Sunday, April 08, 2012

8th April 2012 - Who's made a mark this week?

Thomas Kinkade - pictured in 2005
Did you know that 1 in 20 homes in the USA are said to have a painting or print by Thomas Kinkade?

Now he has died, on Friday age 54, I'm wondering who will be the next artist adopted with enthusiasm by the public at large.

This was a man whose espoused aim was to sell paintings which made people happy.  His paintings certainly connected with many people who otherwise would not buy art.

While his art may have been very popular with the American people, he was not at all popular with the American art establishment who shunned and derided his work.

By retailing, licensing and franchising his "luminescent" art and images via Kinkade Gallery franchises and other print shops rather than through conventional galleries and across a range of prints and other products he achieved an amazing commercial success.  He reputedly became a millionaire many times over.  However, latterly the image of success was tarnished by successful legal claims relating to business malpractice.  His art company also suffered when his paintings sold on the internet for much less than the prices in the Kinkade Galleries which immediately raised questions about value.  His company lost much of its value, collapsed during the recession and finally filed for bankruptcy.  However galleries which still stocked his work reported brisk business on Saturday.  I gather buyers were hoping his work would now become more valuable after his death.

I have to confess I've never been a fan of Mr Kinkade's work as "an artist for the mainstream".  I found it rather warm and fuzzy and altogether too twee.

However I've always been intrigued as to why his paintings sold so well while so-called 'better' landscape painting languished on the walls of galleries.  Was it the painting itself, the allusions to Christian concepts or the rather slick marketing?  I've come to the conclusion that he's akin to Disney who sold a fantasy which made people happy.  People like fantasy and Disney and they liked the "still" version that they got from Thomas Kinkade.

One of the less well known aspects of his life is that back in 1980, he and his friend James Gurney (Gurney Journey) travelled across the country after college - plein air sketching all the way.  In fact there's even a book of their journey across the USA by freight train.  James Gurney describes it as
A comprehensive guide to methods and materials for drawing on-the-spot, based on an odyssey across America on freight trains.
The Artist's Guide to Sketching was written and illustrated by James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade and published by Watson-Guptill Publications, 1982 but is now out of print - and consequently sells for rather high prices as and when they do appear in the marketplace.  It's increased by about $400 since Friday.

How will he be remembered?  Here are the obituaries - in the major papers!
Artists and Art Blogs

A Child with a Dove
my sketch of a painting by Pablo Picasso
© Katherine Tyrrell - all rights reserved
It was interesting to see what people chose to share for their posts about Easter.  There were quite a few fun ones
On a more religious note
Meanwhile I rather liked my sketch of Picasso's Child with a Dove as an Easter picture.  Not quite why but it feels right.  I first posted it in Sketching people at the Picasso exhibition at Tate Britain

Meanwhile on the sketching front......

Coloured pencils and pastels
Art business and marketing
Art Collectors and the Art Economy
Art Awards
  • Race past the photo of the dyed bouffant above the face of the man formerly known as Melvyn (I've still got all my own hair you know!) Bragg and survey the nominees for the  South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2012 which were announced last week.  The nominees for Visual Art are
    • Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, British Museum
    • David Chipperfield: The Hepworth Wakefield
    • David Hockney: A Bigger Picture , Royal Academy
Art Competitions

This week I had a lot of posts about art competitions.  These things tend to go in fits and starts and there's a lot going on at this time of year.  Here are my posts from last week.
Art Exhibitions
Art Education

Art Books
Classes and Workshops
Art Museums and Art History
Vermeer's Woman in blue reading a letter
- prior to restoration
Woman in blue reading a letter (1663)
- after restoration
Johannes Vermeer
Keep in mind that, unlike Facebook — which is mostly about creating and posting your own stuff — the focus of Pinterest is posting stuff you find on other sites. Mashable
The Internet, blogging and webware

  • This is an interesting article which debates the future for printing The death of printing has been greatly exaggerated.  It prompted the thought that if people are printing less now they have tablets maybe they will also buy fewer reproduction prints since they can get their art online - and the future of art is in the online image - designed for tablets.  
Once Picnik is shutdown on April 19, 2012, your account and photos on will be completely deleted.
  • You may be aware of and lamenting the demise of Piknik on April 19th following its acquisition by Google.  If you are then you need to know that 
    • use Picnik Takeout to download your images.
    • if you want a similar product go and take a look at Picmonkey which appears to have been engineered by the people behind the original Piknik
    • This is what Google says in its FAQs
What are some recommended photo editing sites?
If you're looking for a different photo editing service, try the Creative Kit in Google+,, or
social media communication

and finally......

I've got family commitments this next week so I won't be posting from mid-week this week to mid-week next week.


  1. Kinkade's plein air work was actually very good and quite different from his more popular cottage paintings. A few years ago, he and Stephen Doherty, a former editor of American Artist, published a book of his plein air work: The Artist in Nature.

  2. Thanks for that Michael. I'd actually seen it some years back and agreed with you about it. However I searched high and low for any reference to the paintings I had seen - without finding any.

  3. Your obit on Kinkade is the kindest I've read. Very well done. We were contemporaries; I was born in 1958, too. I figured out this year why sentimentality in painting is not to my taste. It plays more towards your audience, and doesn't portray your own ideas. That is antithetic to what we want in our art: creative vision.

    TK was a talented man, and I wish his family, collectors and employees well. We have all been off put by over-zealous marketing behavior, such as that done by Andy Warhol, and perhaps the keenly ambitious Picasso. Michelangelo had the Pope to promote his work; Kinkade had himself.

    He wrote a very nice book about his tour of Europe and his father's battlefields. It has plein air work that is very fine. That Gurney-Kinkade book may be a collector's edition, soon. Gurney's reports from China are wonderful, too.

  4. Yes, thank you for a nice but honest tribute to Kinkade. I'm sad about his death but not his art. (and I think you'll probably find 1 in 20 homes have a print, or embellished print, and not a painting) He was an interesting businessman who combined art and business the way few would, not that it wasn't fraught with difficulties nor that he did it honestly. But an artist passing is sad, and who knows what more he could have added to the idea of what "art business" is?

    Had to laugh at the death of printing. I'm not quite sure how people having a different kind of computer somehow changes how many walls they might have to decorate in their house? ;) (saying that, I do offer tablet art!) I'm an assistant for another artist who does illustrative prints and we've noticed that a lot of the people buying the iPad/iPhone image packs come back and order giclee prints. So perhaps embrace both and use it as a bit of a temptation!

  5. I'm anticipating that the next big flat screen is going to be one for digital art!

  6. Tina - Good point about the Kinkade artwork and I've amended the first sentence


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