Thomas Kinkade, born on January, 19, 1958, was America’s most collected living artist for decades until his untimely passing at the age of 54. He was once quoted to have said that he had something in common with Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell: He wanted to make people happy. His paintings and prints adorn more than 10 million homes across the world and many of his devoted fans will remember him for the warmth and joy his paintings brought into their lives.
While growing up in the small town of Placerville, California, the young Thomas Kinkade embraced a series of simple ideals that would later shape his future and his art. As a devout Christian, Thomas used his artistic gift as a way to communicate and spread the life-affirming values he embraced during his formative years. He wanted his work to be accessible to anyone and everyone, regardless of their artistic background. His works, in their myriad of genres and settings, send a message of happiness and reaffirmation of faith. With beauty, intrigue, and adventure, Kinkade’s idyllic fairy tale-like worlds bring joy to millions.
Beginning in 1976, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, and then the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. As he matured into adulthood, Kinkade began to explore the world around him with enthusiasm and fervor. In 1980 he spent the summer on a sketching tour with a college friend, James Gurney, producing a best-selling instructional book called “The Artist’s Guide to Sketching.” The popularity of the book landed the two fledgling artists a job at Ralph Bakshi Studios, creating background art for the animated feature film. “Fire and Ice” (1983). Soon Thomas started exploring the nature of light in pictorial space and the creation of imaginative worlds. It was during this period that he acquired his moniker, “The Painter of Light.”
After completing his work on the Bakshi film, Kinkade began his career 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 paintings in the form of graphic works together.
Thomas creatively filled his paintings with “love notes” by hiding the letter “N” as tribute to his wife Nanette. His four daughters (Merritt, Chandler, Winsor, and Everett also find their own messages of love from their father as their names and images often appear in many of his paintings.
Thomas called himself a “warrior for light,” using light to represent a divine presence within each of his works – a traditional painting technique stretching back to the Middle Ages. Through light, Thomas aimed to drive away the darkness that many people feel, bringing warmth and happiness into their homes. Before he passed away, Thomas had painted magical scenes that included cabin and nature scenes, beautiful gardens, classic cottages, sports, inspirational content, lighthouses and powerful seascapes, impressionistic Main Streets, and classic Americana.
In Thomas’s works, the settings, while diverse, seem to reference back to his home of Placerville, California. Through bucolic scenes, saturated and whimsical pastels, and an ethereal sense of light, each work projects an image of steadfast American and Christian values. While Kinkade was heavily scrutinized during his lifetime for lacking a substantive message in his art, more than 10 million people have found a way to connect with his works, relating to this sense of the universal home and a pleasantly charming sense of nostalgia.
Thomas painted for milestone events like Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World Resort’s 35th Anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s purchase of Graceland and the 25th anniversary of its opening to the public, the 50th anniversary of Daytona 500, and Yankee Stadium’s farewell 8th season.
He has been the author or subject of more than 140 books and is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. In 2002, Thomas was also inducted into the California Tourism Hall of Fame for his efforts to highlight the beauty of California.
He raised millions for charity, assisting non-profit organizations focusing on children, humanitarian issues, and the arts. His work with the Salvation Army, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and the Church of Nazarene propelled him to win numerous awards for his service and painting. He received awards for “Artist of the Year” and “Graphic Artist of the Year” from the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NA-LED). He was also awarded “Lithograph of the Year” for nine consecutive years.