Thomas Kinkade Biography
1958 - 2012
Known throughout the world for capturing the wonders and images of the everyday world, Thomas Kinkade is considered one of the most popular and renowned modern artists of his age. Painting bucolic, picturesque settings bathed in glowing highlights and saturated pastels, "The Painter of Light" portrays the simple pleasures of life to communicate inspirational, life-affirming messages and convey a warm sense of nostalgia in the face of a complex, stressful world. Inspired by the simple act of painting straight from his heart, transcribing on canvas a vision of the world that moved him the most, Kinkade dedicated himself to the ultimate goal of Sharing the Light and, in doing so, became the most-collected American artist of all time. Even after his death in 2012, Kinkade's art has remained enormously popular, communicating the artist's enduring message to slow down, appreciate the little details in life, and to look for beauty in the world around us.
Born in Sacramento, California in 1958, Kinkade had a difficult upbringing, filled with adversity and spent much of his childhood in the nearby town of Placerville about 50 miles east of the state capital. Drawn to art even as a young child, Kinkade sought salvation in his creativity after his parents' divorce, developing his artistic merit as a way to develop self-esteem and connect with his peers. In this way, art was the armor he used to protect himself from his difficult home life of poverty and uncertainty. After graduating from El Dorado High School in 1976, Kinkade continued to develop his formidable talents and unique style, first at the University of California, Berkeley before transferring to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena after two years of general education. While in high school, Kinkade was mentored by several people who saw the tremendous promise, including Charles Bell and Glenn Wessels. It was Wessels who encouraged Kinkade to go to Cal. Kinkade's relationship with Wessels is the subject of a semi-autobiographical film released in 2008, The Christmas Cottage - An exploration of the inspiration behind the famed Kinkade painting, and how the artist was motivated to begin his career after discovering his mother was in danger of losing their family home.
Kinkade Makes His Mark
After graduating from art school in June 1980, Kinkade spent a summer traveling across the country with college friend and artist James Gurney, sketching the scenery that passed them as they traveled. After reaching New York, the two aspiring artists approached Guptill Publications, the publishing home of Kinkade's idol, Normal Rockwell, to pitch an idea about producing a sketching handbook, which Waton Guptill agreed to publish in 1982. The Artist's Guide to Sketching, filled with sketches and instructions on sketching strategies that showed an artistic maturity well beyond their years, was published two years later and went onto become one of Guptill Publications' top sellers that year. Their newfound success landed the two young artists at Ralph Bakshi Studios creating background art for the 1983 animated film Fire and Ice. It was while working on the film that Kinkade began to experiment more expansively with depictions of light and of imagined worlds. Although animation and film were challenging and lucrative, Kinkade knew he wanted to invest his creative talents elsewhere long-term. In 1984, Kinkade and his wife, Nanette, launched his private art career, creating both the distinct style that made Kinkade famous and the business model that turned his formidable artistic prowess into an enterprising multi-million-dollar commercial success. Unlike most artists, Kinkade embraced the opportunity to expose the masses to his work, becoming both wealthy and famous in the process. In fact, his original works and reproductions can be found at venues ranging from dealers such as World-Wide-Art.com to the chain of Thomas Kinkade art gallery franchises to the greeting card rack at local Walmarts across the nation, from clothing and collectibles to books and posters. Fans identify with Kinkade's simple, inspirational messages through his art and the branded products inspired by that art. Despite his enormous commercial success and the incumbent controversies it attracted, Kinkade maintains a large and devout fan base to this day. As millions of collectors around the world sit back and enjoy his artwork in their homes, there is no doubt that Kinkade had indeed achieved his goal of "Sharing the Light."
Family Influence In Art
Kinkade married Nanette Wiley in 1982 and together had four daughters, Merritt, Chandler, Winsor, and Everett, all named for famous artists. Kinkade was a loving family man, marking his devotion to his family by adding symbols of his love to his artwork - Hidden "N's" paying homage to Nanette and the numbers 5282 as tribute to their wedding date, May 2, 1982. After the birth of each of his daughters, Kinkade created adoring images for each namesake - Evening at Merritt's Cottage, Chandler's Cottage, Winsor Manor and Everett's Cottage.
