South African born fine artist Leone Tonkinson (1963-).
- At the sudden and untimely death of her father Leone was merely 6 years old. Leone withdrew into art making and at this time she was gifted her 1st set of art materials with a library membership. Leone spent most of her free time after school, actively sketching in the footsteps of the old master’s inspired by their ingenuity.
“As far back as I can remember I just knew that one day I will be living in Europe as an active and full-time Artist.”
- Leone was accepted at The Pretoria School of Art Music and ballet, here she specialized in Graphic Art and graduated with a university exemption for graphic and commercial art.
- However, Leone started her career studying Industrial Architecture which gained her experience in Town Planning, CAD, and interior design with some of the Top Architect, Town Planners and Interior designers working for the South African Parliament, at the time. Outside working hours Leone completed 163 oil painting portraits of Government Heads.
- Unfortunately, at 23years Leone took another heavy blow with the loss of her stepfather. She stopped artmaking altogether and buried herself in her work. She worked several jobs to pay for her studies and even managed to save enough to travel abroad to visit her beloved Old Masters in Europe.
- At the age of 30 Leone got married and one day while pregnant with her first child, she decided to leave her 13-year career in architecture behind her to pursue her passion of becoming a full-time artist. She went on to enrolling at UNISA for a BA Fine Arts. With the birth of her second child Leone worked as a BA Fine Art Lecturer at CAUSE Academy. Here she also went on to study Business Development and Entrepreneurship. She even landed the position of full-time artist and Head of the glaze Department at Argila pottery.
- However, Leones’ husband took a job transfer to the coastal town of Port Elizabeth where she opened a painting studio to the public, she attended art shows, accepted wildlife gallery and private commissions, participated in joint exhibitions, and became a member of EPSAC, the Eastern Province Society of Art and Culture. While working and living in South Africa Leone was renowned for her wildlife, seascapes, and portrait oil paintings.
- In Port Elizabeth Leone went on to establish the Port Elizabeth School of Fine art.
- In 2006 Leone approached the NMU, The Nelson Madela University for accreditation. She received a sponsorship to study her sabbatical abroad and during her sabbatical in the Netherlands Leone fell in love with the Dutch people and their culture. Leone decided to make the Netherlands her home. Here Leone established an Art School namely, Tonkinson Art Masters, fondly known as TAM. Here, Leone introduces all levels of artists to oil painting.
- In Europe, Leone changed her focus to specializing in oil painting techniques and the study and understanding of the Europe sunlight which was so different to the South African sunlight. Learning to capture the ethereal subtleties of colour and light and even experimenting with oil paints has led Leone on a new path of discovery and adventure.
- What about your technique is unique or different from other artists?
“I am still very passionate about the drawing process and sometimes the drawings underneath my paintings are highly detailed. I take such pleasure in the drawing process that I have devised an oil painting technique which leaves it exposed.
I like experimenting and exploring the possibilities of my medium. Especially glazing, it is quite fun, and I hope one day that my signature evolves it into something quite unique too, but for now I still have a lot to learn”.
- What do you want to convey to your viewers?
“Art is a personal adventure of studying and understanding the world around me. I just have this incredible thirst to investigate it; I want to know how and understand more …and to top that, I am absolutely amazed when I get it right. I am also quite passionate about color and about sharing my knowledge with like-minded people.”
- What is the first thing people notice about your art?
“I get a lot of great feedback and compliments for my discipline, neatness and the realism that I have acquired from my architectural background.”
- How has your art changed over your career?
While living in South Africa I was focused on creating a portfolio with an eclectic compilation of oil painting techniques. Mixing colors just came easily.
However, since I arrived in Europe, I have been fascinated by the light here. The light in Benalmadena in Spain is different to the light in Radio Kootwijk in the Netherlands, New Castle in the UK, and that of the light in Dublin in Ireland. Each uniquely effects color mixing and each beautiful.
Living in Europe I have live access to the profound works by masters that came before me, including regular exhibits of Dutch contemporary artists that has evolved from the Baroque to Realism.
These Dutch Masters were greatly influenced by the European light, and they used amazing detail with bright and sharp-focus techniques that I have spent years trying to master.
Most of the paintings associated with Dutch Art are still life, portraits, landscape, and city life. I have been here for 15 years, and I still haven’t even started to scratch the surface.
- What are your artistic influences?
“Thing’s men have made with wakened hands and put soft life into are awake through years with transferred touch and go on glowing for long years. And for this reason, some old things are lovely
warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.”
― D.H. Lawrence.
I hope that one day that people will stand in awe and appreciate the artworks that I make, because every ‘new’ is built upon what already exists. There is never really such a thing as ‘totally new and unique’. I am just fascinated by what other artists have done with the knowledge that has been passed on through the ages and hope that I have carried the touch well, and in their honor.
Through social media, I am in awe with the radiant beauty of the different art movements and the depth and luminosity of art mediums pushed to their limits by contemporary fine artists in the hyperrealism genre. Even the Dutch movement in realism around me of artist like, Henk Helmantel, Walter Elst, Kees Blom, Jos van Riswick, Marius Dokkum and Tjalf Sparnaay are breath taking.