| 1954 – 2009
The youngest of the Highwaymen, Johnny Daniels is sometimes thought of as a “second-generation” painter. He had a good sense of humor, and enjoyed teaching his artistic skills to others. Nicknamed “Hook,” he was sometimes referred to as “Cool Hand Luke.”Johnny was born in Quincy, Florida, and raised in Fort Pierce. He was the youngest of five children born to Brian and Juanita Davis. Like his older brother, Willie Daniels, he learned to paint by watching and practicing.Johnny started his painting career as a teenager in the mid-1960s, constructing frames for some of the painters. He made 50 cents a frame and was anxious to make more. He asked the Lord to show him how to paint and watched the older men in his neighborhood create landscapes, especially Alfred Hair. Like many of the other Highwaymen, he sold his paintings on the road.Johnny met Jimmy Stovall around 2000 when Jimmy saw Johnny pulling up in a Jeep Cherokee with chrome wheels at Livingston Roberts’ house. They shared a love for cars and struck up a friendship. Before long they were painting together in Jimmy’s garage. By this time, Johnny had been named a Highwayman and sales were pretty good. He told Jimmy that his goal was to make a thousand dollars a week to sustain his lifestyle, which mostly had to do with his love of cars. They heard that a large painting by Harold Newton had sold for a huge sum of money so they wanted to paint on big canvases. Jimmy cleaned out his garage and moved a car out so they had room to facilitate larger paintings. They painted together most every night for over three years. Jimmy claims that for Johnny, painting was all about earning money for his cars. He sold his paintings pretty cheaply so, most of the time, he painted quickly.
Johnny taught others to paint, including Kelvin Hair, Alfred’s son, who was only five years old when his father died. In some ways, Johnny connected the older group of artists to a new generation that continues to flourish in Fort Pierce and in other parts of Florida. For a short time, Johnny and his brother Willie had a gallery in Fort Pierce.
Johnny Daniels died of a heart condition at the Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute in Fort Pierce. Other Highwaymen mourned his passing along with his five children.
Johnny often applied his paint thickly with a palette knife. He liked contrasting warm and cool colors that made for vibrant landscapes. His best paintings have a color palette that is consistent throughout, creating a sold composition that evokes a single emotion. His best works are also cohesive in style and feeling. His foliage is lush with multiple greens and yellows, and his skies are often dreamy. He liked including bears, fish, and birds in his compositions.
Kelvin Hair once said, Johnny Daniels “could paint as good as you paid him to. I mean, if a dealer said, ‘I want so many paintings and I’ll pay you so much,’ Johnny would paint according to how much he was paid. But if you paid good money and allowed him to paint slow, he could be a phenomenal painter.”