Kelvin Hair
Artist
1901 Mayflower rd, FT. PIERCE, FL 34950     (772) 519-0259     khairhighwaymen@yahoo.com
© Copyright 2009 - Kelvin Hair - Artist
The "Highwaymen" is the name given to a loosely associated group of
young African-American artists living in the Fort Pierce area of Florida.
They were so called because they would sell their works, often still wet,
door to door to various businesses, on the roadside or out of the
trunks of their cars. The reason the Highwaymen art sold so well and is
so valuable today is due to a combination of things: Alfred Hair, the
times, the story, and the nonconformity of the art.

To understand the Highwaymen story fully you would have to imagine
living in the Deep South in the 1950's and 1960's .There were
separate water fountains boldly labeled white or colored and separate
schools where blacks got second hand supplies. If you were Black and
wanted to eat you had to go to the rear of a restaurant and take your
order to go. You were considered by most in the Deep South to be less
human than white people. A nice piece of art on display in the 1960's
would bring 300 dollars or more, but if you were Black, you didn’t have
the opportunity to display your work in a gallery or museum. Being
considered substandard as a human your art work was worth near
nothing.

Alfred Hair was taught to paint by A.E.Backus, a well trained Caucasian
artist who did not share the separatist views of the times. Alfred painted
as he was taught and produced a few paintings a week. He would be
lucky to get 50 to 60 dollars per painting. He soon discovered if he didn’
t waste time sketching and mixing paint he could paint 10 to 20
paintings a day. If he could get 25 dollars each he would be making
250 to 500 dollars per day, great money in the 1960's.

To be able to accomplish this he couldn’t afford to buy the canvas,
frame, paint, pay the salesman, and still make a profit. Therefore he
painted on building material called Upson board (it was used the way
drywall is used today) instead of the more costly canvas. He would buy
a big sheet of this board, cut it to size and have a painting surface. He
used crown molding to make the frames. Nailing many of the cut Upson
boards to trees or wood planks he would paint many paintings at once
eliminating the need to mix paint 15 times for 15 paintings. In the
1950's and 1960's the technology did not exist to produce several
prints affordably if you wanted a piece of art for your home or office. It
had to be handmade making it more costly. Because this special fast
style of painting broke with conformity without presketching, Alfred Hair
unknowingly created what is now known as the Highwaymen Style. You
paint the way you feel with no rules. Highwaymen art is very emotional.
When you buy one of these paintings you don’t come away with a
photograph-like painting of a scene, you come away with a photograph
of the artists emotions engraved in the scene.

Clearing Up Some Frequently Asked Questions

There are 26 Highwaymen artists listed in the Florida Artists Hall of
Fame. There are many questions about who is or isn’t a Highwayman
and who is original and who is second generation, etc. There are 26
Original Highwaymen recognized by the State of Florida, therefore the
dispute should end at that. There are also conflicting views about who
originated and influenced the style, Alfred Hair or Harold Newton. With
all due respect to Harold Newton, he was at the time a more technically
correct artist and only painted a few paintings a day. He tried to
emulate Backus where as Hair interjected his own style, thus
Highwaymen style painting. It took all of the 26 Highwaymen artists
combined efforts to bring the Highwaymen to the forefront, but if we
excluded the birth of any one of the Highwaymen artists except Alfred
Hair the Highwaymen would still exist.  But without Hair’s existence,
style, and influence the Highwaymen would not have been. Harold
Newton would have still been painting but he would have been a single
artist and there would have been no Highwaymen. The State of Florida
Artists Hall of Fame reads: “Alfred Hair and the Highwaymen”.The
Highwaymen did not paint with house paint. They Painted the crown
molding frames with house paint.

To clarify who is a core Highwayman you must understand they painted
fast and sold inexpensively. Upson board and handmade frames were
vital to the survival of the Highwaymen. Upson board was banished as
construction material in the mid 1980's due to changes in building
codes. The Highwaymen collectively painted 100 to 300 thousand
paintings. Without specifying names, if you cannot readily find 50
paintings or more on Upson board, from any one artist, they are not
core.  Finally, are there any Highwaymen that were left out of the
original 26?  Well, it is my opinion that no one was left out that would
be remotely significant to the movement and no one was left out with
50 or more paintings on Upson board.  
The Highwaymen
Curtis Arnett

Hezekiah Baker †

Al Black

Ellis Buckner †

George Buckner †

Robert Butler

Mary Ann Carroll

Johnny Daniels+

Willie Daniels

Rodney Demps

James Gibson

Alfred Hair †

Issac Knight

Robert L. Lewis

John Maynor

Roy McLendon

Alfonso Moran †

Harold Newton †

Lemuel Newton

Sam Newton

Livingston Roberts †

Willie Reagan

Cornell Smith

Charles Walker

Sylvester M. Wells

Charles Wheeler

† deceased

THE
Florida
Highwaymen