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Scott McQueen



Scott McQueen does not hide behind his art. In fact, he splatters his soul onto it. It’s evident when you walk into his studio located under the big red dog in downtown Northport. Colors, textures, words and images leap off the walls and surround you, inviting strangers into McQueen’s complex mind and heart. The art is as layered as he is, each piece revealing a truth he holds close. 


?“I would say I’m painting for myself,” he said. “I like to think that it’s always for myself first and I hope that others will enjoy.”


McQueen calls making folk art his “new calling,” different from his “true calling.” After 35 years as a pastor at a Southern Baptist church, he left the clergy but still views his work as ministry.


“I know that I was called to ministry. And here’s the thing about it: I’m still doing ministry,” he said. “I still minster every day. I speak through my art more than through just words, but I still attempt to speak through my deeds every day and how I carry myself, how I live, my character, my person. And really that’s where the rubber meets the road anyway. Words are cheap.”


This particular ministry of art was a hobby of McQueen’s for years and was something he had picked up naturally. He would visit folk artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth in their hometown of Fayette and watch him finger paint with mud and berries. Sudduth left a lasting impression on McQueen when he said God gave him 10 paintbrushes.


“I guess part of folk art for me, then, is taking along some of the traditions that you learn...the information that you’ve gathered,” McQueen said. “[When I paint] I’m thinking about Mr. Sudduth and his being, you might say, a stone on which other folk artists such as myself are built. And so it’s almost like a tip of the hat when I get to use my fingers.”


McQueen now spends his summer days sitting under Christmas lights strung around the covered patio outside his studio, listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival from an old school radio. He greets everyone who passes by while he whistles and finger paints his infamous “Catfish.” 


The idea for the now legendary creature came from a particularly harsh critic while McQueen was doing a 2013 art show in Starkville, Mississippi. 


“There’s this little girl that comes in and she might be 5 [years old], possibly 6...and she comes in and she’s just kind of prissing around in there...studying every little piece and every nuance,” McQueen said. “The little girl fixates on a fish that I had painted...and I just finally lean down and I ask her ‘Little girl, you like that fish?’ and she turned to me and put her hands on her hips and says, ‘No, I do not.’”  


McQueen asked her why she didn’t like it. Instead of answering, she offered an idea. 


“She said ‘If you’ll paint a kitty cat’s head on it, then you can call it a catfish.’ And she just spun right around and she told her mamma ‘Lets go,’” McQueen said, “and as soon as I got back to the shop the first thing I did was I painted cat’s head on a fish body and called it a catfish. And I have painted, my gosh, a lot of catfish since then.”


Disclaimer: McQueen painted the catfish painting used for Alabama Public Radio’s 2019 end of the year fund drive. You can follow him on Facebook here: