California - 1968 to 1985Ritter gradually started painting again but he was feeling restive. His long-time infatuation with the sea beckoned him. During this period, Ritter was commissioned to paint a portrait of Lauren ("Laurie") Kokx (August 9, 1948 - April 29, 2006). Laurie was from a prominent Orange County, CA family. They had moved north to Ojai, CA where they owned orange groves. Ritter had been recommended to Laurie's mother by an art restorer in Ventura who knew Julian. Laurie had graduated from a boarding school and shared Ritter's love for music and art - much as Hilde had. Julian and Laurie developed a deep friendship based on their shared interests.
When Julian delivered the portrait to her house, he asked her to dinner which she accepted. Laurie was forty years younger than Julian ad he never suspected that their relationship would be more than platonic, but the two eventually became lovers and partners in life.
Laurie Kokx remembersHe reminded me of Hemingway, in his stature and the way he presented himself. �When I met him, he had a big jug of wine in his hand, waving it around, and he was very flamboyant. �Julian was quite a contrast to what I was used to in boarding school. �He really swept me off my feet.
After Hilde's death, Ritter felt that he needed to take a break and get away from the Edgewater Way house that held so many memories of Hilde. He felt the need to renew himself both personally and artistically so Ritter sold the house on Edgewater Way and its contents for $37,000. He bought a custom-built yawl still under construction in Morro Bay, CA named "The Galilee" from William Hall (whose own plans had been to sail the world with his wife but reconsidered when his wife died) and planned a voyage around the Pacific with the intention of painting as he travelled distant ports. At long last he would marry his two passions - his painting and the sea - into a floating art studio that would allow the adventurer in him to see and interpret different worlds. In February, 1968, Ritter sailed "The Galilee" south before heading west onto the Pacific high seas.
When Julian reached Acapulco, Mexico, he realized that he missed the company of the young girl he had recently painted. Julian called Laurie Kokx and invited her to join his tour of the Pacific. Laurie was already taken by Julian and flew to Mexico to join the crew of the Galilee.
When Ritter reached Puntarenas, Costa Rica, they decided to stay for six months. Julian loved the town and its people and painted every day, sometimes landscapes but, most often, people, especially the characters that populated the town. As a gesture of thanks, Julian held an exhibit of the works painted there for the locals to enjoy before heading back out to sea.
In December, 1968, Ritter had a show at the Bernard Gallery in Los Angeles of works painted in Puntarenas, Costa Rica that he had sent home.
After they were rescued, Ritter and Laurie returned to the mainland after recuperating in Hawaii for a month. Although he was still recovering and underweight, Ritter retold the harrowing experience of the Galilee in a three-hour talk at a Los Angeles gallery. In attendance were family members, patrons and his first wife, Francesca Chesley.
Julian and Laurie settled into a house in a rural Santa Barbara location at 2934 Torito Road where they stayed until Ritter moved to Maui in 1985. Julian's near-death experience and his visions led him to two years of intense painting. During this period, Ritter was arguably at the peak of his artistic expression. He was already a fulfilled artist who saw himself as a maestro and people treated him accordingly. His subject matter included paintings which were more mystical as he worked out the demons from the voyage, his loss of Hilde and his own alcoholism. To meet the demands of his collectors and his need for money, Ritter continued painting sensuous nudes, portraits and occasional clown compositions. But he started painting more frequently the complex compositions he saw in his heart.
Ritter donated six of his clown paintings for an auction to raise money for a group working for the release of American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. The auction was held after a buffet dinner at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William R. Morgan of Pasadena during mid-December, 1970. Among the guests of honor was Francis Gary Power whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over Russia. One painting, a 24x36 oil, was reportedly sold for $3600. Ritter made the contribution out of sympathy for the prisoners and their families and personal gratitude to the Navy for his rescue. Ritter said "I know what deprivation is after that ordeal. I can relate to the terrible suffering of those POWs."
Ritter appeared on the TV game show "To Tell the Truth" along with two "impostor" contestants and the celebrity panelists in an episode that aired December 22, 1970. �All three of the panelists picked Julian since he was the only one of the three contestants who looked like he had been lost at sea without food.
Ritter had a show from November 19th through December 15th, 1975, at the Howard E. Morseburg Galleries on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles which included some of this new work. The show was called "Julian's World" and consisted of 101 paintings and 16 drawings. This was Julian's last major public exhibit. One painting which did stand out was a crucifixion - Ritter had posed and was photographed and then painted himself onto the cross in a self-portrait.
Ritter had always had difficult relationships with galleries because he felt they were making money that he should be earning. He preferred to sell directly to collectors. Ritter had a sufficient number of patrons at this point in his life so that he no longer needed to rely on gallery showings. However, many of these patrons were most interested in his commercial nudes and clowns rather than the more artistic paintings. Although his work for patrons was not expressing his full artistic talent, the paintings from this period are considered some of his best. Julian had sufficient patronage to support him and also painted some of his very best artistic compositions reflecting the demons form the past, the joy or agony of the present and the hope for the future. These were sweeping mystical and spiritual pieces emoting from Julian's very being.
In the summer of 1984, Julian and Laurie separated. It was an intensely emotional and neither of them liked to talk about this time.