John Hawver in his studio in front of a work in progress.

The Florida Keys is one of those special places in the world. One artist who comes to mind when I think of the Keys’ natural beauty is John David Hawver. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, that is okay, I’m pretty sure you have seen his work. And in the long run, the work is what really matters.  

If you have been inside the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo, Mariners Hospital, or the new courthouse on Plantation Key that still smells like fresh paint, then you have seen Hawver’s work.  He paints in a style that is calming and mesmerizing at the same time. His style is based on an exploration of “meaningful marks,” as he calls them. 

“It’s about the dance of daubs, dots and dashes, squiggles, scratches and patches of color that work together magically to create the illusion of form and depth, space and time,” he said. 

If you look across the room and see beautiful landscape painting, walk up close to the work and you will see many lines and meaningful marks. These complicated, almost abstract forms and lines are what create the landscape when viewed from a distance. It would be easy to label Hawver as a Florida Impressionist, but the artwork isn’t really impressionism.  It is a more contemporary version of impressionism — a type of realistic impressionism.

Since his mother was an artist, it was perhaps inevitable that Hawver would become an artist. He’s a Florida native, growing up in Hollywood. He graduated from Miami Dade College and the University of Florida. He received a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Miami. He has a long list of impressive art shows, solo shows, group shows, exhibitions, museum shows, as well as having work in private, public and corporate collections. Hawver lives in Islamorada and loves the beautiful landscape of the Florida Keys where he gets his inspiration. 

I had the pleasure of hanging out at Hawver’s studio. It was interesting to see his process. One fascinating part is that he pretty much always starts with a pink background and builds the landscapes and colors around it.  Hawver has a larger-than-life persona that commands a room even though he is generally quiet. With his long hair and beard, he fits the description of a knowledgeable sage.  

When you start to talk to him about art he lights up in a friendly and charming way. His studio is by necessity of a pretty good size, since his works are on the larger side. The size of the paintings only adds to the mystique of the artwork. They dominate the room and beckon you to view and enter the world Hawver has created — a peaceful natural idealistic version of the Keys in which we all wish to participate when down here. 

We spoke of art and the old Keys. His favorite painting is usually the painting he is currently working on. He referenced many artists as inspiration. Some of them you have heard of: Monet, Manet and Velázquez, to mention a few. Some you probably haven’t heard of such as Neil Gavin Welliver, who is a large-scale landscape painter. He is also a fan of modern abstract painting. Artists tend to be a passionate lot, looking for ways to expand and dive into new realms of art. In between working on large-scale paintings, he has been doing more abstract pieces; many of them involve his paintings reimagined as abstract collages.  

At his studio I glance around, looking at a new work in progress on the wall, a definite treat.  I love to see how artists create and their ideas on handling different issues while painting. Hawver, a clear nature lover, carefully places his meaningful marks across the canvas. Like a talented musician, he is a master of his craft and rhythmically creates a symphony dedicated to the natural scene he depicts. I look around at the different painted canvases carefully stacked and I start to think of the time and dedication it took to paint each one and the stories each painting must hold.Hawver closed the John David Hawver Gallery so he could spend more time painting in his studio. If interested in viewing or purchasing his works, you can visit or check out some of his pieces at the Rain Barrel in the Art on a Whim Gallery.  If you want to contact Hawver, the best way is through his website.  Of course, you also can see his artwork throughout the community.