Flashback Series: Artist Life, Misfit Life

Collection of paintings, sculptures, illustrations, and fabric wall hanging by artist Alex Mitchell of the Twinki-Winki brand.
Finding my own way.
Let’s rewind. A quick flashback takes us to my mid-twenties when I was exploring a whole rainbow of creative opportunities. Working as an interior designer led to making theater props. That in turn, led to painting full-time. Followed by making wood sculptures and wood automata. Then sewing got the best of me and I made soft sculptures and fabric dolls. When my studio space got smaller, I focused more on watercolor drawings and writing.

There have also been monster puppets, paper theaters, murals, installations, scrolls, and boxes. Twenty-plus years is a long time.

There was no order to any of this. No strategy behind it. It was more about overlapping projects, involving a lot of experimentation. Working on one project would always lead to the next. And to be honest, from the outside it looks like I’ve never been able to make up my mind about what medium to work in. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. My mind has always been very much made up.

With every project, I’ve been following my joy.

Collection of paintings, sculptures, illustrations, and dolls by artist Alex Mitchell of the Twinki-Winki brand.
It just so happens that my joy comes from working in many different mediums.

The side jobs I’ve loved (and loved to hate).
To find my place in the world, I did a lot of weird stuff. Sometimes the work lasted only a day like wrapping Christmas presents. Sometimes I did the work on the weekends like waiting tables. I didn’t always like it, but it gave me the income that supported my dream to make art. And now looking back, I can see that it taught me to trust myself.

Namely, that following my joy to be an artist won’t lead me straight off a cliff.

Because leaving a well-paying job like interior design for making art never ever seemed like a very good idea to anyone but me.

With every side job, I’ve been building my confidence.

So here’s a list of all the side jobs I’ve loved and sometimes loved to hate:
- waiting tables
- wrapping Christmas presents
- making table decorations for events
- making candles
- making theater props
- organizing libraries
- painting murals
- teaching German
- teaching English
- teaching art

Collection of paintings, sculptures, illustrations, and monster puppet by artist Alex Mitchell of the Twinki-Winki brand.
Collection of fabric panels, sculptures, illustrations, and worry dolls by artist Alex Mitchell of the Twinki-Winki brand.
Misfit attitude is not required but highly recommended.
I think of myself as a fashion misfit. And I use the term misfit with pride. Because being a misfit means being a rebel, and what a rebel values most is freedom. People don’t always appreciate this quality in others. Mostly because they assume that rebels and misfits are indifferent to them. This is unfortunate and completely false.

Being a misfit does not mean being indifferent. It means being comfortable with being different for the sake of your own values. For the sake of feeling comfortable in your own skin.

And for me, that means the freedom to express my creativity. This has been the desire that has guided me my entire life. It’s how I see and define myself. It’s the story I tell about myself. In short, it’s how I show up in the world.

Being a misfit means being a rebel for the purpose of living your values.

No matter who you are, you always know what you want by your values. So it makes sense to take a misfit attitude to find your own way. Trusting yourself is the challenging part. Knowing your values is the first step.

And I’m convinced that there’s a rebel in you with a big grin on her face. How do I know this? Because that’s how we come into this world. Completely focused and knowing exactly what we want.

So how about you let your mini-rebel-you come out to play a while. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
- Maya Angelou

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