From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thomas Kinkade (January 19, 1958 – April 6, 2012) was an American painter of popular realistic, bucolic, and idyllic subjects. He is notable for the mass marketing of his work as printed reproductions and other licensed products via The Thomas Kinkade Company. He characterized himself as “Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light,” a phrase he protected through trademark but one originally attributed to the English master J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). It is estimated that 1 in every 20 American homes owns a copy of one of his paintings.
“Christmas Cottage” – Scene from the Movie – Thomas reads about the foreclosure notice.
Kinkade grew up in the town of Placerville, California, graduated from El Dorado High School in 1976, and attended the University of California, Berkeley, and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He married Nanette Wiley in 1982, and the couple had four daughters: Merritt (b. 1988), Chandler (b. 1991), Winsor (b. 1995) and Everett (b. 1997), all named for famous artists. He and his wife had been separated for over a year before his death in 2012.
Some of the people who mentored and taught him prior to college were Charles Bell and Glenn Wessels. Wessels encouraged Kinkade to go to the University of California at Berkeley. Kinkade’s relationship with Wessels is the subject of a semi-autobiographical film released in 2008, The Christmas Cottage. After two years of general education at Berkeley, Kinkade transferred to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
In June 1980, Kinkade spent a summer traveling across the United States with his college friend James Gurney. The two of them finished their journey in New York and secured a contract with Guptill Publications to produce a sketching handbook. Two years later they produced The Artist’s Guide to Sketching, which was one of Guptill Publications’ best-sellers that year. The success of the book landed him and Gurney at Ralph Bakshi Studios creating background art for the 1983 animated feature film Fire and Ice. While working on the film, Kinkade began to explore the depiction of light and of imagined worlds. After the film, Kinkade earned his living as a painter, selling his originals in galleries throughout California.
Thomas Kinkade’s Home for Christmas, also known as The Christmas Cottage, is a Michael Campus film released on November 11, 2008 on DVD. It tells the story of the inspiration behind Thomas Kinkade‘s painting The Christmas Cottage, and how the artist was motivated to begin his career after discovering his mother was in danger of losing their family home.
Plot of the film (as penned by this author)
“Like every Christmas story, this is about new life emerging from the dead of winter. But I didn’t know that at that time. I was just a college kid, coming home for Christmas. It was the winter of 1977. My hometown of Placerville is up in the foothills of the High Sierra. As the crow flies, it’s not that far from UC Berkeley. Yet for me, it was another world away.”
- Thomas Kinkade
This story/film entitled, « Christmas Cottage » is inspired by true events. Returning home to Placerville, from college one Christmas, young artist, Thomas Kinkade (Jared Padalecki) and his younger brother, Pat, are dismayed to learn that attempts to promote local tourism have failed and that their mother, Marianne (Marcia Gay Harden) is dangerously close to losing the family cottage to foreclosure. The movie opens on a scene, in Berkeley, California, where a shaft of a bright sunbeam lights up the face of Thomas’ girlfriend who is sitting in, as his model, while the young artist paints her profile. The year is 1977.
Tom rightly states that ‘God moves in Mysterious ways.’ The day when the well-known painter, Glen Wesman, made his studio in the barn behind their cottage, was a miracle in itself. Glen was an elderly man suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and old-age dementia. He mourned the inability of his ever being able to paint again – his paintings that, at one time, used to be so glorious and full of spirit and life. Instead Glen started learning Latin
– « a dead language » and he incessantly kept repeating the nursery rhyme of how « all the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again. » He took to painting his sorrow and mourned accutely the loss of his beloved Nicole, especially during their holiday in Paris at Christmas time when it was bitterly cold. Over a period of time, Glen taught Thomas about not only HOW to paint but WHY he should paint.
In the meanwhile, Thomas and Pat learn that their mother owes USD 3,151.39 to various creditors because she had incurred many debts and unpaid bills. This amount needed to be paid before the New Year – if not, the family Kinkade would lose their beloved, little cottage, now fallen badly into disrepair and needing urgent renovations. It was not just the loss of the cottage that the family mourned – it meant losing everything that they loved so dearly – it meant the loss of their hopes and all their dreams for the future. Thomas and Pat both promise each other that they will take up jobs to earn some money to help their mother in her desperate time of need.
