The Art of Sam “The Dot Man”

"If we all hold hands, we can't fight." - Sam McMillan

If you’ve spent any time in Music Maker’s studios or office, you’ve likely noticed some whimsical additions to the decor: furniture painted with scenes of rural life, guitars decorated with lines of children holding hands, and two human-sized metal frogs, all painted in bright primary colors and covered with polka dots. These pieces are the work of Sam “The Dot Man” McMillan, Winston-Salem folk artist and longtime friend of Music Maker Foundation.

Born in Fairmont, NC, in 1926, Sam spent much of his life working odd jobs in Winston-Salem. He took up painting in his sixties, and his signature style was born when his employer asked him to decorate some furniture for her. “I had never painted a picture before,” Sam later recalled, “so [painting dots] was all I knew how to do.” He soon became one of the region’s most prolific folk artists, breathing new life into found objects from clothing to musical instruments. Many of his pieces feature musicians from the local blues scene, especially Music Maker’s founding artist Guitar Gabriel.

Sam passed away in 2018 at age 92, but his creativity and optimistic spirit live on in his works. This Fourth of July, join us in revisiting some of our favorite pieces by The Dot Man!