Emilie Mitcham was born in Boulder but spent most of her childhood in rural Kentucky. Growing up in a hippie commune, with all the freedom that implies, she knew she was a painter by the time she was four years old. She began to paint seriously in 1985 when she attended a summer-long program at Parsons School of Design in NYC. She received a BFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1998. At the Art Institute, she studied with Pegan Brooke, Pat Klein, Bruce McGaw, Mark van Proyen and Carlos Villa.