Pat gets a job as an apprentice to Big Jim, the local electrician, who was notorious in Placerville for his faulty electrical wiring. Anyway, he was the only electrician in this small town and the town had to be content with his many ‘faux pas’ in the electrical field. Thomas approaches Ernie for a job. Ernie tells Tom that he can finish the mural, on a shop front, which « Charlie the letterer » had started but had left unfinished because Charlie was not a painter, in the truest sense of the word. If Thomas managed to finish the painting before Christmas day, he would earn USD 500/- for his efforts. Tom, a student from Berkely, knew that this was a small wage compared to the large amount that his mother owed to her creditors. Thomas takes up the job half-heartedly – he had undertaken a painting that he did not truly believe in.
Ernie was forever attempting to promote tourism in the small town of Placerville – a town reeling under the crisis of inflation and recession. People were being « laid off » because they could not afford to keep their businesses or pay for the rent. Ernie referred to Placerville as « The Christmas-Tree Capital of the World. » He had roped in most of the town’s inhabitants to take part in a Christmas Pageant and a Nativity play. The Christmas pageant starred Tanya – Miss Placerville 1974 and the Christmas Nativity Play included children and adults in various acting and singing roles.
One day, Glen asks Tom if he has ever undertaken a painting that he did not truly believe in. Tom tells him about the mural that he was painting on the store-front – it was a mural of Placerville at Christmas and over time, Thomas would surprisingly see himself being encouraged to paint each and every important personage in the town, onto that mural. This mural included the store-front of the town’s laundry, owned by a dignified Chinese gentleman ; it included the entrance to the local bar – ‘The Hangtown Saloon’ ; it included Tom’s neighbour and his Alsatian dog ; it included Butch who mourned the loss of his son, Lance Conran, who had died at a very young age in the War ; it included Big Jim, Tanya, Ernie and many others including the Kinkade family itself. When Glen hears that Tom has no real passion for this mural, he asks him whether this town did not deserve the best possible form of his art. Glen states that even though the people were poor, simple and not sophisticated in the least, shouldn’t Thomas inspire them with his painting ? This was the town that everyone loved – Glen tells Thomas to put his entire heart and soul into his painting – that Thomas ought to bring joy to others through his passion and enthusiasm as an artist. Thomas never forgot Glen’s good piece of advice in this matter.
Marianne had separated from her husband Bill Kinkade many years ago – hence all the financial burden had fallen onto her shoulders. Bill used to be a selfish man, a drinker and a spendthrift ; he worked as a chef in the kitchens of a small pizza parlor, some distance from Placerville. Bill returns home to Placerville, when Thomas tells Bill of their serious financial problems. Bill lived from « hour to hour and day to day » and had no real savings to help bring Maryanne and her family out of their financial crisis. He later shows his decency when he obliges Maryanne by becoming one of the Wise Men in the Nativity play when one of the other actors drops out of the play at the eleventh hour.
On the day of the Christmas Pageant and the day of the Nativity play, the television crews assemble to photograph the events – however, the pageant was a big ‘flop’ because Big Jim had bungled up on the wiring as usual and instead of glowing, twinkling Christmas lights there were loud pops, like those of fire crackers and loud screams of panic, pandemonium and terror from the gathered crowd. Ernie could do nothing other than hold his head in his hands, in utter disappointment. The nativity play also went ‘for a huge toss’ because the wax on the Christmas decorations began to melt in the heat of the bright lights ; the models of the animals and trees crumbled in front of the eyes of the shocked and horrified audience. For Ernie, this was the ultimate humiliation. However, Marianne, tries to save the situation when she states that there is Light for every moment of Darkness in one’s Life. The Christmas Spirit is all about believing in the Light when darkness seems to oveshadow everything.
Marianne was a woman driven by self-respect and pride – as the New Year drew nearer and as each day passed, she started losing hope in them ever being able to keep their beautiful, little cottage. In doing so, the Kinkade family would lose everything that they loved and cherished. Marianne was too proud to ask any of her neighbours for help. On Christmas day, Maryanne hears the doorbell and is overcome by emotion when she sees all her neighbours at her doorstep. One of the neighbours had ‘spilled the beans’ concerning the foreclosure to the others – now all of them had come to volunteer their services in repairing and renovating the cottage, so that she could get a decent price when she sold it.
