by Linda L. Martin Thomas Kinkade,an artist that found a niche for himself that picked up where Currier and Ives left off. In popular culture Thomas Kinkade will be remembered by the masses as one of the greatest living artists, right up there with P.Buckley Moss and Jaclyn Smith (as a dress designer) ala Walmart. Both Kinkade and Moss have over the last 30 years taken the term “Fine Art Reproduction” to new heights. Becoming well know for their marketing strategies that make signed glacee’d prints on acid free paper(or canvas) the height of artistic knowledge for the house wife collector. Jacking up prices through numbered runs and limiting the amount of work each gallery can carry.. as well as hitting that rock and roll merchandising market.. with such intensely collectable things as plates, Christmas houses or vignettes that light up and books and cards worthy of any Hallmark card store.
Lets face it its sheer genius from a marketing stand point. So how come it makes Fine Artist’s so mad. Well this is a question I have had to ask myself. Because Mr. Kinkade is more than just an artist who lucked out in merchandising. He is a Christian man (well on the surface) who has tapped into that who Christian marketing niche where billions of dollars a year go into inspirational art, music, books and gifts.. Its big money. And Kinkade has either through the Grace of God found great favor or he is a great opportunist. He has all the right stuff to draw in and “encourage the masses of devout in their daily walk.
I’m still reeling at the comparison that Kinkiade is equal to Andrew Weythe. It makes me shudder. I read a forum of professional artists who were discussing a 60 minutes program that featured Kinkade a few weeks ago. The general consensus is that “Kinkade is at best a mediocre artist who has found his niche and is riding his one trick pony to death.” Personally I am not going to begrudge any man or woman the right to make money.. and pursue their happiness. However Mr. Kinkade’s attempts to ply his “Plein Air” Paintings is being met with raised eyebrows brows by the skeptical artistic community.
Alas.. I like his work.. but usually only for its Christmas time fantasy merit. But then that is all it is suppose to be. Fantasy and as fantasy art lets face it, it does in fact serve the purpose for the taste and experience of the masses. But for the more refined tastes a steady diet of Kinkade’s work is going to be like too many sweets at Willy Wanka’s Chocolate Factory.
Now back to the original premise… is Kinkade as good a painter, for what he does of course he is! I know a lot of bad artists.. but sometimes bad artists have such desire and patience that one day they become good artists. For the most part Kinkade is in fact above the average bad artists and equal to any mediocre artist out there including myself. Here is the difference. I think Kinkade is trapped in a business that requires that he gets that little “trick pony” of his out and ride it around a number of times a year in order to pay the staff, keep the investors happy and keep on making the money he needs to fund his charities and family. In order for an artist to reach the status of Master.. which I think that Mr. Weythe has.. one has to keep growing as an artist.. an d keep refining and keep experimenting. My growth has been stunted in this respect from Lack of financial resources and mentoring.. that’s a hard way to go.. but I don’t stop trying to expand my artistic experience nor do I stop or stall in spite of the money issues.
Mr. Kinkade has really produced no new innovate work since he incorporated and placed himself on the stock exchange. Mr. Weythe on the other hand is continually surprising us every few years with more and more innovative work.. Ok now lets do the comparison.. hahaha .. well there is NO comparison. I have stood in the room with a little known original Weythe that belongs to an acquaintance of mine and was a gift at their wedding from the man himself. I could only stand and stare. The brush work.. if you could get past the brush work.. was amazing … I wanted to climb right in the painting an touch and trace each stroke…it was a wonderment to me, the reality of an amazingly talented artist. Ok to be fair.. lets give Mr. Kinkade a break.. and only used say the olga collection.. printed version.. three of Weythe’s best Olga’s vs three of Kinkade’s best light paintings. I guarantee you that Weythe’s will blow Kinkade’s work out of the water and leave it in little shreds of acid free glacee’ printed paper floating on the sea foam of comparison. And I also guarantee that Mr. Kinkade would agree with me on it because a man that intelligent to find a way to make money as an artist is going to also recognize his limits and greatness when he sees it.
I settled my issues with Kinkade this after noon. You see the thing that makes me really angry is when people like Bob Ross ( may he rest in peace) and Thomas Kinkade make it impossible for someone like me to buy art supplies or sell my work competitively. And it isn’t because my work isn’t good enough. Its because of the marketing, and the hype behind what they do. When an artist is selling a fine art print for more than I can get for an oil painting then I have a problem. Some of my horse portrait work in the last few years has been so good that the animal’s eyes actually follow you around the room.. well of course its an illusion. Yet the best I can do is $800 for a simple 16”x20” head portrait of a horse … and original oil painting at that on canvas!. And its taken me 20 years to get the price up to that high.
I went to Mr. Kinkade’s site and discovered that he was selling his reproductions for less. About a 5 time less. My work as an oil painter is likely to increase in value long after I am dead to any art collector and/ or museum. Mr. Kinkad’s probably will not.. at least based on artistic merit and sheer numbers.. but heck who am I to say. They will probably be seen on “antiques road show” no doubt in 50 years or so .. should the world as we know it still exists.
I have no doubt that Mr Kinkade’s work will also be remembered not in the realm of painting but in the realm of printmaking.. and no doubt mentioned in the same breath as Currier and Ives discussed in the continuing saga of getting art to the masses through reproductions. Lets face it He has excelled in doing just that and deserves that recognition. And should by some off chance any of his original paintings come up for auction no doubt they will be purchased by collectors that saw his prints at their grandparents house when they were children. The reason is.. because people buy art when it reminds them of something from their passed or something familiar in their present. Far more people are going to remember and recognize Kinkade’s work than most of us living to day simply because of the sheer numbers of reproductions out there. (Thoughtful look) Yes I can see an original Kinkade bringing a million at auction. Its because the public drives the art market.( and it doesn’t hurt to be endorsed by CBN and TBN)
So my hats off to Mr. Kinkade whereever he is. I recognize his greatness and talent. And definitely the favor of God has played a big part in his success. Ahh that such a thing happen to me so I can paint. Except .. I don’t think I want that much success… but a portion.. I want to be able to still really paint and really be an artist, not a production painter. So here is hoping that I, and a lot of my colleagues find the happy medium. And to Mr. Kinkade and Mr. Weythe.. well God continue to bless you both. To my friend who started this by telling me that I wasn’t a very good artist.. um.. Bite… never mind.. I’m too much a lady to say it.
Copyright ©2004 L.L. Martin All North and South American and World and Electronic Rights Reserved.
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