This is usually the spot where you’d find a little more about the particular artist’s work you're viewing, past the standard resume. I think it’s good to know the person and how they got to where they are. My interest in art at the age of 6, when the art teacher in my elementary school remarked to my parents during one of those uncomfortable “parent - teacher” nights, that I seemed to have a natural ability with just about any media he put in front of me. (And I thought he was going to tell them about the infamous hollow clay sculpture I did that nearly exploded in the school kiln). From there my parents truly nurtured that aspect of my education. I attended every extracurricular visual art program that anyone ever had in my area. In the high school, I had nothing but the best teachers. At Parkville Senior High in the 1980’s, Mr. Duane Sabiston and Mr. Charles Schwarz were my mentors, and more importantly my friends. Both were incredible artists and teachers. I was recommended to the national board of G&T (gifted and talented) programs, and was accepted into an exclusive G&T program being offered at Goucher College during the summer between 11th and 12th grade. It was, without question, one of the most intense learning experiences I have ever had. There I met Wendell Poindexter, who offered such amazing guidance, and gave me the words I'll never forget when I was discouraged about art and not getting to a level where I wanted to be: "You make it happen any way you can make it happen. If you can see it in your mind, you can do it. And when that burns in your head and heart- it's going to end up in your hands. You can't stop it." Wendell, like others mentioned here, changed my life.
When I returned to school my senior year, after attending the program at Goucher College, Mr. Sabiston entered one of my drawings into a teachers association mid-Atlantic art show. The piece entitled “Pink Shoes” went on to win national honors and traveled most of the country. At the end of high school I was given graduating class honors in the Commercial Art and Photography Departments. College was rather a tricky issue. Many of the art colleges did not offer particular courses in strict commercial design work. I got a call during my final week of high school from a private commercial design and commercial art college called “Millet Commercial Design” in Baltimore. The school accepted no more then four to five students per year, out of a class of no more then 20. Millet was a small school that offered intense one-on-one instruction by one of the old master’s of commercial design, Charles Miller. Since the instruction was on a per student basis, my four year degree was finished in three years, and I graduated on the (small as it may be) Dean’s list. Computer graphic design was just about to explode onto the design frontier.
After college I went to work at Maryland Display Inc., one of Baltimore’s premiere design and fabrication shops. Within two years I was made shop manager and designed 90% of all outgoing projects from concept to completion. Some of our clients included Equitable Bank, The Baltimore Orioles, Maryland Biotechnical Symposium, the Jupiter Theater in Florida, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, The Mechanic Theater, and The Lyric Opera House, to name only a few. During my time at Maryland Display Inc., I had yet another golden opportunity to learn from an old master of commercial art, Albert Zlatin. How far back did Al go in the world of commercial artwork? He lettered some of the old cards used in the Golden Age of television, and to his glee, painted showgirls for Vaudeville. Al Zlatin was, and still is, a God of the brush, the letter, and of commercial design. It was my privilege to learn from such a master of the art, and a wonderful human being. Maryland Display closed when Al retired at the age of 82, if my memory serves me correctly. Al is one of the biggest reasons I am what I am, and what he taught me about art and life can never be repaid.
All of this has laid the groundwork for where I am now.
These people made me what I am, and all that “classical” training translates to where my concepts of commercial and overall design are laid. You slowly find the tools may change, and anything you learn is just another way for you to bring what is in your head, or your client’s head, into reality.
Jeff Ritzmann is the principle designer and fabricator at Thunder Eagle Customs. During his career he's worked in sign and display fabrication right through to Director of Creative Development at one of the east coast's largest privately owned corporations. He's been a guitarist for 31 years, and studied under guitar hero Jaime LaRitz. Though his art career he's been able to work for two of the world's greatest guitarists, Steve Morse and Rik Emmett (and therefore picked the brains of both for guitar wisdom.) Jeff's work has also led him to do work for Sheryl Crow, REO Speedwagon, Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, Reba McEntire, Three Dog Night, Millie Jackson, The Dixie Dregs and the Steve Morse Band.
While working on his own guitars, Jeff had the thought to combine his artwork and guitars together, and launched Thunder Eagle Guitars.