On Christmas Eve, Thomas took a candle and he went to visit Glen in his studio. Glen sat despairing and all alone except for his pain and sorrow as his constant companions. Thomas sobs that he has nothing to offer Glen – not even a small Christmas gift, except his love. While he spoke the flame of the candle shone brightly in the gathering darkness of the night. It was this light that inspired Glen to paint his last ever painting.
On Christmas day, Thomas and Pat present their mother with the envelope of their savings and their earnings – wages that were too meagre to meet the vast amount needed before foreclosure. However, like any mother, Maryanne, treasures this gift presented so lovingly to her by her two young sons, barely students themselves. She puts the envelope up onto the Christmas tree, in a place of prominence – to her, it was akin to ‘a million bucks.’ Thomas also presents to his mother, as a gift, a sketch of their cottage – Thomas had earlier tried to sell this artwork to Sidney Marvin, the local art gallery owner. Sidney had found Thomas’ work as being mediocre compared to some of the work of his teachers at Berkeley. Sidney doubted that it would fetch much money in the art world and refused to exhibit it in his gallery. Maryanne is once again immensely touched by Thomas’ kindness and is overcome, once again, by emotion and she tells Thomas, clutching the sketch to her heart – « Now I’ll have the Cottage forever ! »
On Christmas Day, another miracle occurred. Glen who had never emerged into the sunlight for years, comes hobbling to the Kinkade Cottage, aided by his walking stick. He presents Maryanne, with the last painting that he would ever paint with the ever-ceaseless tremor in his hands. The last painting of Glen Wesman was beautiful indeed – it was a painting depicting green leaves that shone brightly and sparkled, in a lively manner, in the shaft of a strong beam of Light.
Glen turns to Thomas and says “The leaves are forever transient – they turn green in the spring and in the summer. These leaves then turn red and yellow in the autumn and they fall in droves from the trees, during this period. In the harsh, bitter cold of the winter, these leaves wither and they die. The only thing that remains is the Light – it is the Light that stays on forever and ever. Always paint the Light, Thomas – it is the symbol of all our Hopes and our Dreams for a Better Tomorrow.”
Glen insists that Marianne sell the painting to Sidney Marvin – it would bring enough to save them from having to sell their cottage…..and indeed it did!
That was more than thirty years ago – today, the very last painting of Glen Wesman stands in a place of prominence in a museum in New York. The film progresses and goes on to tells us what happens to each of the inhabitants of Placerville and how the True Spirit of Christmas lives on in each of their hearts, long after Christmas has come and gone.
Need I say that this was one of the most moving and inspirational films that I’ve seen in a long, long time!
“When I was a child, Christmas was my favorite holiday. The sweet smell of gingerbread cookies baking in the oven, the joyful bells jingling on our front door, the presents piled high under the tree — these were the things I remember fondly from my childhood.
Christmas, more than any other holiday, rang with the promise of wonderful things to come.
Christmas continues to be my favorite time of year. During this joyous season, I love to sit by the fireside and reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. Beneath the tinsel and wrapping paper and all the colorful lights, there lies a simple message of God’s love for us all.
When I paint my Christmas scenes, I try to capture the beauty of the season and all of its promise.
Homes with candlelight shining through the windows, welcoming all who pass by, this glowing light is so poignant—a symbol of warmth and love and rays of hope that shine through the dark of winter.”
Thomas Kinkade: The Secret Life and Strange Death of Art’s King of Twee
The works of the Painter of Light have been reproduced on furniture and inspired the building of a whole village, but the verdict into his death reveals a bleaker picture.
In death, the man who at his peak claimed to be the world’s most successful living artist perhaps achieved the sort of art-world excess he craved.
On Tuesday, the coroner’s office in Santa Clara, California, announced that the death of Thomas Kinkade, the Painter of Light™, purveyor of kitsch prints to the masses, was caused by an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. For good measure, a legal scrap has emerged between Kinkade’s ex-wife (and trustee of his estate) and his girlfriend.
