Kinkade is renowned as “The Painter of Light”. By infusing light into
his paintings for a dramatic effect of pictorial lighting, Thomas
Kinkade creates incredibly romantic and tranquil scenes that seem to
glow from within. This incredible ability combined with Thomas Kinkade’s
choice of wholesome themes has made Thomas Kinkade America’s most
collected living artist. Thomas Kinkade grew up in Northern
in the small town of Placerville, along the foothills of the Sierra
Mountains. Though the family did not have wealth, Kinkade often says
they were "rich in the greatest form of wealth; a nurturing and
affirming love." It was during these lean years, that Thomas Kinkade
embraced the Christian faith that later would shape his approach to life
and Thomas Kinkade’s art. The beauty and need of simplicity and
life-affirming values entwined themselves deep in Thomas Kinkade and
since then can be found running through all of his works.
Thomas Kinkade's first "collector" was his mother, who would frame his childhood drawings and use them to decorate the family home. In Placerville, he was a boy with crayons, a kid who could draw. He was also the local newspaper delivery boy, an avid swimmer and loyal friend. As a child he constantly read biographies of artists, including those of painters and illustrators like Norman Rockwell, Maxwell Parrish and Howard Pyle. At age 11, he had his first "apprenticeship." Charles Bell, a local painter, instructed him in basic techniques.
In high school, Thomas Kinkade came face to face with twentieth-century modernism in the person of Glenn Wessels, a former professor in the art department at the University of California. Wessels encouraged Kinkade both to tie his art more directly to emotion (rather than observation alone) and to experiment with highly personal forms of expression. He also influenced Kinkade's decision to attend the University of California at Berkley. Kinkade studied art at the University of California at Berkeley, where his roommate was the now-renowned artist James Gurney. Gurney, famous for his Dinotopia creations, has collaborated with Thomas Kinkade, and the two remain close friends. Kinkade spent a summer on a sketching tour with Gurney producing the best-selling instructional book, "The Artist's Guide to Sketching". Kinkade and Gurney set off on an artistic adventure, traveling coast-to-coast by rail, stopping in small towns and sketching, soaking up the color and learning about their subjects wherever they happened to be.
The success of the book landed the two young artists at Ralph Bakshi Studios. Only twenty two, Kinkade and his friend began working on the animated feature, "Fire and Ice". Working 10-hour shifts on the movie, Thomas Kinkade painted some 600 scenic backgrounds in a two-year period. Kinkade credits this experience as being instrumental in the development of his romantic, light infused style. Thomas Kinkade started exploring light and imaginative worlds and it was during this period that he acquired his moniker as "The Painter of Light". In 1982, Thomas Kinkade married his childhood sweetheart, Nanette. Her support and encouragement is a major inspiration in his art, and he often pays tribute to her by hiding 'N's in his art or by painting her image among the people in a scene. They have three daughters, Merritt, Chandler, and Winsor, who also find their names and images included in their father's art. Two years after their marriage Thomas Kinkade and Nanette began to publish his paintings together. They began making limited edition prints of Thom's work out of their garage.
Their first piece was "Dawson" (shown above), a beautiful tribute to early Alaska. Nanette helped to take orders and then pack and ship the prints from their garage. Immediately, they were a success and Dawson was a complete sellout. Light post publishing was born. The corporate philosophy of Light post remains the creation of art that will communicate with people and whose message "uplifts people." Many of Thomas Kinkade's paintings start as plein aires. French for “open air”, this style of painting requires the artist to finish the painting quickly before the light changes. With broad brush strokes, much like Monet, Thomas Kinkade finishes the plein aire in a few hours. Many times these works are studies to be finished into major studio works like “City By The Bay, Sunset on Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco”. Often times, though, the impressionistic style work of art becomes the finished piece.
Thomas Kinkade has even traded his paintbrush for a pen and has completed over 20 books throughout his career. Two of his books, "Simpler Times" and "Lightposts for Living" have become national bestsellers! "Simpler Times" shares some of his philosophy about faith and family and is illustrated with his work. In it he encourages everyone to simplify their lives, to spend time with family and friends. The book, like his paintings, offers "an off ramp from the fast lane..." These books of spiritual counsel and consolation marry Thomas' art and his words and are at once challenging to the mind, consoling to the heart and pleasing to the eye.
Thomas Kinkade has an almost uncanny ability to recreate dramatic effects of pictorial lighting in a way that makes the image seem to glow from within. This famous "Kinkade glow" might help explain Kinkade's popularity as a published artist. The creations of Thomas Kinkade have become a phenomenon unprecedented in recent times, with countless millions of "Kinkade Collectors" worldwide. During Thomas Kinkade’s "Robert Girrard" period, he painted under a different brush name to explore a completely different style of art. When collectors hear the name Thomas Kinkade; they generally think of flowers, cottages, rustic cabins, and nostalgic street scenes. It is very unusual that an artist has the talent and ability to paint in completely different artistic styles like Thomas Kinkade is able to do.
Thomas Kinkade has received numerous awards for his works, including the 1995 Lithograph of the Year Award and 1995 Artist of the Year from the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED) and the 1994 Collector Editions Award of Excellence. NALED has named him as Graphic Artist of the Year six times. His works have been named Graphic Art Print of the Year eight times. Kinkade has also won the Collectors Editions Award of Excellence and was a charter inductee to the Bradford Exchange's Plate Artist Hall of Fame. Thomas Kinkade died April 6, 2012,at his home in Monte Sereno, California, of "acute intoxication" from alcohol and Valium at the age of 54. Amy Pinto-Walsh, his current girlfriend stated that the artist "died in his sleep, very happy, in the house he built, with the paintings he loved and the woman he loved.