Painting up a storm


Scott Melby, a senior geology major, recently rediscovered his love of painting. Photo by B.A. Rupert

Scott Melby can’t stop painting. His first painting, done as part of an art class at Missouri S&T, was an image of a driftwood stump taken from a photo of a recent trip to Jekyll Island, Ga. In the 10 months that followed, the senior geology major has painted more than 70 pieces.

A typical painting takes Melby around four hours to create, but large-format pieces can take up to eight hours to complete. He paints two or three pieces a week. Once he starts a painting, he doesn’t like to stop until he’s done.

Watch Scott Melby paint historic Dillard Mill in Crawford County, Mo.

“I almost always finish a painting in one sitting,” he says. “Otherwise it kind of drives me crazy.”

Melby sold his first painting, Serenity, which depicts a girl on the beach, in October 2011. He has sold 30 pieces since then, including a painting of the New York City skyline — sold to a New Yorker.

Landscapes are Melby’s favorite subject. “I love wide open spaces, distance and expanse,” he says. “These are places I identify with.”

Melby prefers a style of painting called “plein air,” which means painting a subject outdoors on location. But he also has a studio in his Steelville, Mo., farmhouse. Formerly a utility room, the space has windows on nearly every wall. His kids like to paint there, too.

“I like to paint looking off the back of my farmhouse,” he says. “It’s where I like to sit and think. It has a personal connection.”

This summer, Melby financed his family’s vacation by painting his way across the Southwest. First he created video demonstrations of his plein air style of painting. These aren’t instructional videos; they’re more like 3-minute time-lapse videos set to a soundtrack of bluegrass music. Melby posted the videos to YouTube and pled his case, then posted his travel itinerary on his website and Facebook. By the time his family had packed their bags, he had orders for seven commissioned pieces.

Along the trip through Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, Melby stopped and painted his commissioned works at various stops, then packed up to move to the next stop, creating new videos as he went. The system worked so well, he plans to do the same thing next year, only this time, the family is planning a trip to the East Coast.

Melby took art classes in high school and did custom pen-and-ink drawings after graduation. “I made enough money to pay the rent, but it wasn’t a career,” Melby says. “I had given up on it because it was discouraging. I almost didn’t take it back up.”

Back then he worked strictly in black and white, but now his paintings are full of vibrant colors. “It’s shocking how much I enjoy color,” he says.

Melby sells some of his pieces through an online gallery and an Etsy shop, but he also sells his work through Facebook and private gallery showings.

Melby’s work has been shown in several area locations, including The Centre in Rolla, where he was the Arts Rolla! Artist of the Month for August 2012. His work will be displayed in the lobby of Leach Theatre in Castleman Hall on the Missouri S&T campus beginning Sept. 18 and running through December.

By Mary Helen Stoltz


  1. Yvonne Hardesty says

    What a surprising story! It is great to hear about how talented and gifted our students really are! Even more so, especially when their lives are so busy and hectic here at the university. Mr. Melby, you are an amazing artist, best of luck to you in all you do in the future. Great job writing such a cool story Mary Helen.