Who could have imagined that behind so many contented visions of peace, harmony and nauseating goodness lay just another story of deception, disappointment and depravity, fuelled by those ever-ready stooges, Valium and alcohol?
Kinkade was a self-made phenomenon, with his prints (according to his company) hanging in one in 20 American homes.At his height, in 2001, Kinkade generated $130m (£81m) in sales. Kinkade’s twee paintings of cod-traditional cottages, lighthouses, gardens, gazebos and gates sold by the million through a network of Thomas Kinkade galleries, owned by his company, and through a parallel franchise operation. At their peak (between 1995 and 2005) there were 350 Kinkade franchises across the US, with the bulk in his home state of California. You would see them in roadside malls in small towns, twinkly lights adorning the windows, and in bright shopping centres, sandwiched between skatewear outlets and nail bars.
But these weren’t just galleries. They were the Thomas Kinkade experience – minus the alcohol and Valium, of course. Clients would be ushered into a climate-controlled viewing room to maximise the Kinkadeness of the whole place, and their experience. Some galleries offered “master highlighters”, trained by someone not far from the master himself, to add a hand-crafted splash of paint to the desired print and so make a truly unique piece of art, as opposed to the framed photographic print that was the standard fare.
The artistic credo was expressed best in the 2008 movie Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage. Peter O’Toole, earning a crust playing Kinkade’s artistic mentor, urges the young painter to “Paint the light, Thomas! Paint the light!”.
Kinkade’s art also went beyond galleries through the “Thomas Kinkade lifestyle brand”. This wasn’t just the usual art gallery giftshop schlock: Kinkade sealed a tie-in with La-Z-Boy furniture (home of the big butt recliner) for a Kinkade-inspired range of furniture. But arguably his only great artwork was “The Village, a Thomas Kinkade Community“, unveiled in 2001. A 101-home development in Vallejo, outside San Francisco, operating under the slogan: “Calm, not chaos. Peace, not pressure,” the village offers four house designs, each named after one of Kinkade’s daughters. Plans for further housing developments, alas, fell foul of the housing crisis.
In the years before his death, Kinkade’s business and his life took a battering. There were allegations of malpractice, and his company declared bankruptcy, unable to pay its creditors following a series of court judgments ordering him to pay $860,000 for defrauding the owners of two failed franchises.
Following his separation from his wife and spiralling alcoholism, Kinkade’s behaviour became erratic: he allegedly caused a scene at a Siegfried & Roy show in Las Vegas by repeatedly shouting “Codpiece!” at the ageing illusionists. He also engaged in what he termed “ritual territory marking” at a California Disneyland hotel, urinating on a Winnie the Pooh figure.
Kinkade’s death went largely unnoted in the art world. There were no lengthy obituaries in the quality press, critics did not line up to extol the beauty or the influence of his art. Maybe they missed a trick. For while Kinkade’s work is at best humdrum and technically adequate, its popularity tells us something about his public, about a desperate yearning for nostalgia that pervades parts of American life, a return to the safe glow of some imagined past.
“It’s not the world we live in,” Kinkade said of his painting, “it’s the world we wished we live in. People wish they could find that stream, that cabin in the woods.”
And it could be that with his mastery of the market, and his understanding of how to sell his work – “When I got saved, God became my art agent,” he once said – Kinkade was the natural heir to the apostle of mass production, Andy Warhol.
“There’s been million-seller books and million-seller CDs,” Kinkade explained. “But there hasn’t been, until now, million-seller art. We have found a way to bring to millions of people, an art that they can understand.”
A vast portion of our lives is motivated by our CHOICES. The first step towards being a better person is about being motivated by the CHOICE to be so. It is much, much later that one’s character and personality is built up in the right fashion – through dint of sheer diligence, effort and discipline.
WE CAN CHOOSE TO BE « FRIENDS INDEED IN TIMES OF NEED » – we can be Better People, not only Today, but Tomorrow too, only if we choose wisely.
Let us all start being Better People, by making the Right Choices because it is our Choices that determine the way we see the world and the way in which the world sees us. Better people bring Joy into the world without even knowing that they do so. Their actions are driven by Benevolence and it is they who shall forever be blessed in the Kingdom of God.
Let us all attempt to be one such person !