In spite of his era's cultural barriers, Willie Daniels' life unites diverse groups within today's art world with rich landscapes and signature gnarly oaks. Though more prominently known as one of 26 recognized "Highwaymen Artists" of Fort Pierce, Florida, Willie Daniels Paintings convey the heart of one. The Highwaymen was an association of young African-American artists who painted Florida landscape in 1950s.
Quietly emerging from garage sales and dusty corners into galleries, Willie Daniels paintings invite people into the world of an African American man making his way through layers of racism wreckage. Daniels was a day laborer in Fort Pierce hot citrus groves, enduring a community where division by race was still painfully restricting. But from fields and packing houses, his life took a colorful turn in the late 1950s. Daniels' days blurred into fruitful evenings wielding a quickly moving paintbrush, he learned oil painting on Upson board. This roofing material, now obsolete, was the best economical material for Daniels' limited budget as well as for other Highwaymen. You can see in Willie Daniels paintings as his art evolved vividly from A.E. Backus' style of oil painting, learning along with his brother, Johnny Daniels.
Willie Daniels' authentic style formed in a rush to make many paintings for financial gain. The hurried painter with unhindered approach, freely and richly moving palette knives and brush strokes bypassed the norm, breathing life into a world dominated by tradition. The artistic flair and friendships with fellow artists opened doors to buyers along with sheer effort. Seeking to earn more income, these Highwaymen artists blazed an arduous trail along Florida's highways and businesses, selling their works for as low as $25.00 a piece.
As a result, Willie Daniels paintings became part of a collection in great demand during the late 50s and 60s, sometimes signed by fellow artists just to satisfy customers preferring any one particular artist. The popularity of Willie Daniels paintings faded in the 70s to be rekindled in the 90s by interest in "outsider art". Some stories indicate Daniels became a truck driver and is re-focusing on tropical landscapes.
Willie Daniels paintings, with their classic nail-etched "W. Daniels" decree, paint their own image of an evolving scene of unity within the art world, calling the elite and the outsiders together in appreciation for the resilience of soul.