Inuit Mythology Series, organized by Memorial University Art Gallery in 1982, was a collaborative exhibition of Ritchie's and Hay's lithographs illustrating various Inuit legends. Not only a printmaker, Ritchie has also worked in watercolour, acrylic paint, film and digital media.
After a six-year residency in Nain, Ritchie returned to Newfoundland to work at St. Michael's Printshop in its original location on the Southern Shore of the avalon peninsula. He lived there for several years in an isolated cabin with no running water and with electricity provided only by a small generator.
Ritchie's avid interest in the wilderness and natural history gained him employment at the Smithsonian Institute and the Federal Department of Mines and Energy during 1978-82. Landscapes and animals displaying human characteristics are frequent subjects in Ritchie's work. For instance, a fish has human hands transcribed into the pattern of its fins or a fox has a human face partially disguised within its fur. His earlier work tended to be monochromatic, but in recent years his palette has expanded.
In addition to the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador's Permanent Collection, Ritchie's art work is part of private and public collections including the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Art Gallery of Hamilton, and The Canada Council Art Bank.
In 1997, he opened Caplin Cove Press, a small fine art printshop in the community of St. Michael's, Newfoundland.