In the very beginning of his artistic career, Thomas Kinkade put his entire life savings into the printing of his first lithograph. Though at the time he was already an acclaimed illustrator, Thom found that he was inspired not by fame and fortune, but by the simple act of painting straight from the heart, putting on canvas the natural wonders and images that moved him most. It was this dedication and singular-minded focus on the ultimate goal of Sharing the Light™ that made Thomas Kinkade, a simple boy with a brush from the small country town of Placerville, California the most-collected living artist of his time.
Throughout his life Thomas Kinkade shared his joy and used his paints in support of hospitals, schools, and humanitarian relief. Though the recipient of countless awards and honors, it was Thom's profound sense of purpose that his art was not just an accessory, but also a ministry, that continues on as his legacy. From custom images that were sold for The Salvation Army, Hurricane Katrina relief, Rotary International, to donations that now grace the halls of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, the White House, The Vatican, and Britain's Tate Museum, Thom raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over his lifetime for charity.
Thomas Kinkade the artist was also a devout and loving family man. It was this devotion for his family that inspired him to add symbols of his love to his artwork. Numerous paintings contain hidden "N's" representing Thom's lovely wife Nanette and many other paintings include the numbers 5282 as tribute to their wedding date May 2, 1982. Thom's four daughters were also included in his artistic process- after the birth of each of his daughters, Thom painted adoring images in each of their namesake; Evening at Merritt's Cottage, Chandler's Cottage, Winsor Manor and Everett's Cottage.
Thomas Kinkade, the Painter of Light™, emphasized simple pleasures and inspirational messages through his art - and the branded products created from that art. From textiles, to collectibles, to music and books, Thom gave credit to a higher power for both the ability and the inspiration to create his paintings. His goal as an artist, who was Christian, was to touch people of all faiths, to bring peace and joy into their lives through the images he had created.
Thom's dearest wish had always been that his artwork would be a messenger of hope and inspiration to others - a message to slow down, appreciate the little details in life, and to look for beauty in the world around us. As millions of collectors around the world sit back and enjoy his artwork in their homes, there is no doubt that Thomas Kinkade had indeed achieved his goal of Sharing the Light™.
An American Artist - The Thomas Kinkade Life Story (video)
From his boyhood home in rural Placerville to becoming the renowned Painter of Light, Thomas Kinkade walked a focused path. An American Artist reveals the experiences and inspirations that influenced the artist...From the memories of family, teachers, mentors, and friends, here is the life of the man behind the art.
(Click to view Video) Play An American Artist (57 min. video)
Thomas Kinkade was born in 1958 and grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. From the age of four, his calling as an artist was evident, and by 16 he was an accomplished painter in oil under the apprenticeship of the well-known artist Glen Wessels. After studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Kinkade began work for the motion picture industry at age 22. He personally created over 600 background paintings for the animated feature film, Fire and Ice. This intensive period of work for the movie business may well have been the genesis of Kinkade's mastery of pictorial lighting effects. While at work on Fire and Ice, Kinkade and fellow artist James Gurney adventured across across America aboard boxcars, recording their experiences in sketches, and subsequently authored a best-selling art instructional book based on their adventures entitled The Artist's guide to sketching (Watsonl/Guptill, New York).In 1983, Thomas Kinkade left the film industry to pursue his vision as painter of light-filled landscapes. Since then his career has been documented in feature articles and/or editorial exposure in such well-known magazines Architectural Digest, American Artist, Collector's Mart Magazine, Collector Editions, Lively Arts and Leisure, Worldwide Challenge, US Art, Southwest Art, and Weekend. He is a regular guest on radio talk shows and and has made a guest appearance on ABC's popular network show, "Home", starring Gary Collins.
Kinkade's impressive list of honors includes: two Certificates of Merit from the New York Society of Illustrators, two Founder's Awards from the National Parks Academy for the Arts (the first artist ever to receive this award twice), a two-man show at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana, over 10 one-man shows, and countless personal appearances. Furthermore, Kinkade was chosen as the official artist for the 1989 National Park's Collector's Print and the 1990 Commemorative Press Collector's Print honoring Rotary International. Also in 1991 he won "Plate of the Show" in Southbend, Best New Artist of The Year for NALED in 1992, Collector "Award of Excellence" in 1993 and Lithograph of the year for NALED was named second runner-up for Lithograph of the year for NALED and first runner-up for Artist of the Year.
Thomas Kinkade is a gregarious, outgoing man with a tremendous sense of humor. He is left-handed, about six feet tall, and of Scottish/Irish descent. A devout Christian, Kinkade readily acknowledges God's hand in his life and well aware of his many blessings, foremost are his lovely wife, Nanette, and daughters Merrit and Chandler. In fact, Kinkade frequently pays loving tribute to his wife and daughters by hiding their names or initials within his paintings, a phenomenon eagerly watched by seasoned collectors who often find more hidden tributes than Kinkade himself intended!
Thomas Kinkade is also extremely generous often using his art talents to create special commemorative prints which raise tens of thousands of dollars for charitable causes. Kinkade also gives of his time frequently speaking to civic, school and church groups in California. In fact, Kinkade's abundant benevolence and community spirit were honored in 1990, when he received the Humanitarian of of the Year award from his county Chamber of Commerce.
Thomas Kinkade maintains a rigorous six day a week painting schedule, but still finds time for church activities, reading and extensive travel with his family in America and abroad, researching new subjects by painting and photographing on location. Kinkade's hobbies include collecting books (his personal library consists of several thousand volumes) making audio cassette productions, complete with sound effects, which he circulates to his many artist friends.
Thomas Kinkade's oil paintings and reproductions communicate deeply with viewers, providing and warm nostalgia in a complex and often stressful world.
"I try to create paintings that are a window for the imagination. If people look at my work and are reminded of the way things once were or perhaps the way they could be, then I've done my job."