A! Magazine for the Arts

Scott MacMorran in his studio (photo by David Grace)

Scott MacMorran in his studio (photo by David Grace)

MacMorran: muscian to banker to artist

December 26, 2022

Scott MacMorran has had an unusual career arc. He started his professional life as a musician, became a banker and has returned to the arts as a painter.

“I have music performance degrees from Ball State University and Ohio State University. My instrument was the tuba. Beginning in college, I performed numerous solo and joint recitals, played with the OSU Graduate Brass Quintet and the Southern Arts Brass Quintet, performed with numerous symphony orchestras including university orchestras, the Meridian Symphony, Gulf Coast Symphony, the Mobile Opera, Columbus Indiana symphony, including two seasons with the Colorado Philharmonic. During that time, I performed three different concerti with three different orchestras. I taught music as the first tuba graduate assistant at OSU, adjunct faculty at Kenyon and Otterbein Colleges, and as assistant professor of tuba and euphonium at The University of Southern Mississippi.

“I found all this a difficult way to earn a living, so I worked in the family business in Southern Indiana for three years (best education ever about how the world works) then moved to Northeast Tennessee to begin my MBA studies at East Tennessee State University. Immediately preceding that, I played in the 1982 World’s Fair Band in Knoxville. At ETSU, I held graduate assistantships with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Chair of Banking which was really my bridge from music to banking,” he says.

After receiving his MBA, he accepted a position of management intern with Bank of Virginia. He worked in the Tri-Cities all 27 years of his banking career, first as a commercial lender, then city and regional president positions. His last assignment was retail banking head of the State of Tennessee for Capital Bank.

“I enjoyed my banking career very much, met great people and played a part in helping customers achieve their financial goals. I found it was not dissimilar to my experience in the arts in light of the hard work and dedication it takes to be successful, finding creative ways to solve problems, as well teaching/coaching. Although I’m not teaching or coaching these days, the hard work concept is still with me as I continue in the arts through painting,” MacMorran says.

He started painting after he retired. He had a weekend get-away in Asheville, North Carolina, where he met many painters. One, an Icelandic artist named Bergny Doyan, encouraged him. Her father had been an artist and worked in finance, so she urged him to do the same.

Painting had not occurred to him prior to that. He says he began to move acrylic paint on canvas in an abstract way but didn’t like the results.

“Most of those are hidden in a dark upstairs closet. If I was going to enjoy painting in my retirement from banking, I needed to step it up to something more fulfilling, so I began experimenting with black and oil on canvas portraits of friends and family.

“I’m self-taught as a painter. I believe in education, of course. However, when I began painting, I decided to pursue this one thing in my life with no lessons or outside research. I just didn’t want anyone to tell me how to do it. I’m sure that limits me in many ways, but as one who started painting later in life, I’m happy to have found my portrait style that has been pretty well received among many. I just want to continue to pursue that rather than broaden any skills I may have through classes, etc. I’ve really enjoyed the positive reactions of friends, family and patrons to my portraits which encourages me to continue painting which I find fulfilling.

“I primarily paint black and white oil on canvas documentary style portraits. I prefer to work with candid images rather than posed images — interesting subjects doing interesting things at interesting times. I really enjoy working the portraits in black and white which to me is just right for my documentary style. I’ve completed a little over 200 portraits since my first one in December 2010. About a quarter of those were commissions, a quarter gifts, and the rest I rotate in my studio/gallery. I personally enjoy being surrounded by friends and family when I paint, plus all of them will be future gifts to the subjects. I have portraits that hang in private homes in 10 states, Scotland and Iceland. As well, I have revisited working with color acrylics on canvas and have a couple of abstract series as well.

“I have a dear friend, Steve Johnson, who has many friends active in sports and entertainment. He often has commissioned portraits to give as gifts to his friends. Those have included Dan Marino, Darius Rucker, Johnnie Morris, Luke Bryant, Bruce Smith and Travis Scott among others. Many thanks to Steve for adding a level of credibility to my portraits. Over the years, I’ve also enjoyed painting Steve, his family members and his two wonderful dogs Navy and Max,” he says.

Currently MacMorran’s working on large 30”x40” black and white portraits of traditional Celtic musicians performing on stage. The images are candid with dramatic stage lighting and fulfill his goal of painting interesting people doing interesting things at interesting times. He has completed seven and is ready to start the eighth which will complete the series. The subjects are his friends and are musicians who played with or currently playing with Lunasa, The Ashley Davis Band, Step Crew (Canada), One for the Foxes, Seven Nations, The Chieftains (Ireland) among others.

He hopes that someday he can partner with a regional museum for an exhibit that ties these portraits with the Scots/Irish influence in Appalachia. He continues to experiment with abstracts, using acrylics on canvas to explore color, texture and shape.

“In short, I’m having a life in the arts that was interrupted by a very fulfilling and enjoyable 27-year career in banking,” he says.