One of Scotie Cousin's creations hangs in its natural habitat. | Scotie Cousin, FacebookOne of Scotie Cousin's creations hangs in its natural habitat. | Scotie Cousin, Facebook
One of Scotie Cousin's creations hangs in its natural habitat. | Scotie Cousin, Facebook

#AskJAXTDY | Who makes the colorful critters at the Beaches?

Published on March 15, 2024 at 12:34 pm

Q: Jacksonville Today reader Kelly T. was gazing into a palm tree recently when she spotted a colorful critter clinging to it. It wasn’t the only one she’s spotted around town. “The little happy surprises make me smile when I see them and make my day a bit more joyful,” she wrote to us.

Submitted by Kelly T.

“I think they’re unique and interesting, and I love them!” she said. And she wants to know:

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“Where do the colorful painted creatures in Jax Beach come from?”

A: The creations dotting trees and lawns in the Beaches are the brainchild of Atlantic Beach artist Scotie Cousin. He came up with the idea in early 2020, as COVID-19 settled in.

He said he saw so many unhappy faces around him one day, and then spotted a line of palm trees in a median on Atlantic Boulevard.

“I’ve always done things a lot out of the box,” he tells Jacksonville Today. “It was just a lot of uncertainty, and I saw it in a lot of people’s eyes. I could see the hurt, and no one was laughing, or even smiling. So on the way back from seeing all that, I came up with this ultimate idea, this epiphany, to make these creatures because I saw a couple of trees in the median.”

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The longtime artist says he realized that the corrugated plastic used for political campaign signs could be cut into fun shapes. The first was a gecko in green and black with purple flowers for its hair.

It was lightweight too, so the gecko was attached to one of those palm trees with wire. Then he literally sat back to watch what happened.

Artist Scotie Cousin kneels with some of the colorful critters he makes and parks in trees and lawns. | Scotie Cousin, Facebook

“I watched people for two and a half hours from the side of the road, and I was just so happy to see people smiling,” Cousin says. “I got addicted to even making more people smile. We don’t get enough surprises. There are just not enough surprises in our adult life.”

Since then, Cousin has fashioned many different “critters” for trees, lawns, schools and elsewhere. There are birds, dragons, owls and crabs, almost all with his defining big, expressives eyes.

“It’s going to tell you everything you need to know with that big eye, because it’s looking straight at you,” Cousin says. “It’s really wonderful just to see and hear so many stories. It’s just amazing. You would not believe how one simple act can change the direction of somebody’s day. I have been addicted ever since, and the good Lord has given me the sense to stick with it.”

Cousin says his ideas come from the “rusty old hamster wheel of mine in my head.” He also shares his creations on Instagram and Facebook. The full-time artist also sells his works at the Atlantic Beach Arts Market on Mayport Road.

Artist Scotie Cousin shows one of his recent artworks. | Scotie Cousin, Facebook
Artist Scotie Cousin shows one of his recent artworks. | Scotie Cousin, Facebook

Cousin says he devotes between a quarter and half of his artistic endeavors each week to making the critters for public art display.

“It takes about a week to make one of these characters because of the paint on both sides, and then I clear-coat paint and primer,” Cousin says. “All the originals are up at the art market. They are crawling all over the place. It’s really more like an installation in an art museum when you go there.”

Have a question you’d like the Jacksonville Today team to look into? Email with #AskJAXTDY in the subject line, and you might see your answer soon.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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