Annette Mitchell is a printmaker, painter, quilter, inventor, and teacher. During Annette’s long career, she has studied and worked in most art media. Her current work is diverse, including painting, dimensional assemblages, quilts, and foam plate printing—an innovative printing technique invented by Mitchell. After retiring as Professor of Art and Director of Drawing from Plymouth State University in 2013, she continues to make and teach art in a many media. She has been a long-time member of WCA/NH, serving on the Board of Directors some years ago.
Mitchell has been an artist all her life. Although she was recognized for her drawing ability by both peers and adults as early as elementary school, in those days there were no art classes in Alabama public schools. Annette entered Auburn University as an English major. She notes that at that time, parents wanted their college-educated daughters to be capable of earning a living, and at that time, being a secretary, nurse, or teacher were considered the only available fields for women. But Mitchell found herself often visiting the Auburn art department, and by the end of her freshman year, she had decided to transfer to an art major. When she broke the news to her parents, they were suitably horrified, asking What could she do with an art degree in the job market? She promised them she would make it work and she’s never looked back.The next stage of her life brought many moves and much change. Mitchell finished her BFA degree at the University of Denver, with a certification in art education. Soon after graduation, she married her first husband and moved briefly to New Hampshire. Her husband was in the Navy; when he left for Vietnam, she moved back to Alabama to be close to her family. She taught sixth grade in Florida and began a master’s degree in Miami. When her husband returned from Vietnam, she got a scholarship to the University of Alabama where she earned a master’s degree in painting and lithography. She was then approached to join the Livingston University faculty (now the University of Western Alabama). Within a few years she was head of the art department. During this time she balanced work, grad school, marriage, and the birth of two sons.
In 1978, her husband was offered a job in New Hampshire. Mitchell gave up her career in Alabama and the family moved to Wilmot Center. Mitchell says she had always loved New Hampshire, so it was a coming home of sorts. She got a job as an art aide at Hanover High School and taught art at night at Notre Dame College in Manchester, while raising her two young sons. A turning point came when she was hired for one year at Plymouth State College (now University) covering Professor Ellwyn Hayslip’s sabbatical, and then for another half-year position covering another professor’s leave. Plymouth State was creating a new position for the following year, but this would require an MFA degree. Mitchell returned to Alabama to complete that degree, and in 1981 she began on the tenure track at Plymouth State.
As a teacher, Mitchell was always on the lookout for methods and materials that would be affordable and that her art education students would be able to use in their own classrooms. This led her to invent an entirely new printing method using foam plates. The foam plate printing technique is economical, environmentally responsible, creates prints without a press, which makes it perfect for creative exploration on an individual level. In 2001, Mitchell published Foam Is Where The Art Is—New Ways To Print an instructional manual for the new method, followed by a DVD with the same title. Both the book and DVD are available from on her website at www.annettemitchellart.com.
Today Mitchell lives in Plymouth, N.H., along with her second husband, David Colburn, who is known as a professional musician and owner of the Vintage Fret Shop, in Ashland, N.H.
Mitchell retired from Plymouth State in 2013, but continues to teach two courses each year on foam plate printing and related techniques for community art students, many of whom have made the foam plate printing the basis of their own art making. The classes fill up quickly.
Mitchell lives according to her philosophy: “Art should be fun—or else why do it?” She works on her art projects in her home studio during the mornings and early afternoons, when she is highly energized. Her hope for the future isn’t fame or fortune but good health so that she can continue creating art every day in her studio.