Samantha Ritchie is a modern Renaissance woman. Yoga, art, neuroscience, anatomy; her interests run the gamut. She’s also gorgeous to boot, clear hazel-amber eyes glint rapidly back and forth as we sip coffee and tea at a local coffee shop. It’s Halloween and she’s dressed from head to toe in yoga clothes depicting an alarmingly realistic image of a skeleton.
“So who are you showering with?” She asks, a wry smile creeping across her lips.
Sam, as she likes to be called, is referring to the latest audio book she’s listening to. A book gifted to her by a friend; The Wisdom of Sundays. In it a variety of well-known self-help gurus dole out their best and most illuminating wisdom and Sam is working her way through it and taking it to heart.
“I literally ask myself a question like that every day, now,” she says. “It’s helping me stay in the moment and stay grounded.”
As an artist and graphic designer who is deeply emotionally connected to the world, it’s crucial, according to Sam, that she stay present in her work.
A MATTER OF THE HEART
One dedicated fan of Ritchie’s is on the verge of losing his sight due to a degenerative eye disease. His story has touched her in a way that has unexpectedly deepened her desire to throw herself into her art.
“He told me how one day at a really low point in his life he stumbled on one of my pieces on display at a local club.” Sam sometime shows her art locally and has had a few local shows at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach. She’d displayed one piece in particular—an angular heart and it was the piece that her fan says, saved his life.
When he told her how it had affected her, Sam was speechless.
“The idea that people display my work in their homes and hang a piece of—well, me—on their wall is just incredible. The idea that it can also make them feel less alone or less isolated is amazing. I am just so shocked and honored and grateful that I was able to give him this tiny glimmer of hope,” she says, her voice catching ever so slightly.
FOR THE LOVE OF ANATOMY AND NEUROSCIENCE
And her work is powerful.
A geometric heart.
A skeleton with its hands in prayer over its heart.
A stippled lotus.
The pen and ink drawings start out as pencil sketches that Sam works on, mostly in her car.
“I have a few spots around town where I go to. I park and draw there because I can simultaneously be outside and in the world, and be inside and safe in my car.”
She says she has always been drawn to anatomy and neuroscience. In fact, she says she wanted to be a brain surgeon when she was younger and started studying to become a nurse early in her college career. Anatomy books are her “jam,” as she says, and she’s fascinated by neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to adapt to various stressors and circumstances.
Her love for the human body has allowed her to draw entire skeletons, the bones of the hand and even human skulls from memory. There is something loving, gentle and simultaneously, raw and real about her drawings even if they depict images usually associated with death and decay —something comforting in knowing that we are all returning to the soil from whence we came.
STAY FOR THE EXHALE
Sam, by her own description, kind of backed into yoga, a theme that now permeates her work as well.
She tried her hand at school, studying everything from business to neuroscience and philosophy to anatomy, but when a deep depression hit while she was attending school, she started drawing.
“It was where I found my solace,” she says. “I’d just doodle and draw all day long. It was my outlet.”
One Friday night a friend dragged her to a yoga class when she was feeling particularly anxious and bored. She says she was immediately hooked and eventually went on to get her 200-hour certification at CorePower Yoga.
While teaching wasn’t really for her, her training in yoga has helped her hone her art. She says that often while she is in savasana or sitting in meditation, images that she will later draw come into her mind. It’s become an additional creative space for her and she’s collaborated with a number of yoga teachers and local studios to create imagery for their brands and clientele, including this Black Metal Yoga t-shirt for last month’s featured Favorite, Alissa Nelson.
CALLING FORTH COLOR
Recently, Ritchie’s art has changed. She’s started using color rather than her traditional black and white and it has opened new doors for her. In fact, she was recently approached to do a special series combining surf and skeletons
On Saturday, November 10 she’ll be showing her work off at Chilli Surfboards in Lomita. Check out the flier below for more details.