10,000 hours and a lot of paint
Local artist and 2011 graduate Xavier Moss painted a mural to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and African American History in Oviedo
On Jan. 20, county road 419 was packed for miles, but not with typical traffic. From Oviedo High School to Round Lake Park, thousands of people marched down the street for two miles to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King in the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. To conclude the parade, a celebration and unveiling of a mural to celebrate African American history in Oviedo.
In December of 2018, the City of Oviedo put out a ‘call to artists’ for a mural at Round Lake Park to reflect African American history in Oviedo. Of nine designs submitted, the city chose Xavier Moss to paint the mural unveiled on Jan. 20, to conclude the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
Moss is a Hagerty alumni and graduate from the University of Florida. After earning a degree in Biological Illustration, he returned to Oviedo to work for Seminole County Public Schools as an Exceptional student education (ESE) paraprofessional at Lawton Elementary, as well as being a freelance artist in the city.
Prior to his AP Studio 2D art class with Maria Coville and his classes at UF, his talent was self-taught.
“I have always been interested in art as a kid,” Moss said. “I wanted to do sports, but I always found a way of hurting myself, so painting and drawing seemed to be the only thing I could spend time doing.”
The Round Lake Park mural was halted due to construction, and the City of Oviedo put out another call to artists for a mural at Center Lake Park, and the city suggested that Moss should paint another piece representing the city of Oviedo in a post card. After 150 hours, he completed the mural in December of 2019.
While Moss waited for the all-clear to begin painting, he went to the Seminole County Library to find the most impactful people of the African American community in Oviedo, and he found six people to include.
Prince Butler Boston crafted a hardier citrus that could grow in Oviedo and withstand freezes. Harry Boston was the head coach for the Oviedo Blackhawks, an African American baseball team for youths, and Boston got his players to games on his “Big Newt Bus”. Hal King was a Major League Baseball player from 1947-1967 and played baseball at Oviedo High School. Marie-Francis Jones was a midwife and community caregiver in the city. Gladys Holmes-Smith was a teacher at Oviedo Elementary prior to and after integration, and Henry Jackson was a former celery field worker and prominent member of the African American community, for whom Jackson Heights Middle School was named.
Painting the mural was a challenge in itself because of the large 16 foot by 40 foot canvas. In order to keep things consistent throughout, a lot of prep work was required before starting the painting process.
The piece initially began as a sketch, then Moss laid in colors on the people and other parts of the mural to see how it would work. Along with deciding colors to use, Moss also had to consider the cost of materials.
Sketches Xavier Moss used to create the mural at Round Lake Park
“I try to limit my color palette, but I also wanted it to be a bright spot in the community,” Moss said.
After he finalized his design on paper, he put a grid on the paper and put the same sized grid on the wall with chalk, and slack lines for the upper portion. After the grid was completed, Moss sketched the mural in chalk on the wall, while using the grid to maintain proportions.
“Some things change when you get to real life and you must shift some things, like the orange,” Moss said. “The orange didn’t end up in the middle of the design so that drove me crazy and we had to shift a couple of things. I made things larger and made things smaller.”
Another aspect part of the project was the amount of paint used. Since the wall is very porous, a greater amount of paint is used for the project. Moss used over 13 gallons of paint to make the mural because of this.
Moss started with a base coating, and then another base coat on top of the first. After those two, he starts adding details and shading to each part of the mural.
On top of the artwork and the massive size of the wall, Moss constructed his work schedule around the daylight, giving him enough time to work.
“I just showed up and worked until it is dark,” Moss said. “I was a little bit scared that I might not make it, but we pressed on and used the daylight we had to bust this thing out.”
Moss also discovered a deeper, more personal connection with the mural and his hometown. His two murals gave him the opportunity to give back to his community through art.
“I did all of my schooling from sixth to twelfth grade here in Oviedo, so to have the privilege to give back to the community artistically, it makes sense,” Moss said.
Although he has finished two big projects so far, he is still finding his footing as an artist, and that will continue for a long time.
“Something that they drove into us at UF is that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at anything,” Moss said. “I am still very early in my 10,000 hours, and I am still figuring it out.”