Paint the town

May 15—Cleburne artist Tonya Fonseca is making up for lost time by pulling double duty at Our Place Restuarant.

"Simultaneously on both," Fonseca said. "That's why the slow progress. Working on the outside mural during the day then another mural inside after the restaurant closes for the day."

Although she previously created and painted public murals in Bosque, Hood and Somervell counties, in addition to other artwork, Our Place represents Fonseca's first splash in Cleburne.

"My goal is to paint as much as I can here," Fonseca said. "I want to work in Cleburne forever. I love it."

Music to Our Place owner Benji Arslanovski's ears.

"I've had other artists do stuff for us but I was looking for that special artist to do something different, something unique for our murals," Arslanovski said. "Soon as I saw Tonya's work I knew I wanted to use her."

Arslanovski said he knew Fonseca was local and liked what he saw on her Facebook page.

"When I met her I was impressed how professional she was and down to earth but with a creative personality," Arslanovski said. "I was like, 'Man, I've got to have her do something for me.'"

That something entails filling Our Place's 15-foot by 75-foot exterior east wall and a 5-by-17 foot space inside the restaurant.

"Benji said he wanted something interactive for the outside mural," Fonseca said. "He wanted pancakes and, because he's a cyclist, bicycles. Then he wanted a yardstick next to the pancakes so kids can stand there and measure their height."

A different request perhaps, but a challenge Fonseca was up to.

"I thought first, what am I going to do with pancakes and bicycles?" Fonseca said. "Then my mind went to those old '70s Pepsi and Levi commercials that were all psychedelic and would morph from one thing into something else and were really colorful."

Fonseca worked up her idea, complete with a computer graphic rough draft, and presented it to Arslanovski.

"Soon as I saw what she was wanting to do I was like, "Oh yeah. You took what I was thinking in my head and brought it to form.'" Arslanovski said. "I knew what I wanted but I couldn't put it all together, but she did."

Pancakes because well, Our Place serves them among other dining options, Arslanovski said.

Bicycles in a nod to his hobby and Cleburne, Arslanovski said.

"In Cleburne we have one of the largest bike rides every year with the Goatneck," Arslanovski said. "I'm a cyclist myself and think Goatneck is something Cleburne should really embrace and promote like Wichita Falls does with Hotter Than Hell. I think we could get a lot of people in town for that."

Arslanovski said he thought a new hue was needed as well.

"I was cleaning up branches outside the restaurant after a storm one day, looking around and noticing all the downtown buildings are red, brown and tan," Arslanovski said in reference to the mural to come. "Made me think we need some color, something to brighten up Cleburne. Just something new and fresh."

Of the yardstick idea, Arslanovski said he hopes parents take pictures of their kids as they grow.

"Maybe post pictures tagging Cleburne and Our Place," Arslanovski said.

Inside, Fonseca continues work on a vintage postcard style mural highlighting Cleburne State Park — one of Cleburne's hidden gems in Fonseca's opinion — along with other Cleburne scenes.

Early on

A Glen Rose native, Fonseca began private painting lessons at 12 after her mother noticed her penchant for drawing.

That led to high school art lessons, a college art degree and establishment of an art school for children where Fonseca taught about 80 kids per week.

"A lot of the parents hired me from that," Fonseca said. "I did faux finishes back when that was a thing so they'd hire me to go to their houses for that and decorative painting, murals and other things. I also did backdrops for school plays as I've always liked to paint large."

That led to public artwork and commercial buildings. Fonseca painted her first public mural in 2011 in Glen Rose.

The Glen Rose City Council commended her efforts toward preservation and beautifying the city through art.

Mural painting remained a side gig for the time. Fonseca's main work involved interior design and restoration of historic homes. Which is why she wound up in Cleburne.

"I bought a house on Anglin Street from an acquisitions company," Fonseca said. "I was going to restore and remodel it then put it back on the market and sell it. Then I fell in love with the house."

Cleburne, Fonseca said, simply made sense.

"Logistically it's a better location because I can get anywhere fast," Fonseca said. "Plus, I fell in love with Cleburne. I don't like the fast traffic up and down Anglin and wish they'd put a few stop signs or speed bumps up. But I love my property and just started getting more integrated into the town."

Fonseca, who loves painting landscapes and flowers, name checked Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo as favorite artists but added that she rarely visits art museums or galleries.

"It's not that I don't appreciate other artists," Fonseca said. "It's just that I really don't have time. I'm booked till September right now and I paint all day everyday. I can't explain it. It's just something inside me that needs to paint everyday."

Weather plays havoc with outdoor mural painting throwing her schedule "all over the place," Fonseca said, but thinks she should complete the Our Place mural within a month or two.

More is to come. Fonseca plans to paint flowers on a Chambers Street building and will soon tackle a Dia de los Muertos mural for one of downtown property owner Fred Garza's buildings.

Fonseca will be on hand Saturday for the Cleburne Arts Festival in downtown to display and sell her work.

"We've got a lot of great artists coming and she's one of the big ones especially in the world of mural painting," Cleburne Arts Festival organizer Tom Burkett said.

Fonseca joked of her trusty Chevy van nicknamed Red that functions as her mobile art studio.

"My goal is to drive Red up and down Anglin Street for the rest of my life," Fonseca said.

Funny how life plays out, Fonseca mused.

"I love music," Fonseca said. "And everybody in my family plays a musical instrument except for me. But I always tell them, 'Hey, God made me different, and that's okay.'"