About Tonia Hemme
I have been painting since I was a child; I have always enjoyed creating. I learned to sew, knit, crochet and more from my mom and grandmother; it came to me naturally. Painting has always been my favorite. The Hummingbird on my pages was a painting by my mother, I wanted her to be a little part of my page. I never was able to take formal art classes so I taught myself through books and "The almighty brush", Bill Alexander and Bob Ross on TV. I picked up my own technique quickly. When I was young we could not afford Oil paints so I started with Acrylic paint and pencil, charcoal or ink drawing. Even though I used acrylic I liked the look of Oil paint so I was determined to do the same thing with what I had and have been using them since. When I was younger, and through the years, I have painted on anything with a surface: long saws, round saws, cabinet doors, wood plaques, glass, ornaments, furniture, old milk cans, mail boxes, rocks just anything that looked like I could paint on it, and of course, my favorite canvas.
I was born in Portland, Oregon but my family moved to Atwater, CA when I was 6. So I call Atwater and Merced my home town. I went to schools in Atwater till my freshman year of High School. At which time my parents bought a home in Merced, CA and I graduated from Merced High in 1977. I met my husband when he was stationed at Castle AFB in Atwater, CA. We had four children, with the last two being twins. With my husband being in the military we moved a few times. My husband was stationed in a few places during his enlistment and was lucky enough to be stationed at Bergstrom AFB in Texas near his home town. While he was stationed there, we lived in his home town Lockhart, Texas. We lived there for a quite a while until the base closed, and there we had our own little shop, "Hemme's Art and Antique's" where I sold my paintings and some antiques. I later opened my own Gallery where I sold my art work and taught art classes to youth and adults. I was also a part of the community arts as a member of the local Art Guild which I served on the board and was President a few times. I taught at the local senior and community center and participated in the local art fairs, and community events. I was an artist as part of reopening of the historic Lockhart Library and more.
After the base closed we moved a few more times and I always got in touch with the local art guilds and community centers where I could teach or be active. For example, I painted a mural in the community center at McCord AFB. I was also commissioned at McCord to draw their fighter jet with Mount Reiner in the back. They used my art to embellish cups and such for propaganda; they also used it to give to airman as awards.
I have always participated in local art and craft fairs. I have won numerous awards in the local fairs and competitions over the years. I earned an award for First place at Beale AFB for my work "Nanny" which was a US Air Force Art Competition and I went on to the AF worldwide competition where I placed second.
Raising 4 girls, it was sometimes a challenge to do my art. Most of the time, all I could manage was small projects and a few paintings; I continued to stay busy though. After some time, my husband retired from the military and we came back to Merced, California. Once we were settled, my sister and I joined forces and created “Crafty Sisters” where we set up booths at the local craft fairs in Merced County to show our work.
I lost my mom in May of 2010 and the next year on November, 09 2011 we lost our oldest daughter to cancer and it was very hard for me to paint after that. I kept trying to paint after she passed but it was difficult. A few years went by where I was doing small projects, but I could not get that concentration or my zone back. A few years ago I started to try and paint again on a larger painting I had started before and could not finish that I call, “Wicker Porch". I posted the picture on my personal page. I was working as a bookkeeper and some did not even know I could paint. Everyone was very encouraging so I also started a FB Page - Tonia's Fine Art and Creations, for my Art. At that time, I was contacted by someone that found my page that had taken my classes back in Lockhart. She said she wanted to thank me and was glad to see I was still painting. She said I had given her the inspiration to paint and thanked me for everything I had taught her. She also mentioned that she is a featured Artist in a Gallery near Lockhart. After speaking to her, I found my drive to paint again; it finally completely returned because of that phone call. To top it off, I had all the support and encouragement of my family, friends, and my Facebook family.
All of the love and support gave me the push I needed to start painting again and I’ve been painting more now than ever. I started entering in fairs again and I won Grand Champion at the Merced County Fair, twice in a row and also at the Sonora Mother Lode Fair with 'Wicker Porch". I have also won numerous ribbons on other entries I made. I am very thankful to now have my own art studio again were I can teach and sell my work. I want to strive and be a bigger part our Art Community here in Merced. I am honored to be a member of the Arbor Gallery and Multicultural Art Center. I have participated in several of the Art Hops over the years and other local community events. The new studio is in a perfect location for growth being in the middle of downtown Merced near Art Hop, Play House and Multicultural Art Center and near the new UC Merced location. I also enjoy teaching painting classes to groups of people who swear they can't draw or paint at all (even a stick figure) and watching them leave with new confidence and artwork to hang in their homes.
I still miss my daughter terribly but painting and creating is part of me, and I know she would not want me to give that up. My other daughters are grown now and they have also inherited that creative gene. I really enjoy working with them to hone their skills and grow with it.
I Hope you enjoy my work and thank you for reading my story.