Kinkade often used his finely detailed sketches as a basis for his paintings. Influenced by the Hudson River and Rocky Mountain Schools of painting, his early works often feature vast landscapes and expansive vistas where he experimented with shadows and contrast while not yet demonstrating his hallmark use of light. Defined by tighter brush strokes and detail, these paintings instead showed a propensity for a romantic palette and grandeur. During these earlier years, Kinkade also experimented under the pseudonym Robert Girrard. Free to create with total artistic freedom, he explored the styles and techniques of the French Impressionist movement, resulting in numerous breakthroughs in his artistic techniques and maturing talents. While much of Kinkade's acclaim was rooted in his liberal use of strong contrasts between light and dark (Chiaroscuro), infusing his works with a luminescent quality that reaches out and grabs viewers, he was a skilled, nuanced artist who explored and created in many genres and artistic styles. Rather than get preoccupied with the intellectual aspect of art, Kinkade veered away from many of the popular postmodern styles of art that cast the human experience in a negative light. Instead, he created what people wanted, much like his childhood idol Rockwell. He used symbols and positive imagery to communicate his point of view. He included personal touches and details, such as the initials of his wife and children, that collectors appreciated. Kinkade's Christian faith was also an often employed theme, as he based many paintings on favorite scriptures or spiritual ideals. Mostly, however, he created arch, nostalgic country scenes featuring landscapes, cottages and bridges, infusing each with a glowing luminosity that seems to shine from within the work. More than anything, his paintings intended to create a feeling inside his audience.
Techniques And Media
Kinkade's use of chiaroscuro became more defined as his style evolved and became uniquely representative of his artistic vision. It was his largely successful efforts to incorporate multiple sources of light that made him known as the Painter of Light (a moniker he later trademarked). Often he employing sources of light to hint at the presence of people without depicting actual figures in the painting, diffusing the focus from a defined human figure to allow viewers to place themselves in the scene.
Kinkade explored plein air, or open-air painting, to further his understanding of the glowing effects of natural light. In such an environment, natural light is constantly changing, and thus difficult to master. Kinkade's paintings, which are widely and critically acclaimed, demonstrate his capacity to capture and play with light, while also testifying to his masterful skill as a painter of many styles. Considered his favorite style of painting, he painted en plein air wherever he traveled and used what he learned while experimenting in those settings to illuminate many studio works.
Kinkade also experimented with all types of art media, frequently introducing these media into his creative process, including figure drawing and watercolor, having mastered the latter, capturing outdoor light in landmarks and countryside scenes and simple bouquets of flowers. "What makes one portrait or figure drawing stand out from another is a feeling of character.," he said. "That's something you find in abundance when you're on-the-spot – people of all shapes and sizes, no two alike." Early on, serigraphy was also of particular interest. He continued to use this process to recreate his Remarque sketches and replicate original art. After his death, the Thomas Kinkade Company achieved his goal of creating award-winning images using serigraphy. In 2013, fan favorite "Snow White Discovers the Cottage" was issued in a Serigraph Edition, resulting in two Golden Image awards from the Speciality Graphic Imaging Association.
Charities and Affiliations
Kinkade, a devout Christian who used his work and extensive business interests to promote his belief in charity, was also known for his various philanthropic endeavors. He leveraged his talents and notoriety to support causes he believed in and was active in supporting non-profit organizations focusing on children, humanitarian relief, and the arts, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, World Vision, Art for Children Charities, and the Salvation Army. In 2002, he partnered with the Salvation Army to create two charity prints to benefit victims of 9/11. Profits from the sale of the two prints, "The Season of Giving" and "The Light of Freedom", were donated to Salvation Army to help relief efforts at Ground Zero and to aid the people and the families of those who suffered from the September 11 attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. From this partnership alone, more than $2 million was raised and donated. In 2003, the famed artist was chosen as a National Spokesman for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and it was during his 20 Years of Light Tour in 2004 that he raised over $750,000 while granting 12 wishes for critically ill children with life-threatening medical conditions. In 2005, the Points of Light Foundation, a nonprofit organization endeavoring to enlist more people in volunteer service in order to help solve serious social issues, named Kinkade Ambassador of Light. Only the second person in the Foundation's fifteen-year history to be chosen Ambassador (the first being the organization's founder, former U.S. President George H. W. Bush), Kinkade visited cities across the nation to raise awareness and money for the Points of Light Foundation and the Volunteer Center National Network, which serves more than 360 Points of Light member Volunteer Centers in communities across the country. Throughout his life and even in death Kinkade shared his immense talents and even bigger heart in support of social institutions such as hospitals, schools, and charitable humanitarian relief organizations. Many of his individual works of art have also generated awards, both by charitable and commercial organizations. Though the recipient of numerous awards and honors, it was Kinkade's profound sense of purpose that his art was not just an accessory to be hung on a wall, but also a ministry that engaged people and invited them to see the gorgeousness of the world. It is this notion that continues on as his legacy.
World Wide Art
World Wide Art is known for its wide selection of limited editions and originals by renowned artists, including the luminescent works of Thomas Kinakde. Their expert staff also specializes in custom conservation framing. In business since 1996, World Wide Art is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a well-known art shop for both serious collectors and casual decorators. The staff at World Wide Art not only deals art, but are collectors and artists themselves who consider their work a labor of love and lifestyle of art appreciation.