Monday, August 30, 2010

Shedding Light On Emerald City: Thomas Kinkade's Oz Pt. 1

The Kinkade family may have had an inkling where Thomas’ future was headed when at four years of age he corrected the perspective of a roadway beside a house drawn by his older sister. Other children usually fuss for a bottle or a toy, but Thomas was best placated with a crayon. Thomas’ father had dabbled in painting and his work was displayed in the family home even after his parents separated. Thomas may have tried to emulate his father thereby forging a closer bond. As his proficiency evolved, it became evident he'd been set on his own pre-ordained path. The budding talent nurtured by family and friends would eventually blossom into America’s most collected living artist.

Thomas Kinkade hails from historic Placerville, CA, a scenic little town nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. His mother struggled to support three children long before single parent homes were commonplace. Finances were meager, but love and faith were in abundance. Thomas persevered during these lean years, undaunted by his disadvantages and found solace in God’s love and his pursuit of art. He derived joy and beauty from every day simplicities, a trait he’s carried into adulthood and ingrained into his work.

Thomas contributed to the household by delivering newspapers. His own income also allowed for art supplies and he cleverly fashioned frames from discarded wood. The fledgling artist chose to forgo the usual adolescent past times, opting instead to hone his craft experimenting with a variety of styles and mediums. He sold his first painting when he was 11 and by the time he reached 13, Thomas was painting with oils at a professional level.

Thomas was blessed with two men very influential to him as artists and friends. Local artist and painter Charlie Bell instructed Thomas in the fundamentals of painting, teaching him to blend nature and imagination. Thomas accompanied Charlie on a painting excursion where he was introduced to plein air (open air) painting, a method Thomas immediately took a shine to and still employs heavily in his work today. Divine intervention struck when a famous artist/retired art professor moved in right next door. Glen Wessels had over 60 years experience as an artist, educator, writer, and world traveler. Thomas ran errands and tided Glen's studio barn. He became Glen's protégé and was thrilled to learn from someone with such vast experience rather than relying solely on books. Thomas says Glen "didn't teach him how to be an artist, but why to be an artist." Charlie's and Glen's combined tutelage taught Thomas the techniques and emotions of art.

When the time came for higher education, Thomas was awarded an academic scholarship and encouraged by Glen Wessels to attend Berkeley. The Berkeley faculty emphasized art should be all about the artist. Thomas disagreed, believing art should serve a higher purpose than oneself. He became disenchanted with Berkeley and after his sophomore year transferred to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Thomas possesses an energetic, intrepid spirit he attempts to appease with frequent travel. Always up for an adventure, he and friend James Gurney, creator of Dinotopia, embarked on a cross country trek aboard railway cars. Their exploits inspired The Artist’s Guide to Sketching. That book in turn led to employment with Ralph Bakshi Studios painting some 1400 background cels for the animated feature Fire and Ice. Fire and Ice proved an invaluable experience as it required ingenuity and creativity to create the fanciful realms. During production, Thomas learned some lighting techniques that would figure prominently in his works and endear him as The Painter of Light. Thomas developed the ability to seemingly pull light from the atmosphere to infuse into his paintings. Or perhaps it’s the love from his heart for his Creator and his fellow man that makes his paintings luminesce.

The film work and sales of his paintings provided enough financial security at the time for Thomas to take some big steps. He decided to focus solely on his own work and he felt confident enough to propose to his childhood sweetheart Nanette Willey, who he met on his newspaper route. Early in their marriage, they invested their hopes, dreams, and life savings into establishing Thomas as a published artist. Very few endeavors result in overnight success and Thomas Kinkade was no exception. At times, friends thought Thomas should consider a more reliable source of income, but Nanette’s devotion and belief in his talent never waned. She patiently endured the challenges of developing a new enterprise, working as a nurse until the business reached a steady incline.

Dawson – 1984
"Thomas Kinkade’s first published print This work depicts the famous Yukon town of Dawson during the height of the northern gold rush, around 1898. The era I depicted in Dawson must have been brutal indeed. Yet, with the hardships of survival, comes the exuberance of camaraderie. I hope I've captured both aspects in this work, one of the most detailed of my early career." — Thomas Kinkade

Thomas’ vision of producing beautiful artwork accessible by everyone has come to fruition. People of all ages
and all walks of life who have never made an art purchase are hanging Thomas Kinkade pieces in their homes.
The business that began modestly in the garage of their home has evolved into Thomas Kinkade Galleries in Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, the United Kingdom, and all over the United States. The Thomas Kinkade Company reached new heights after establishing itself as a licensing brand. The art was taken from the wall and cast in three dimension, inspiring a myriad of collectibles from giftware specialists such as Hallmark, Bradford Exchange, Dakin, Teleflora, and Hamilton Collection to name a few.

