Florida Highwayman artist R.L. Lewis will hold a free, speaking/painting event March 15, at Wadsworth Elementary.
Artist R.L. Lewis, who will be visiting Flagler County for an art presentation March 15, was one of the original 26 Florida Highwaymen, a group that originated in the 1950s to independently create and sell landscape paintings after having been shunned by galleries due to their race.
“Everybody thinks we sold our art on the side of the road,” Lewis said, but that’s not the case. In many states, selling on the roadside was against the law and could get an artist thrown in jail.
Instead, painters like Lewis visited banks, lawyers’ offices, accountants, offering their pieces for sale. Lewis says he became an independent merchant and entrepreneur.
“I, for one, took my art to the people,” he said. “It was really grassroots art — art that was and is about Florida.”
Specializing in local landscapes rather than portraits or the “black experience,” the Florida Highwaymen appealed to art buyers, Lewis says, because they shared similar perspectives.
“If you are black, white or anything in between, if you have lived in Florida, you share the Florida experience,” he said. “Basically, what I sold is relativity.”
A current Cocoa Beach resident, Lewis looks back at his 30-plus years as a junior-high art teacher as a gift. Being an artist is like being an athlete, he says. “If you can get paid to play a kids’ game, you would do it.”
Of the original highwaymen, Lewis is one of only about 15 still actively painting. He has traveled all around Florida selling paintings, and he feels as though he has left a legacy. Today, his son is his business manager.
“My theme is to capture Florida as art history on canvas — before it disappears,” he said.
Lewis will hold a free art and speaking presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Wadsworth Elementary School. For more, visit www.RLLewisArtist.com.