According to Lizetta LeFalle-Collins in the St. James Guide to Black Artists, John Riddle's early artwork reflected, in style and subject matter, the influence of Paul Gaugin. But when Watts erupted in 1965 he turned his attention to the struggles of persons of African descent. His work became highly political and described the harsh conditions of black people not only in the United States but also in Africa and other parts of the world.
"Art for me has to do with how to tell stories...all my art is geared toward my history and social events," Riddle said. Referring to the transatlantic slave trade as a "cultural crossing," he adds, "[think about] the trail of bones left by these creatures (sharks) as they followed the slave vessels [and think about] how much potential was lost beneath those waves."
Riddle's work has been exhibited at Albany Museum, Albany, New York; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, California; California Black Printmakers, Los Angeles, California; High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia; Eighth Annual Art Festival, Martinique, West Indies; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California; Minneapolis School of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Alabama; and Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, California. It is also in many public and private collections.