‘Highwaymen’ Artist Jimmy Stovall Completes Hobe Sound Mural That Captures The Serenity Of Old Florida
Artist Jimmy Stovall’s mission is simple: “To capture the old Florida that is vastly disappearing. To preserve the memory and leave a legacy.”
And that’s exactly what he did with his mural in Hobe Sound.
Considered one of the Florida “Highwaymen” painters, Stovall had been working on a piece that stretches along the new facade of the Jenkins Landscape building at 12260 SE Dixie Highway. For two weeks, he painted the details of the countryside vista—a collage of three of his paintings. The mural’s deep green vegetation and vibrant red Royal Poinciana tree transport viewers to a simpler time.
“Back in the day, Martin County was laid back, peaceful. An atmosphere to retire in and relax, it was a citrus area filled with pineapples, mangoes, oranges and grapefruit trees,” he said. “I used to go on the west side and watch wild turkeys.”
And while he acknowledges some change is good, he fears parts of the area are disappearing.
“I guess you can’t fight progress,” he said.
The Florida Highwaymen were a group of African-American artists who gained recognition for the landscape paintings they sold along local roadways in Fort Pierce during the 1950s through the 1980s. Not allowed in galleries at the time, the artists took to the streets to sell their works for about $35. Now some of the pieces easily sell for thousands.
The project, which was officially completed this week, marked two firsts for Stovall. It was his first time working on a mural and his first time using acrylic paint. (He usually works with oils—which stay wet for a longer period of time—on a much smaller canvas.)
Local artists Nadia Utto and Heather Stevens Weese completed the background for the piece. Utto said that Stovall agreed to the project in part because he was eager to broaden his knowledge and skill set.
“He watched how Heather and I applied our paints,” Utto said, adding that they’d often have discussions about colors and technique.
And his passion and energy were contagious: Multiple times a day he’d call out, “I LOVE this!” Utto said, trying to mimic Stovall's enthusiastic outbursts (and later admitting she didn’t do them justice).
“Not only is he gentle and soft-spoken, he’s humorous, flexible and gracious,” she said.
The finished piece is titled “J’s Paradise”— a nod to (Jimmy) Stovall’s works and the Jenkins building on which the mural is featured.
The artwork is part of the Hobe Sound Murals project and Landmark Arts Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to community culture. Utto, who is a project coordinator for the organization, said the foot-traffic artists get when they’re working on the murals is a big part of what the group sets out to do.
“We meet everyone who’s on that street,” she said. “It really builds up the fabric and network of your community.”
Stuart editor Liz McKinley contributed reporting and photos.