Artist will make return to festival
In a house on Lake Tenkiller, just south of Tahlequah, Ron Mitchell leads a quiet life. He spends his days in his personal studio painting, and reflecting on a storied history. But his life wasn't always this secluded.
"During the '90s I would drive thousands and thousands of miles from festival to festival," Mitchell said. "I still want to do that, but I had to physically cut myself back. So these days I try and limit myself to areas around here."
Mitchell grew up in Lawton. His father served on the police force. He graduated from Lawton High School in 1962, already an accomplished artist.
"When I was in eighth grade, there used to be this citywide art show and I won first place at that, and then in high school I won several awards, I guess that's how it all started ... we had a talented art class that came out of Lawton High in '61 and '62."
Mitchell was among the group of artists that participated in the first Arts for All Festival in 1974.
"I started when it started," Mitchell said. "I did it for the first 10 years or so. My mother passed away about nine years ago and that was the last time I was there."
This year's festival will mark Mitchell's return to Arts for All.
"I'm interested to see if anyone I knew is still around, " Mitchell said. " After you've been doing art shows for 50 years, you start seeing more and more young people and you start to wonder where the people you knew went."
Creation wasn't always easy for Mitchell. Born with deuteranopia, or red-green color blindness, much of Mitchell's early career as an artist was spent working in the safe black and white of pen and ink. He eventually worked up the courage to move into opaque watercolors.
"I drove my friends crazy for a while asking what colors I was painting," Mitchell said.
After school, he got a job working as an aerospace technical illustrator, a job that he said was a combination of technical drafting and creative art.
"In the 1960s we were dealing with Vietnam, so I had a lot of secret stuff I was working on. I got to work on some of the early spy satellites."
But the suit and tie life wasn't his calling. He left the corporate world in 1971 to embrace his art full-time.