The Hideaway TimesWednesday, October 05, 2005
Highwaymen artist splashes Florida onto canvas
News-Journal/CARLA BROOKEHighwaymen artist R.L. Lewis puts his brush to a painting during a demonstration Saturday at the Flagler County Public Library in Palm Coast.
Florida is the home of the original Highwaymen of the 1950s. Members of this school of black artists traveled up and down Florida’s East Coast, creating art and recording everything they encountered along the way.
Robert L. Lewis Jr., one of these original Highwaymen, demonstrated his technique at the Flagler County Public Library in Palm Coast on Sunday.
While Robert L. Lewis Jr. painted, his son, Robert L. Lewis III, discussed his father’s history. In addition to demonstrating his special style, Lewis signed calendars featuring his own works. The Friends of the Library of Flagler County sponsored the well-attended event.
Lewis Jr. was one of six siblings born in Cocoa on the Indian River. A football injury during his junior year at Monroe High School in 1958 forced him to be assigned to art class for a needed credit. His high school art teacher, Alberta Leisure, inspired Lewis Jr. and helped him to develop his artistic talents.
He drew inspiration from reading a story about Highwaymen artist Harold Newton while in high school.
Lewis was encouraged by a family friend to pursue his artistic talents at the college level and attended Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Syracuse University in New York and, finally, Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art education in 1966, going on to work as an illustrator for Boeing. He retired after working 32 years as an art teacher in the Brevard County school system. He also taught at Brevard Community College and for the Cocoa Village Art Adult Education Association. Lewis Jr. was inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame along with the other Highwaymen in 2004.
“Highwaymen” is a name given by art collector Jim Fitch to the black landscape artists who painted Florida scenes and sold their paintings to businesses and individuals throughout the state. Their work depicted idyllic views of the landscape before the developers came and changed it forever.
An appreciation of folk art and nostalgia for the Florida that is gone continues to fuel the market. Many of these artists have returned to paint and continue to meet a demand for their work. Each artist developed and refined their personal styles over the years, but the Florida folk art created in the ’50s generates the attention of collectors as they travel in search of Highwaymen paintings.
You can visit the R. L. Lewis Art Gallery at 234 W. King Street, Suite 150 in Cocoa or go online at www.rllewisartist.com.