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Meet Lori Mitchell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lori Mitchell.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I have been drawing ever since I was a kid. My mom was an art teacher and art was encouraged in my household. We would go to art shows and museums and there were crayons and paper always at the ready. I went to Art Center College of Design and got a BFA in Illustration and I have made art my career. I have illustrated 10 books and I also teach art. I teach at the Athenaeum and also at UCSD Extension. My daughter is also an art teacher. I guess it’s in the blood.

As an artist, I think my favorite thing to do is to sit in a coffee shop and sketch. I like doing quick sketches on location. I keep a sketchbook with me at all times. I have even taken groups of students to sketch in France and Holland. My daughter came on both of these trips and we got to sketch together, which is my idea of heaven.

Please tell us about your art.
I began drawing with a pen as a teenager. I went to college to be an illustrator and that’s when I started adding color to my sketches. I wasn’t sure what kind of illustrator I wanted to be but I thought, maybe children’s books would be a good fit.

My daughter developed a condition called vitiligo as a child, which causes patches of skin to lose color. As more of these patches began to appear, people started to ask why she looked different. At the same time, my daughter was asking why everyone else looked different from her. She noticed bald heads, people talking with their hands, people with service dogs and more. I tried to explain that we all look very different, but we are so much more alike. I thought I could find a children’s book that would help me explain this, but there were only books about people with different abilities and skin colors. There wasn’t one book with everyone’s differences all together. So, I decided I would write and illustrate one. This was the first of 10 books that I have illustrated. I was even on the Oprah show with this book!

I usually use pen and watercolor for my artwork. It’s a quick way to get results and I think I am a little impatient sometimes. It’s easy to clean up and travels well. One of my favorite things to do is to sketch outdoors and while I travel. I take a tiny palette of watercolors, a pen and a brush that has water in the handle and that’s all I need.

I have also been doing more paintings for gallery exhibits. I belong to a group called TWA (Twenty Women Artists) and we have a show coming up at the Cannon Gallery in April.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
When I read this question, two things popped into my head about when I felt successful as an artist.

The first was when I got an e-mail from a mother in Korea, shortly after my book, “Different Just Like Me,” has been published. She had gotten my book for her daughter, who had vitiligo. She wanted to let me know how it had helped her daughter accept her skin and talk about her vitiligo with other kids in her class. Not to say that her daughter was different but to talk about how we are ALL different. I couldn’t believe it. Here, this book that I had thought would help my daughter was helping kids clear across the world. I have since received many very nice notes from people from all over the world. I have even heard from a top fashion model, Winnie Harlow. She has vitiligo and told me the book helped her a lot after her grandmother give it to her as a kid.

The second thing started with a sketch that I did at Brooklyn Girl, a local restaurant. One of my favorite things to do is to sketch around town with my husband. I did a sketch of the restaurant’s interior and posted it on Instagram. In less than a day, the owner contacted me and asked to use the sketch in a postcard promoting the restaurant. I ended up getting paid half in cash and half in cake for doing something I love to do! (By the way, they have an amazing banana peanut butter chocolate cake.)

Basically, my success has come from following my heart and doing what felt right to me. My book has been in print since 1999 and has been translated into Chinese and Braille. I was even invited to the “Oprah” show to talk about it. I have seen many wonderful reviews of my book, but I have also seen a few that were not so kind. I didn’t let that stop me. I knew the book would find the people that needed it. My take away from that was, it’s important to do what you are inspired to do. Do what feels right. Don’t try to do what you think others want you to do, don’t follow trends. Just do what you love and what moves you.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I have my work in the faculty exhibition at the Athenaeum Art Center Gallery at the Logan Heights facility. The exhibition will run from January 13 until April 27, 2018. The gallery is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10–4 PM.
Athenaeum Art Center, 1955 Julian Ave, San Diego, CA 92113.

I will have my work in the upcoming show at the Cannon Gallery in Carlsbad.
Prom Dress: Seventeen on Being 17
Seventeen woman artists evoke and interpret being 17-years-old through the great American Prom.
1775 Dove Lane, Carlsbad, CA 92011
April 29th until June 17, 2018

I currently have several pieces in a show at Inspiration Gallery in Liberty Station. This show is called: “From San Diego and Beyond”, it’s a show of sketches from a group that I helped organize. They are all former students that just wanted to get out and draw, so we meet somewhere in San Diego once a week and have been doing so for over 4 years (2730 Historic Decatur Rd #204, San Diego, CA 92106) March 2nd is the big First Friday event and the show ends March 28th.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Lori Mitchell

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Kathy McChesney

    March 31, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Fabulous! Lori is such an inspiration. I love her energy, courage, generosity, and indomitable positive spirit. I have known her for more than 20 years, and she continues to amaze me. So appropriate that you featured her. She is a San Diego treasure.

    • Lori Mitchell

      August 15, 2018 at 11:57 pm

      I just saw this Kathy. Thanks so much. You are in inspiration to Me!

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