An artist works a lifetime to have the opportunity such as Toneeke Runinwater Henderson could boast of. Chosen from 93 artists worldwide, the multimedia artist is the only one from Tennessee whose work will be seen in “INCITE; Dreams Realized,” published by North Light Publications.
“I was fortunate enough to be one of them,” she said. She received notice in December 2012 of the honor and her copy of “INCITE” arrived in the mail on Sept. 26.
Toneeke said that may not seem important to others, “but it is important for those artists who set a goal in life to work hard at what they feel and express through diligence.”
She said that although she has been published four times, she is excited for the other artists and even for the ones who were not chosen, “for they will continue their paths and make their place along the artsy journey when their day comes.” And, she added, “I will be just as excited for them.”
As one of the artists whose works are available at the Museum Center at Five Points. Toneeke said her ultimate goal is to inspire other artists, young and old. “I create art every day,” she explained. “Some days it is only one piece — other days it may be 10 pieces.
“If I could get away with painting the side of my house, I would,” she said with a smile, “but my husband doesn’t think I should shock the neighborhood.”
Toneeke said what inspires her most is the interaction of combining materials and “who knows what will be the end result — it is the creative process that is constantly talking inside my head.” Laughing, she added, “While writing this, I thought of fresh toasted garlic bread. That has to be a clue to something cooking in my brain.”
She said she has always loved the method of layering any medium — watercolor, mixed media, paint — feeling excited and unconstrained by how it all transforms into art. Texture allows her to work with her hands, feeling the ridges and patterns take shape as she works with the materials. Rather than consciously thinking what she wants the work to be, Toneeke said she often closes her eyes to apply the layers, giving her a sense of a mystery to work with. “It is amazing to know that what is created can be felt by the viewer, even if not by physically touching the work,” she said.
She said the deepest part of her passion is not about winning in the juried shows she enters. “I enter because I support the arts. If I am accepted into the shows, that is my reward.” But, “when I do win awards or prize money I am, of course, elated.”
Toneeke said she has worked a lifetime to get to where she is. She adds that her children and grandchildren are part of that inspiration and have been sharing the same artistic passion since very young ages.
Her academic degrees are not important, Toneeke explained. “What is important is the degree in which I live my passion and share it with others.” She told about “The Traveling Journal” — four journals — which was sent around the world to more than 300 artists. Each artist created a page of art and sent it to the next person on the list. “It was a lot of fun and an honor to be a part of such a great journey with others,” she said. “That’s what all these books are about — inspiring through the windows of artist’ souls.”
Growing up in a family of 10 siblings, Toneeke learned to be creative early in childhood, which, she feels, ultimately gave rise to her creative life.
Being inspired by the different mediums of art — part of the curriculum in the schools of the Western states — made it an added inspiration and source of knowledge for Toneeke. In junior high school, she was able to absorb the techniques quickly, where her watercolor portrait won a Golden Art Scholarship and Key Award, traveling with the high school art show across the states. That was just the beginning for the young artist.
Toneeke has continued that creative path many years, establishing recognition and awards for her art through national and regional juried shows, solo exhibits and being an artist-in-residence.
Her mantra is “share your passion, your journey, your art and a smile.”
Editor’s Note: Toneeke Runinwater Henderson currently lives in Blue Ridge, Ga., In addition to the Museum Center at Five Points, her work may be seen at: The Arts Center in Athens; The Art Market (Area 61 Gallery), Chattanooga; The Galleries on West Main, Blue Ridge, Ga., The Arts Center Reflections Gallery, Chattanooga; Kathleen’s Fine Art & Interiors, Decatur, Ala.; and Neekee Bird Studio, Calhoun.