You are here
Home > Arts & Entertainment > Artist Elgin Jumper hits the road à la Highwaymen

Artist Elgin Jumper hits the road à la Highwaymen

Elgin Jumper talks to art lovers Jill and Mike Malchow about his paintings Dec. 14, 2023, on the Brighton Reservation. The Malchows were visiting Brighton from Indiana. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Inspired by the Jim Crow-era artists known as the Florida Highwaymen, Seminole artist Elgin Jumper has been creating and selling his paintings in outdoor locations throughout Florida.

The Highwaymen were a group of 26 African American artists living in the Fort Pierce area in the 1950s. Because of segregation, they couldn’t sell their art in galleries and sold them directly from the trunks of their cars.

“They took their paintings out to the people,” Jumper said. “They seized the initiative and made art history in Florida. Now their paintings are everywhere, including in important museums.”

The Highwaymen developed a method called the “fast style” of painting. The paintings were often done from memory instead of on the scene. The artists would line up canvasses or boards and approach the art as an assembly line and work on foreground, mid-ground, background, skies, waterways and vibrant parts of the landscapes. They could sell up to 50 paintings a week.

According to the Highwaymen’s website, the method became a business model for the Highwaymen, who created about 200,000 paintings from the mid-1950s to 1970. To sell the paintings, the artists brought them to various businesses along the state’s east coast, including professional and medical offices, banks, and other businesses.

“The Highwaymen set a precedent and a road map for other painters to follow,” Jumper said. “But my target customers are tourists.”

Elgin Jumper paints a holiday scene in Brighton featuring the reservation’s large Christmas tree Dec. 14, 2023. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Lately, Jumper has been painting a lot of landscapes. He said he enjoys traveling through the diverse landscapes of the Everglades from Trail to Big Cypress. Over the past few months, he has been to Brighton, Immokalee, Loxahatchee, Okeechobee and as far north as St. Augustine.

Jumper was taught to paint live in the outdoors from his friend, the late Jimmy Osceola, who was a very fast painter. Jumper is considerably slower; he starts by sketching the outline of a scene before painting it. Since he often finishes his paintings in the studio, Jumper also takes photos to document thelight and sky of the moment.

“One time we were out painting and Jimmy signed his painting and gave it to me,” Jumper recalled. “He was fast; I was still sketching and he was finished. He mastered the technique called alla prima painting, which means one session in Italian.”

Jumper is currently working with oil instead of acrylic paint. Oil paint is an older and more traditional medium and dries slowly. He said the color of oil paint is more vibrant than acrylics.

Elgin Jumper starts a painting of the large community Christmas tree on the Brighton Reservation. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“You can take your time working it and push the paint around the canvas,” Jumper said. “I like the way the colors blend together. The oil does all the work, it does stuff that acrylic doesn’t do.”

A prolific painter, Jumper often sells his pieces before they are completely dry, just as the Highwaymen did.

Elgin Jumper displays some of his paintings at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at