Thomas’ first award came in 1989 when he submitted Yosemite Valley – Late Afternoon Light at Artist’s Point for consideration to the Arts for the Parks national awards. The piece won the Founders Favorite Award, deeming it the official collector print for the National Parks Association. Yosemite Valley would later grace a $10 postage stamp. The 1990s brought many more awards from the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers. In addition to his art, the NALED also recognized Thomas’ humanitarian efforts. Above all, his greatest accomplishments are spreading the glory of God’s love while illuminating the lives of people all over the world.

Light of Freedom - 2002
Inspired by the response to the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks, Thomas created Light of Freedom, one of two pieces to aid the relief efforts of the Salvation Army.

Among the many accolades, he has been honored with numerous requests to commemorate monumental events for posterity. Thomas has deftly captured the majestic pride of Salt Lake City, host of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and the revelous atmosphere celebrating the 2002 World Series. Stunning tributes to Disneyland, Disney World Resorts, the Daytona 500, Graceland, and the Indianapolis Mother Speedway followed shortly thereafter.

Disneyland 50th Anniversary – 2005
Thomas Kinkade has been the only artist granted permission to set up his easel on Main Street where he spent 16 hours on a study of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. The partnership with Disney continues with Thomas Kinkade’s Disney Dreams and Disney Discoveries collections.

Graceland 50th Anniversary – 2007
The beloved home of rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley from 1957 until his death in 1977. Graceland opened to the public in 1982 and next to the White House, is the most visited private home in the United States.

Other favored commemorative subjects are landmarks and historical locales such as Fenway Park, Yankee
Stadium, Times Square, Ellis Island, and the Hotel Del Coronado.

Ellis Island - 2003
"When I visited this great port-of-entry for some 22 million immigrants, I was profoundly moved by a new appreciation for the powerful promise of American freedom. The dream of a better life for themselves and their families prompted so many to attempt the perilous voyage. Seasick and heartsick, packed into the holds of overcrowded ships, our parents and grandparents bid farewell to the world they had known and headed bravely into an unknowable future.

For them, Ellis Island, neighboring The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, represented the commencement of that future." - Thomas Kinkade

Hotel Del Coronado – 2003
Pictured above on the Thomas Kinkade 2011 Plein Air Calendar "The Hotel Del Coronado - one of the grand dames of stately nineteenth century wooden hotels - is haunted by memories of gentlemen in top hats strolling the grounds, with ladies in long evening gowns on their arms." – Thomas Kinkade

Perhaps one of the elegant gents Thomas envisioned was none other than the creator of Oz himself, L. Frank Baum. The author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz frequented the hotel from 1904- 1910 sometimes staying for months at a time. At least 3 Oz books were penned during these stays and it is thought the descriptions of Emerald City from these works were based on the hotel’s grandeur.

Thomas Kinkade carved his niche painting scenes of spectacular landscapes and idyllic abodes that warm
one’s soul like hot chocolate in winter. He may have achieved fame faster had he chosen to cater to elite collectors, yet he found he preferred to reach out to a broader audience. His popularity and influence continue to rise as his repertoire expands. Thomas has weathered criticisms with grace admitting to his frailties and says people should look to his art rather than him for inspiration. Nonetheless, he’s a shining example the “dreams you dare to dream, really do come true.”

And so, let there be light.

Collectibles  Shown With Links if Applicable

Teleflora 2003 Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride Bouquet

Hallmark Ornament Victorian Christmas 1997

Dakin Plush Teddy Bear Stepping Stone Cottage

2011 Plein Air Wall Calendar Andrews McMeel

Midwinter Magic Snowman Bradford Exchange

Angel of Hope Pink Ribbon Figurine Hamilton Collection

Breast Cancer Support Hope Angel Figurine Hamilton Collection

Snow White Fabric Panel - David Textiles

Always In My Heart Pendant Necklace Ashton Drake

True Meaning of Christmas Bradford Exchange

Caring Companion Figurine Alzheimer's Research Support

Teleflora Santa's Workshop 2010

Links and Resources
Fire and Ice


Thomas Kinkade: Twenty-Five Years of Light
The Thomas Kinkade Story: A 20-Year Chronology of the Artist by Thomas Kinkade and Rick Barnett
The Artist in Nature Thomas Kinkade and the Plein Air Tradition
The Christmas Cottage - DVD
An American Artist - The Thomas Kinkade Life Story - DVD