A Modern Day Renaissance Student?

Daniella Amendola, Print Editor


Annette Ritzko
Ritzko painted her roommate Daniella Amendola with what originally was a pretzel.

A few weeks ago, Annette Ritzko, junior speech language pathology major, spent the night sitting in the corner, surrounded by her small forest of plants, drawing. It was a sunny day in late February, and the warmth of the afternoon had left many students yearning for springtime and foregoing work. Ritzko contemplated whether she should do homework, something she would inevitably do later, or draw, something she strongly desired to do in the moment.

As “Director” by The Antlers played on the record player, Ritzko took a break to prepare some oatmeal. This seemed like a prime time to discuss her love of art, as she had just spent an hour or so doodling.

“The earliest time I can recall drawing,” Ritzko said as one of her roommates shuffled like a crab through the MacDowell kitchenette, “well, this is probably prior to when I started drawing, would be when I was really, really young, and I had coloring books. I would not know how to draw, and I had no interest in it at all.”

At this point it is fair to note that roommate Carolyn Maguire had been shuffling back and forth with a prop knife, tongue slightly out. Maguire’s eccentricities are often the subjects of Ritzko’s drawings.

When Ritzko was very small – between first and third grades – she began to develop an odd habit of drawing the things she would see on television. Cartoons with unique styles and brightly hued characters inspired her.

A young Ritzko would see characters she liked, take a spiral notebook, and recreate them. She drew two lines horizontally on the page so that it was broken into three separate sections, and then she would create comics.

“I’d say when I was younger I filled a lot of notebooks with really stupid nonsense doodles,” Ritzko said.

Ritzko did this for a very long time, though they were bad drawings, she admitted.

In grade school, Ritzko began entering art contests, and that’s when she began to take art more seriously.

“It wasn’t until around fifth or sixth grade that I was like, wow! I really like doing art. I’m going to become a professional artist! Slash teacher! Slash principal, because I thought that was possible. I don’t know.”

During middle school Ritzko maintained a budding interest in art. As her art progressed, she drew from different inspirations. At this time Ritzko’s focus was Japanese anime, which is known for its color and its characters’ distinctly large eyes.

“I just liked the style,” Ritzko said. “I never actually wanted to be an anime writer, or a managaka, or whatever. I just really liked the style, and probably just wanted to make portraits with that style, not actually make the comics.”

Then Ritzko discovered Pokémon.

“That is when I first ever was like, wow, I want to copy that style. I want to do art like that. It was actually ‘The Ghost of Maiden’s Peak.’ It was that episode. I remember trying to draw that girl’s hair in the wind. That was the first time I ever thought very seriously about art.”

Now Ritzko is moved by other artists’ work and nature. “Especially colorful bits of life. I like clouds. I like drawing people. I like puffy coats. Tea.”

Ritzko is drawn to the details of the life around her, whether a menacing, deep gray storm cloud or a royal blue pea coat. Scenes from everyday life, such as random outfit combinations or odd poses her roommates strike, serve as her muse.

Every drawing Ritzko creates is her favorite in the moment, as it is exciting to see what the art will look like in the end. Maybe it will turn out, or maybe it will not.

“It’s the piece I last made, as long as I can look back on it and be like, wow, I like that. But I know there’s going to be something I like more in the future, as fortunately I think I have room to grow. I have the opportunity to do that.”

As Ritzko spoke, she moved a salt shaker away from her oatmeal, and said, “Oh, that’s wet salt.”

Her roommate, Madison Glinski replied in a deadpan voice, “Some might call it the dead sea.”

This is pertinent to the story.

Ritzko said her current favorite medium might be watercolors, but she is trying to get into acrylics.

“I really don’t like acrylics. Hopefully maybe within the summer oil [paints] might be my favorite, but currently it’s watercolor paints and inks. I like inks,” said Ritzko.

Sometimes Ritzko will take pictures of people to draw later.

“I do that,” said Ritzko, “but I don’t always get to draw those people, so I have an incredibly awkward amount of pictures of people that they’ll probably never know of. I don’t end up drawing the majority of them. Most of the time when I draw someone I’ve taken a picture of, it’s usually someone that’s always around me, that’s close by me. Because it’s in that moment that I’m like, I really want to draw that, since I probably have pencil and paper there.”

Ritzko draws her roommates very often.

Though Ritzko is a speech language pathology major and Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, this year she has found more time to focus on art.

“Not last year, and I probably won’t be able to find a lot of time next year, but generally speaking, usually if you really like something you can find some form of time to do it. You just might have to give up watching a TV show or something. Or playing on your phone, like Animal Crossing.”

Ritzko loves this game very much.

Her transition from art to speech language pathology was an interesting one.

“I really would love to be an illustrator, and actually really hope someday to write a children’s book and illustrate a children’s book, but that would be more of a me thing. So I probably wouldn’t publish it through a really big company. I’d probably just make it so I’d have a few copies of the book,” said Ritzko.

It was in high school that Ritzko’s plans changed.

She was set on art– nothing science, nothing math, nothing health related, she said. Then a career teacher asked her to pick four very different careers. She chose a teacher, because she had thought of doing that for a while, playing make believe with a chalkboard when she was young. She also thought of being an art director.

“I forget the other one, but it was probably art, and then the last one I chose was speech pathology because I took a quiz and that was included in my results. So I was like, okay, I guess I’ll look into this.”

Ritzko attended an exploration camp at the university, and ended up liking it.

“Then I just decided it was going to be my major. I figured, the thing is with art, I probably wouldn’t want it to be an actual career—for example, to be an illustrator and to do the book at my own leisure, in my own time, when the inspiration actually hits rather than being forced to do that.”

Ritzko particularly likes the idea of having a career in which she is helping people, and not merely observing and representing them.

“Even if I didn’t like speech pathology the most, what’s the worst that I’m doing? Helping people? Even if that didn’t work out for me, I could probably switch careers.”

Ritzko said speech pathology would be a very difficult thing to go into later on in life, while if she later returned to school for art it would be easier.

“At the very least I’m passionate about it,” Ritzko said. “What’s the worst that can happen with a degree?”

Her future health science career meets many of her interests anyway, she said.

“I like to help out, I like to be around people, I like all those kinds of things, and it also incorporates teaching, so it does fulfill a huge part of my life while art was more like the creative side, the slightly passionate side, but that was more compartmentalized as compared to what I think speech can fulfill for me.”

Ritzko likes being the Editor-in-Chief of the Highlander, too, as she was involved with her high school newspaper.

Ultimately, Ritzko finished eating her oatmeal straight out of a pot and got some homework done. There was much to do.