Alex Mitchell | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Alex Mitchell

Portrait of Alex Mitchell


MFA, Minneapolis College of Art and Design
BFA, Illinois Wesleyan University
Current Career
Artist, Illustrator, and Educator
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Alex Mitchell was sculpted from the rich earthy loam of the American Midwest. He is an artist, illustrator, and educator currently living and working out of Minneapolis. Lifelong interests in myth, mystery, and the construction of narrative are guiding themes of his personal work.   

Mitchell has a number of short-form comics as well as a self-published anthology comic of original stories called Moon of Exile. He wrote and illustrated a book of fantasy monster illustrations called Random Encounters with Interesting Monsters. He is currently working on a Minnesota State Arts Board grant-supported comic called City of Jasmine, written by fellow alum Essma Imady.

Describe what you do for work and how your experience with it has been.

I'm the lead Canvas LMS admin, academic technologist, and a pedagogical consultant for MCAD faculty, students, and staff. I see myself playing a small but important part in supporting MCAD in providing more equitable, substantive, and effective teaching and learning in the arts (and beyond). I believe in the idea art and design education. I think it has the potential to improve us individually and as a society—to find new ideas, to teach us new ways of thinking and being. In all things, I'm an artist. I spend a lot of my free time making art, but even when I'm not—it's a part of who I am, and it informs everything about the way I experience and interact with the world.


How did you get your job?

It's been a gradual process of working my way up over the past decade. I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Online Learning department at MCAD, and I stayed on after graduation in the role of Administrative Assistant. That position developed into the "Support Specialist" role, transitioned into the full-time Instructional Technologist position, and more recently I was made an Assistant Director of the department.


What inspires you/your work?

Everything! I think this is the magic of being an artist—it's all potential inspiration. If I was to categorize themes that I gravitate towards—storytelling, myth, mystery, and the compulsive meaning-making of the human mind. But truthfully, I love things that surprise me.


How do you network yourself and your art?

I mainly make art for friends and strangers these days, without a strong desire to market it beyond the places it most naturally finds itself. This is the privilege of a full-time job outside of making art—I can concentrate on making the art, and then sharing it in the ways and with the people I want to. I don't need to prioritize its feasibility as a product or service, although I often do sell work and I often do illustrations for pay. It's a relief to be able to focus on the parts of art-making that I love. The trade-off is time, of course—there's never enough!


What was your experience living in the Twin Cities? Any hidden treasures?

This is a larger city than the other places I've lived, and it's been great to experience the vitality and variety of an urban metro. MN is a great place for artists, and there are lots of grants here that are pretty impressive. The art scene is also kind of a good size where it's big enough to be a draw and have resources and community, but small enough to make connections, find opportunities, and quickly feel like you have a place within it.


Why did you choose MCAD for your MFA?

I was looking for MFAs in schools that taught illustration and comics.


Who was your mentor and what was your relationship like?

The illustrator and educator, Jim O'Brien. We had a very collegial relationship, and he was very generous with his time and advice. I learned a lot about professional illustration, and what I was (and wasn't) interested in.


What did you enjoy most about your MFA experience?

The community of artists that formed while I was in the program. I still count several members of my cohort as some of my closest and most important friends and collaborators. Even people I am no longer in contact with were very influential on me as an artist and as a person. That's not something that happens naturally, but it's also not something that can be planned. It's a spontaneous thing that comes from the right concoction of ingredients. The right circumstances, the right people, the right time. I feel incredibly lucky to have been there in that primordial art soup.


What advice do you have for current MCAD students and/or artists at the beginning of their creative careers?

Life outside school often means making a creative practice that can survive a day job, or that can survive the pressure of freelance work. There's no right way to do it—just the way that you can sustain and that makes you happy.


What would you tell students considering pursuing an MFA degree?

Set some clear goals for yourself when you get an opportunity like grad school. Realistic but ambitious, flexible but meaningful. I went into an MFA with three larger aims: to make lots of great artwork, to learn more about the professional side of art/illustration, and to immerse myself in a creative community. Along the way, I adjusted what some of these ideas meant to me, but I think starting at this point let me concentrate my efforts where it mattered most.


Describe the work that you make.

I make comics, illustrations, and zines. Most recently, a lot of my work has been in the table-top roleplaying game space in one way or another. The common thread through everything is a love of storytelling.


Favorite MCAD facility?

I loved the eccentricities of the renovated Church space that the MFA was housed in at the end of my two years. A tiny stage in the gallery! So cool.