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Mural artist dreams big

By Tricia O'Connor • May 6, 2016 at 10:00 AM

PORT CLINTON — Matt Ritter has a big dream … big as in murals-on-the-sides-of-buildings big.

“Because a mural is much bigger than an 8-by-10 painting, it gets much more attention,” said Ritter, a Port Clinton artist. “Go in any coffee shop – you might not notice any photography, but if there’s a mural, you remember it. The size of the piece really impacts you.”

Drawing the eye can draw people, as Ritter discovered last summer with a large-scale painting of a man’s face, shoulders and outstretched arm on an empty storefront on Second Street during one of the Port Clinton Art Walks. Not many people were making their way down Second Street then, but curiosity about the mural drew people to the street and local businesses benefited.

“Having public art in key spots will be beneficial to our community,” said Ritter, who created a 7-by-9-foot portrait of Johnny Cash for Stella’s in Perrysburg.

But making big art comes with a big price tag. Ritter will need to get training in mural work and specialty paints and tools. The paint alone is a thousand dollars or more.

Develop new skills and acquire new materials

There are special order spray paints made for muralists.

“There’s been a lot of innovation in the spray can itself,” said Ritter, who has an active GoFundMe site, GoFundMe/MattRitter. Spray cans for mural work come in a wide range of pressures (as opposed to the generic high-pressure spray paints most people are used to). In addition, muralists use a variety of specialty caps that, coupled with cans of different pressures, provides them with a great deal of versatility in the medium.

“Plus, the quality of the paint is much higher and stays vibrant longer, even with exposure to the sun, which is obviously pretty important with murals,” he added.

Ritter also hopes to raise enough funds to attend a murals class in Pennsylvania.

His talents are not limited to paper and paints.

Brews by day, paints by night

Ritter is the head brewer and artist for Catawba Island Brewing Co in Port Clinton, brewing some of the region’s finest craft beers and creating beer labels, amazing chalkboard art and promotional posters. After work at the brewery, Ritter can often be found spending long nights and weekends fine-tuning his skills and creating pieces in his working studio in downtown Port Clinton.

A native of Castalia, Ritter “was always drawing and sketching things, including my favorite baseball players and comic book heroes. So my dad bought me a long ream of paper, and I’ve been sketching ever since.”

Ritter credits his skills to his Margaretta High School art teacher, John Eschels (now retired).

“He really helped me take art seriously. He made me focus and taught me a lot about subject, design, and really took a creative scatterbrain and taught me the value of discipline in my craft. He really helped me discover my style. I owe a lot to that guy.”

Since then, Ritter has been hard at work honing his skill. He has sold (or donated) many of his large format paintings - including one of the late Robin Williams whose sale proceeds benefited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Ritter also gives back to the community in many ways, including creating graphics that support the Burning Snowman fundraiser and helping the Greater Port Clinton Arts Council.

Now Ritter wants to have a bigger impact – with big art. Funds raised will go directly towards purchase of a 240-can starter set of Molotow paints, specialty caps and classes that will be used to create and inspire imagery for local communities. Find Ritter’s fund page at GoFundMe/MattRitter.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Tricia O'Connor works with Water's Edge Consulting.

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