Thomas Kinkade, the celebrated "Painter of Light"™ is one of the most widely collected and beloved artists of our day. Each year millions of people are drawn to the luminous light and tranquil mood of Kinkade's paintings and include his creations in their lives through prints, books, and other fine collectibles.
An inspired idealist, Thomas Kinkade believes art has the power to touch people's hearts and change their lives. Kinkade's artwork is an outgrowth of his deep faith in God, which he believes to be the foundation of his work. A devoted husband and father, Thomas Kinkade lives in Northern California with his wife, Nanette, and their four daughters: Merrit, Chandler, Winsor and Everett.
"In my paintings I try to create worlds of tranquility, joy, and beauty." Thomas Kinkade's paintings have become visions of hope and comfort, a welcome haven from the pressures of modern life. His complex technique bears great kinship to a little known group of nineteenth century American painters known as the Luminists. As Kinkade puts it, "Like the Luminists, I strive for three visual aspects in my work: soft edges, a warm palette, and an overall sense of light."
The light-infused quality in his work may account for Thomas Kinkade's enormous popularity as an internationally published artist. Virtually every subject he puts his hand to, whether cottage or countryside, small town America or bustling city, seems infused with a radiant quality. He is capable of capturing a special moment on canvas and rendering it timeless by the warm light of nostalgic memory.
Everything Kinkade paints gets reproduced in one or more forms, including hand signed lithographs, canvas prints, books, posters, calendars, magazine covers, cards, collector plates, figurines, and gift items. Perhaps no American artist since Norman Rockwell has received such broad exposure and popular acceptance. The following generated by this immense exposure has brought six digit sums for Kinkade's original paintings and an ever widening list of prestigious collectors, including many well-known leaders in the fields of politics, business and entertainment.
Thomas Kinkade was born in 1958 and grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in the small town of Placerville, California. From the age of four, his calling as an artist was evident. When Kinkade was five years old, his parents divorced. Placerville was an isolated town living a simpler life. A child living in a single-parent family was a rarity at the time. He recalls it as being a time of embarrassment, shame and poverty. The one thing he had from an early age, something the other children didn't have, though, was his art. "I was always the kid who could draw," he says. "I had this talent, and it was the one thing that gave me some kind of dignity in the midst of my personal environment, because growing up, I was very impoverished." By the age of 16, Thomas Kinkade was an accomplished painter in oil under the apprenticeship of the well-known artist Glen Wessels.
Kinkade continued his studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. The summer after graduating, Kinkade, along with longtime friend and fellow artist, James Gurney, traveled by boxcar from California to New York, creating wonderful sketches of the beauty and diversity of the American landscape at each stop along the way. With these sketches in hand, Kinkade and Gurney walked into Norman Rockwell's publisher, Waton Guptill, and brashly stated that they had this great idea for an artists' book about sketching. Enthralled by the idea, Guptill published "The Artist Guide to Sketching" in 1982.
The popularity of the book landed the two fledgling artists jobs at Ralph Bakshi Studios, creating background art for the animated feature film Fire and Ice. This intensive period of work for the movie business may well have been the genesis of Kinkade's mastery of pictorial lighting effects. Soon, Thom started exploring light and imaginative worlds with abandon. It was during this period that he acquired his moniker as the The Painter of Light.
After completing his work on the Bakshi film, Kinkade began his career as a painter, selling his originals in galleries throughout California. In 1982, he married his childhood sweetheart, Nanette, and two years later they began to publish his paintings together.
Rather than embrace the intellectual isolation of the artist, Thomas Kinkade makes each of his works an intimate statement that resonates in the personal lives of his viewers. What often goes unnoticed in Kinkade's paintings, except by the very observant, is the artist's playfulness, which he expresses by slipping in tiny details here and there. The initials on the tree in his Homestead House, for example, stand for Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. In his Paris, City of Lights, Kinkade is having a showing at the Louvre in Paris (something which in reality has not yet happened), but he has painted in a banner saying the exhibit is "sold out." Another humorous interloper into Kinkade paintings is America's most beloved illustrator, Norman Rockwell. In one of the artist's works, you can barely make out the famous illustrator's big round glasses peering out from the windshield of an old car driving down Main Street toward the viewer. In another, Rockwell is seen at the corner of the painting hurrying up a walk toward a brightly glowing house.
Bridges are one of his favorite subjects, as are steps or grassy inclines leading upward or through a gate-images that are symbols of his religious faith. Some of his paintings actually are visual depictions of Bible verses, such as his A Light in the Storm, taken from John 8:12: "I am the light of the world."
In any Kinkade painting, there is bound to be something more than first meets the eye. He frequently pays loving tribute to his wife and daughters by hiding their names or initials within his paintings, a phenomenon eagerly watched by seasoned collectors. Those who look closely, for example, may be able to make out the initial N for Kinkade's childhood sweetheart and wife, Nannette, which he works into all his paintings. His Golden Gate Bridge reportedly contains 156 Ns, which may be a record. In Thomas Kinkade's painting Hometown Morning, the boy on the bicycle being chased by a dog is the young artist himself, who met his childhood sweetheart and future wife, Nanette, while on his paper route.
"I think Norman Rockwell was my earliest hero," Kinkade relates. "I was an artist since I was a baby. I remember my mom had a big collection of copies of [Saturday Evening Post] magazines, and that was really my introduction to those great illustrators. Not just Norman Rockwell, but Stephan Dohanos, John Falter, John Clymer, and others." Not only did Norman Rockwell's wonderful talent as an artist heavily influence Thomas Kinkade, but also by his philosophy of painting for the people. "I share something in common with Norman Rockwell and, for that matter, with Walt Disney," Kinkade says, "in that I really like to make people happy."
Thomas Kinkade is extremely generous, often using his art talents to create special commemorative prints, raising tens of thousands of dollars for charitable causes. Kinkade also frequently speaks to civic, school and church groups in California. In fact, Kinkade's abundant benevolence and community spirit were honored in 1990, when he received the Humanitarian of the Year award from his county Chamber of Commerce.
Thomas Kinkade maintains a rigorous six day a week painting schedule, but still finds time for church activities, reading and extensive travel with his family in America and abroad, researching new subjects by painting and photographing on location. Kinkade's hobbies include collecting books (his personal library consists of several thousand volumes) making audio cassette productions, complete with sound effects, which he circulates to his many artist friends.
Thomas Kinkade's oil paintings and reproductions communicate deeply with viewers, providing and warm nostalgia in a complex and often stressful world. "I try to create paintings that are a window for the imagination. If people look at my work and are reminded of the way things once were or perhaps the way they could be, then I've done my job."
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