Thomas Kinkade (born January 19, 1958 in Sacramento, California) is an American painter of realistic, bucolic, and idyllic subjects. Coming from a modest background, Kinkade emphasizes simple pleasures and inspirational messages through his paintings.
It was while growing up in the small town of Placerville, California that these important values were nurtured. It was also during this time that Kinkade began to explore the world around him. He spent a summer on a sketching tour with a college friend, producing the best-selling instructional book, The Artist's Guide to Sketching. The success of the book landed the two young artists at Ralph Bakshi Studios to create background art for the animated feature film Fire and Ice. It was also during this time that Kinkade began to explore light and imaginative worlds with abandon.
After the film, Kinkade earned his living 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 art.
Kinkade has been selected by a number of organizations to celebrate milestones, including Disneyland's 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World Resort's 35th Anniversary, Elvis Presley's purchase of Graceland 50 years ago and the 25th anniversary of its opening to the public, and Yankee Stadium's farewell 85th season in 2008. Kinkade also paid tribute to 'America's Most Beloved Ballpark' (a trademarked phrase), Fenway Park.
Kinkade was also chosen as the artist of choice to capture the historic Asheville, North Carolina mansion, Biltmore House, on canvas and will introduce the Commemorative Portrait of the 50th Running of the Daytona in 2008.
In 2001 Media Arts unveiled 'The Village at Hiddenbrooke,' a Thomas Kinkade-themed community of homes, built outside of Vallejo, California in partnership with the international construction firm Taylor Woodrow.
He is notable for the mass marketing of his work as printed reproductions and other licensed products via The Thomas Kinkade Company. He is self described as 'Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light' (a trademarked phrase), and as 'America's most-collected living artist'. Media Arts, the publicly-traded company that licenses and sells Kinkade's products, claims that 1 in 20 homes in the U.S. feature some form of Kinkade's art. He has received criticism for the extent to which he has commercialized his art for example, selling his prints on the QVC home shopping network. Others have written that his paintings are merely kitsch, without substance, and described it as chocolate box art.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that some of Kinkade's former colleagues, employees, and even collectors of his work say that he has a long history of cursing and heckling other artists and performers. The Times further reported that he openly groped a woman's breasts at a South Bend, Indiana sales event, and mentioned his proclivity for ritual territory marking through urination, once relieving himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure at a Disney site while saying 'This one's for you, Walt.' Kinkade has denied some of the allegations, and accepted and apologized for others.
In 2006 John Dandois, Media Arts Group executive, recounted a story that on one occasion ('about six years ago') Kinkade became drunk at a Siegfried and Roy magic show in Las Vegas and began shouting 'Codpiece! Codpiece!' at the performers. Eventually he was calmed by his mother. Dandois also said of Kinkade, 'Thom would be fine, he would be drinking, and then all of a sudden, you couldn't tell where the boundary was, and then he became very incoherent, and he would start cussing and doing a lot of weird stuff.'
A key feature of Thomas Kinkade's paintings are their glowing highlights and saturated pastel colors. Rendered in an impressionist style cross-pollinated with American Scene Painting values, his works often portray bucolic, idyllic settings such as gardens, streams, stone cottages, and Main Streets. His hometown of Placerville (where his works are omnipresent) is the setting of many of his street and snow scenes. He has also depicted various Christian themes including the Christian cross and churches.
Kinkade says he is placing emphasis on the value of simple pleasures and that his intent is to communicate inspirational, life-affirming messages through his work. A self-described 'devout Christian' (all of his children have the middle name 'Christian'), Kinkade has said he gains his inspiration from his religious beliefs and that his work is intended to contain a larger moral dimension. He has also said that his goal as an artist is to touch people of all faiths, to bring peace and joy into their lives through the images he creates. Many pictures contain specific chapter-and-verse allusions to certain Bible passages.
Kinkade hides the letter 'N' in his paintings as a tribute to his wife, Nanette. He also includes the names and images of his daughters in many of his paintings. He was also greater influenced by the American Spirit found in the paintings of Norman Rockwell. Both men had similar ideas, in that they both expressed the conservative views of small town America.