Robin Hood's Hollow Book by Geoff Mitchell
Robin Hood's Hollow Book by Geoff Mitchell
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Leading up to the annual MCAD Art Sale, we spoke with some of the top sellers from the past two decades. Here, painter/multimedia artist Geoff Mitchell describes his creative practice and some memorable advice he once received about selling his work.

Geoff Mitchell ’99, MFA, has exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, and Atlanta, as well as abroad in Tokyo, Norway, and Austria. In 2005, he founded White Apple Studios in Los Angeles as a structure for his work in diverse mediums including painting, photography, film/video, and sculpture. The studio name stems from the idea of white as a pure and empty state—a beginning that is innocent and open to any creative possibility. The apple is the mark of temptation and a symbol of life, death, and rebirth. Mitchell is represented by Seager/Gray Gallery, San Francisco; Kelsey Michaels Fine Art, Laguna Beach; Pryor Fine Art, Atlanta; and Florida Mining Gallery, Jacksonville.

What has MCAD meant for you in terms of launching your creative career?

The faculty and fellow students at MCAD were challenging and the environment was one of growth and intense creativity. Through it, I was able to forge a style that set me on a course that I would follow after I graduated and it continues to evolve to this day in my work. Growth is often, in part, a painful process. But during difficult times, I remember a few special things that happened, such as the president of the college, John Slorp, stopping in front of me as I was standing near the vending machines and holding out his hand to give me something. When I held out my hand, he dropped a pocketful of quarters into my palm and simply walked away. That was the beginning of a friendship that would open up many connections for me in California, where I live now. Years later, John even gave me the idea for a book project, Moon Rabbits: Pictures and Tales. I was proud that he contributed a story to it. There is no doubt that my time and relationships made at MCAD are still influencing my life and creative career. 

What are you doing now?

My studio is currently in Anaheim, California, where I live and work just about a mile from my favorite place, Disneyland. I’m represented by several galleries on both the east and west coasts. I spend my days in my studio, full time, preparing for my shows with galleries and occasionally museums or cultural centers. I am still primarily a painter and my style has evolved slowly from what it was when I was at MCAD. However, I think it would still be recognizable to those who knew me during my time there. 

In addition to painting, I’ve found that I often like to have something going that is what I think of as a challenge project—something I’ve never done and I don’t already know I can accomplish. Past examples include a series of short films. Having created the soundtracks for those films, I started experimenting with sound-collage music tracks to play in galleries with my painting exhibits. My most current project of this kind is a series of 1/7th scale miniature rooms, which tell a ghost story in three diorama scenes. It’s part of a larger show that includes sound installation, a book of ghost stories, and painting.

So I think where I am now is at a point of multimedia and thematic shows where the theme dictates the medium. I’m really enjoying creating miniature worlds and telling stories this way, so I’m excited to see where this leads next!

Can you describe a memorable sale or moment from the Art Sale?

I remember so many of the conversations I had with people that purchased my work. It was a thrilling experience. Of particular long-lasting impact was my meeting with the newscaster Robyne Robinson. In 1999, she was in the beginning stages of opening Flatland Gallery. She took me on as one of her first represented artists and gave me my first solo show after graduation. We did well together and continued to sell work for some time. This was, of course, hugely confidence building as I was coming out of grad school, and it all began with having met her at the MCAD Art Sale.

What Art Sale advice would you give young MCAD artists?

First, be there in good spirits and be ready talk to guests about your work. Secondly, during my time at MCAD, I remember that the maximum price allowed on works sold was $500. Things are likely much different now, but perhaps my experience may still apply. I recall there was a great deal of debate among students and faculty alike as to whether paintings should be sold at that price. Many of my paintings were large, and so a majority of peer opinion I got was that $500 was simply too little for the work. It was a chat with then-president, John Slorp, that helped me decide. I asked him in a straightforward way, "should I really be selling my work at this price?" He said, “yes, why not, Geoff? You don’t ever want to become the greatest collector of your own work!" I trusted him and so I went ahead with it, pricing my work between $350 and $500 depending on size. After the sale was over, I felt great about the decision. It was a wonderful feeling to sell my work and see how happy people were to own a piece. But going further than that, the contacts I made and the opportunities that came from the experience became priceless. I ended up meeting some wonderful collectors (many of whom became repeat collectors), as well as meeting a gallery owner (Robyne) along with countless other positive experiences that branched from the Art Sale. My advice is to not hesitate to be involved. The time to meet collectors and people in the art community is now and the MCAD Art Sale is a great way to do that!

What do you love about making art?

I love the storytelling aspect of art making. The things that I create are stories that I'd like to share with people. Some pieces are more of a "suggestion" of events which leave room for you to construct your own interpretations of the story, while others are more complete narrative tales unfolding. In either instance, no matter what the medium is (painting, miniatures, short film, or music), it's storytelling that I love.

 

Mitchell will not have works at this year's MCAD Art Sale; only current students and graduates from the past five years are eligible to participate.

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