Steve Mitchell, one of magic’s hidden gems.
When you read the title of this blog, I’m guessing quite a few of you said, “Steve Mitchell?” Well, that is why I described him as magic’s hidden gem! I will also bet that there are very few of you out there are unfamiliar with what Steve does and the spectacular results of his graphic wizardry! For a gem that I dare call hidden Steve’s work is on display throughout the magic world. It is awesome!
I became friends with Steve when he was designing and masterminding Ron Wilson’s delightful anecdotal history of magic, ‘Tales from the Uncanny Scot.’ In fact, he persuaded me (it must have taken about a second!) to conduct the interview with Ron Wilson on one of the two DVDs that accompanied the book. Steve became a firm friend during the luncheon that proceeded the taping; and the lunches haven’t stopped. For me, Steve’s magical Friday luncheons are one of the few events I never miss when I’m in Los Angeles.
Over the years many of magic’s finest have enjoyed dining and spending time with Steve. His knowledge of magic and magicians has a quiet authority and insight that comes from an understanding of the very deepest levels of magic. For a quiet and gracefully modest member of our fraternity, there is a slightly ‘Chinese Puzzle Box’ aspect to Steve as you begin to uncover his strangely integral role in the contemporary magic scene. There is always something new to discover!
Mitchell is an artist and designer who has contributed more to the look and ‘feel’ of magic that anyone else I can think of in a very long time. His posters, books and portraits combine the look of classic magical works with a contemporary esthetic that adds punch to what could otherwise become nostalgia. With a long and distinguished career as one of America’s top designers, it is hardly surprising that Steve brings so much to the table creating art for the magic world. This was the man responsible for packaging ‘Pet Rocks’ and turning them into best sellers, now he’s designing for a community he loves, and the love really shows.
To list all the projects that Steve has added his touch to would take several columns. He has designed books, covers, graphics and props for some of the greatest names in magic. Shoot Ogawa, David Regal, Mark Wilson, Whit Hadyn, Milt Larsen, ‘It’s Magic,’ Gordon Bean and Rich Bloch is just the tip of an iceberg of talent. He has also taken time out from his graphic work to be a Magic Castle trustee and to head up the Dai Vernon Foundation. He gets up every day at 5:00am and starts working to get it all done, I know because I sometimes phone him before I get to bed!
Walk around the Magic Castle and look at some of his portraits of iconic magicians such as Billy McComb, Jules Lenier, Charlie Miller and Dai Vernon and you quickly realize that Mitchell is as fine an artist with oil and canvas as he is with his trusty iMac. Steve was the designer of the Castle newsletter, back in the days when it was actually printed and mailed to you: That was back when I used to actually read it, instead of just glancing through the new digital version.
Steve Mitchell is also one of the key elements behind ‘Pop’ Haydn’s highly successful ‘new fangled’ medicine show. Go to ‘Pop’s site at http://www.pophaydn.com and feast your eyes on some of the delicious artwork that has done so much to turn Whit’s deranged and ‘outside of time’ brainchild into a red hot commercial reality. While you are on the keyboard clicking, stop by Steve’s website at http://www.stevemitchellgraphicdesign.com/index.html and look at his other designs and projects. They are worth more than a glance!
One of my very favorite outings is visiting Steve’s charmingly eccentric home office. It is packed from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with magic books and baseball memorabilia with just enough room for a desk, computer, a phone that rings frequently and a spare chair. Oh, and there is usually just enough room for a couple of glasses of red wine to perch on the edge of the desk!
I’m sure Steve will be slightly embarrassed when he reads this, he is a very modest man, but also a very special part of the fabric from which our magic world is woven. In other words, a gem.